If you're new to the vegan or plant-based lifestyles, eating animal-product-free during your normal daily life can be a challenge, let alone out in the wild! As an avid hiker and camper, I have gone multiple days without any cell service, restaurants, grocery stores, or cooking equipment. Here are a few tips and tricks I picked up along the way that you might find helpful!
MEAL-PREP IS KEY
Prepare meals ahead of time so that you always have a plant-based or vegan option on the road. I'd suggest making meals that can be eaten cold in case you don't have the time or equipment to heat up your food. A few great meal options are:
Rice or quinoa bowls
Veggie burritos & wraps
Veggie subs (avoid watery veggies like tomatoes, cucumbers, pickles)
Peanut butter & jelly sandwiches
Spaghetti squash with mushrooms & walnuts (really yummy cold or hot)
Chickpea salad (eat with tortilla chips, pita or Ritz crackers)
Pre-cooked burgers or chick'n patties (pack condiments separately)
Breakfast: homemade muffins, pre-toasted bagel & cream cheese sandwich, granola bars, cereal (with the milk packed separately)
If you are planning on heating/cooking your food, you can pack:
Any of the above
Homemade chili or canned soups
Potatoes & veggies (cook ahead of time, then heat in foil over fire or grill)
Marinated seitan or tofu (cook ahead of time, then heat in foil over fire or grill)
Dehydrated meals (find a great list of vegan options here)
Breakfast: vegan breakfast burritos, instant oatmeal cups
Avoid: bringing anything fried; meals that you wouldn't enjoy cold if you can't heat them; meals that require a lot of assembly if you don't have the time or space; meals that get soggy quickly (avoid this by packing condiments & watery veggies separately).
EMBRACE THE SNACKS
Snacking is usually something most people try to avoid or cut down on, especially if you're trying to shed some pounds. But I've learned that snacking is a must during long hikes or camping weekends! It's important to keep yourself full so that you A) have enough energy and B) avoid the temptation of non-vegan foods if you're surrounded by them.
Here are a few great healthy things to pack, and a few things to leave at home:
On the trail:
Clif Bars (most of them are vegan!)
Granola bars (Nature Valley and KIND have some vegan options)
Nuts & trail mix
In the car or at the campsite:
Apples & peanut butter
Other filling fruit (cantaloupe, honeydew oranges, pears; pre-slice & pack them in containers for easy access)
Raw veggies to dip in your hummus (cucumber, celery, peppers, carrots)
Pretzel thins, tortilla chips, or pita (in case you get tired of dipping veggies in your hummus)
Ritz Crackers (also hummus-dipping or topping with chickpea salad)
Sabra Guacamole Singles (I know these are anti-eco-friendly, but they're super convenient and easy to pack; make sure to bring your trash home to recycle!)
Avoid: empty calorie snacks like potato chips and cookies; large bags of snacks that take up lots of room; bananas (they're easy to smush and will make your whole car smell like banana).
TAKEOUT ON THE ROAD
If you plan on picking up food, make sure to do your research and find a few restaurants on the way that have vegan options. Call or email the restaurant a few days ahead of time if you have any questions about their menu.
If you're in the need to stop for a quick bite, here are a few places that have vegan options:
Chipotle (get sofritas and/or fajita veggies, avoid dairy toppings)
Subway (get their Veggie Delight footlong)
Wawa (build your own veggie hoagie. Learn how here!)
Del Taco (get their Beyond Avocado Taco, or the Beyond Cali Burrito without sour cream)
Taco Bell (order anything on their menu; sub meat for beans, add pico de gallo, and make sure to order without cheese, sour cream, or ranch)
Chik-fil-a (get hash browns, waffle fries, or a Cool Wrap without chicken)
Burger King (get fries and an Impossible Whopper; ask for it to be cooked separately from their beef patties)
Wendy's (get fries and customize one of their salads to be vegan and top with the Pomegranate or Spicy Asian Chili vinaigrette)
Carl's Jr. (get a Beyond Famous Star Burger without mayo & cheese)
White Castle (get a Beyond Slider or Veggie Slider without sauce)
Jack in the Box (get their Teriyaki Rice Bowl without meat)
Any Mexican restaurant will probably have a veggie burrito or veggie tacos on their menu. Make sure to order without cheese or sour cream.
Thai food is also usually vegan, but make sure you can order with tofu/veggies, and get your noodle dish without scrambled egg (Pad Thai is a popular one that usually comes with an egg).
Try some vegan restaurants on the road! Get takeout to save time.
- Dunkin' Donuts (only vegan options are an English muffin or bagel with a Beyond sausage patty or jelly)
- McDonald's (only vegan entree is a customized salad with balsamic vinaigrette... boring)
- In-N-Out Burger (you can only get their fries or a "veggie sandwich" which is just a bun, lettuce, tomato, and onions... also boring)
- Five Guys (their buns contain dairy, so only their fries are vegan)
- Bojangle's (you can only get beans and grits)
- Popeye's (duh)
- Arby's (also duh)
TRAVELING WITH NON-VEGANS
If you're the only vegan or plant-based person in the group, here are a few tips for traveling with other people who don't follow your lifestyle:
Ask to stop at one of the restaurants in the list above. The list is fairly big, so chances are your group would be okay with one of those places.
If your group is set on dining at one of the "Avoid" restaurants, request that you also make a pit-stop at a restaurant that does have a vegan option so you have something to eat too. If you're worried about coming across as "that annoying vegan", eat one of the pre-made meals you packed ahead of time.
If you're cooking dinner at your campsite, bring easily customizable meals like sandwiches, burritos, and rice bowls, or make sure you can make a meal out of the sides.
Offer to cook dinner for the group and make sure everyone is good with the menu ahead of time.
Pack snacks that both you and your non-vegan friends can enjoy together, like hummus, salsa, guac, or bring a dip to share.
Bring enough food for yourself so you're not tempted to eat a non-vegan meal or snack.
Pack some pre-made meals that look super delicious so your non-vegan friends ask to try some!
There you go!
The main thing is to prep and plan ahead of time so that you can focus on enjoying nature and not worry about what's for dinner. I hope some of the advice above will make your planning a little easier.