Saturday, January 21, 2012

Top 10 Vegan Travel Foods

I've been traveling full-time for nearly two months now, and part-time for several years prior to this. In that time, I've done lots of experimenting on what works for travel (energy bars, yes!) and what doesn't (cupcakes, not so much).

What makes good travel food? It has to be portable, tasty, and healthy. And of course, safe for travel by plane, rail, bus, or bike. Most of the items I've listed below have the added benefit of being raw, so you'll feel nourished rather than weighed down by heavy foods. Traveling light, at its truest.

My ten favorites:

1. Fruit
Simple, hydrating, and delicious, fresh fruit is the best thing to take on long trips. Whatever your mode of travel, fruit is ready to join you in its pre-packaged juiciness. Bring a bag of grapes or cherries, cut up some melon, or toss a few easy-to-peel clementines or satsumas into your travel bag. And don't forget bananas, which provide substantial nutrients and come already wrapped.

You'll have to adjust this one if you're traveling between areas that prohibit the importation or transport of produce. Fortunately, fruit is available nearly everywhere, so it can be purchased on arrival.

2. Powdered Coconut Water
I'm a big fan of coconut water, especially on thirst-inducing trips. But cans and aseptic pouches can't get through airport security, and can be cumbersome and heavy on long drives or backpacking expeditions.

Now there's powdered coconut water, a dehydrated powder that transforms any water into coconut water. I was skeptical at first, but after trying CocoHydro on a drive through the Nevada desert, I'm convinced. The flavor is comparable to canned, and better, I think, than some packaged brands (I'm looking at you, Zico). It comes in a big pouch or individual packets, and flavors like pomegranate raspberry and pineapple.

3. Bars
Everyone has their favorite. Sort out what you like, and bring one for every day of your trip. If you find yourself far from vegan options, they make a fine occasional meal replacement. My favorites lately are sesame-studded Bumble Bars (vegan, despite the name) and the coconut simplicity of Oskri.

Of course, you can always make your own; try my Raw Lemon Bars or Coconut Peanut Butter Bars for inspiration, and vary the fruit and nut combinations.

4. Primal Strips
Created with adventure and veganism in mind, these high-protein jerkies are moist and chewy. Ten grams of protein per strip make it easy to meet your nutritional needs while on the road. They're the ultimate in versatility, too; add one to a plain veggie sandwich or serve it over rice, and you have a meal. I like the Thai Peanut and Texas BBQ flavors, and the Hot and Spicy, made with chewy shitake mushrooms.

5. Coconut date rolls
These sweet gems can usually be found in the bulk or dried fruit sections of natural grocery stores, and are a great source of energy and minerals. If your local store doesn't carry them, you can make your own: simply toss a bunch of pitted dates into a food processor and process until nearly smooth. Pinch off pieces as large as your thumb (you may need to chill the mixture to get the consistency right), shape into a short cylinder, and roll in dried unsweetened coconut. You can also shape them into smaller balls (or make hearts, stars, and so on) for tiny hands.

6. Greens
We don't often think of a bag of plain salad as a snack, but greens contain high amounts of amino acids and minerals that are often forgotten in the rigors of travel. Greens cover the nutritional deficits travelers often face, and can atone for late nights full of chips and beer. And munching a giant bag of spinach in an airport or train station is a good conversation starter.

You can also get your greens in powdered form to add to smoothies and other liquids; there are lots of options available at health food stores.

7. Individual nut butters
These little packets of hazelnut, cashew, peanut, or almond butter are plane-safe (less than three ounces), and very filling. You can find raw unsweetened butters from Artisana, and sweetened travel sizes from Justin's.

These are especially good for children, who need additional fat in their diets. And a squeeze pack? Much more tidy on long trips than a spoonful of nut butter.

8. Chia Seeds
A container of these versatile seeds can transform the most basic foods into a nourishing treat. Add crunch to a boring salad, dip a banana in them, or sprinkle them into drinks for a boost of essential fatty acids. Since I don't always know what will be available on the road, I bring chia seeds for a nutritional boost.

My favorite way to enjoy them? Ttransform plain water into a mineral-rich drink: I hack up an orange with a pocket knife over a hotel sink and squeeze it into a glass along with chia seeds, a packet of stevia, and water.

9. Avocados
Like chia seeds, avocados are full of good fats. They complete the simplest salad or plainest sandwich, or can be eaten alone with a sprinkle of salt and spritz of lime. Don't forget to bring a knife.

10. Seaweed Wraps
Gopal makes these great Power Wraps made of sprouted sunflower seeds and seasonings wrapped in nori sheets. They're portable enough to chew in the car and hearty enough to complete a meal. My children especially love these, and they're the inspiration for my raw Nori Snack recipe.

If you like the idea of seaweed, but don't need the filling, try roasted seaweed snacks. These squares of sesame-brushed nori are crunchy like potato chips, and come in individually wrapped packs.

Whatever your mode of transport, travel doesn't have to mean unhealthy grub or eating stuff you just don't like. Bring along fruit, or seaweed, or nut butters, and you'll be well-equipped for your next adventure.

Do you have a favorite vegan travel food, something that makes your trips even better? Tell me about it in the comments.


Carrie said...

what great tips! I had no idea you could get powdered coconut water, how neat!

Anonymous said...

As the mom of a kid with a life-threatening allergy to all nuts (and thus shudders at the idea of nut butters on the plane), I wanted to share that sunflower butter is also a delicious alternative and also comes in squeezable packets.

Joy said...

Carrie, it is really great stuff. I've been taking a pouch of it with me wherever I go. Thanks for reading!

Anon, thank you for sharing this; it's something we non-allergic people don't always think about. Artisana makes travel-sized roasted and raw tahini, which is also really delicious. I'm hopeful someone will make a hemp seed version soon!

dreaminitvegan said...

Great posts about travel food. I'm always up for new foods to pack when we go hiking or on a long car ride. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Thankyou thankyou thankyou. We live an hr away from family, and our work places so we always rely on fast food. However my daughter is allergic to dairy which limits our choices. Im hypoglycemic and never know fast protein choices. Im so thankful i found your site. Not only are the ingredients easy to find but my whole family loves the food. Especially the pancakes. Iuse to buy premade dairy free until i found you recipe.

Joy said...

You're welcome, anon. Thanks for reading--the pancakes are a weekly staple in our home too!

Anne Dovel said...

We have more travel coming up and I'm really intrigued by the nori power wraps. What is your favorite flavor?
Anne Dovel