When you go on a road trip, do you end up breaking down and eating fast food, convenience store snacks, or at roadside diners? Yesterday I did the 8 hour return-drive to Vegas after staying 3 days in a Carson City hotel. And I ate clean, delicious meals of mostly raw fruits and vegetables the entire time I was away!
In this article, I’m going to outline exactly what food and tools I brought with me, each meal I made, and some guidelines for making your drive and stay simple and delicious.
If I can eat clean in rural Nevada, you too can have a healthy road trip! I’ll teach you how to stay high raw and not fall off the wagon!
Nevada is largely unpopulated, and on the long drive northwest across the state from Las Vegas to Carson City, I passed through several historic mining towns which saw their hay-day 100 years ago, evidenced by the (beautiful) dilapidated historic buildings along their main drags, like the fading set of an old western movie. Other than that, as far as the eye can see, it’s desert and mountains.
Tonopah, the half way mark, has a Burger King where many a vegan has stopped for a veggie burger. But, I’m not just a vegan. I’m a clean-eating, fruit-devouring, whole foods vegan!
By no stretch is Carson City the darling of Happy Cow. Still, I have to give due credit because the area has a Trader Joe’s and two small health stores which happen to have a few vegan staples and some less processed fare.
There is also one Thai restaurant that says it has vegan-compatible options, but I’ve never felt the need to go there because it doesn’t really satisfy my “clean eating” criteria. And I can actually do quite well on my own, thank you very much.
Before all else! The key is to…
Prepare in advance.
Last year, I stayed for a few days in Pioche, a town with a total of 1,000 people and maybe a couple of pieces of produce in their food store. I made sure to bring all my own food for the week and get a fridge in my hotel.
I’m working on my eating plan right now for a week’s worth of camping I’ll be doing later on this summer. Leave a comment if you want me to write an article on that!
Let the town surprise you.
Always arrive with positive expectations. If you assume there are no options for you, you’ll find no options. If you look for options in unlikely places, you’ll find that everything you need is right in front of you, and you might even find some surprising extras.
When I stayed in Elko – the epicenter of cattle-ranching cowboy country – last summer, I found an awesome health store literally right around the corner from my hotel. They even make delicious acai bowls there! Guess where I spent my dollars?
Then my coworker invited my husband and I over for dinner, and I was stressed and feeling like the vegan-in-the-room. What would his wife make?! We showed up, and she laid out a beautiful four-course gourmet vegan meal complete with desert! I was truly touched and humbled, and learned the lesson, once and for all, that you can’t write anyone or any situation off.
The moral of the story is that with a little optimism and forward planning, and you can survive and thrive on any trip.
How to Have a Healthy Road Trip
So let’s get into my specific tips for your road trip and hotel stay.
Exactly What I Packed In
Essentials. Knife with case, plastic travel cutting board, big and small travel bowls, and utensils set (fork, knife, spoon).
Added luxuries. Cloth napkin, tea mug with tea bags, my spiralizer (I could have just chopped up the zucchini, but I felt like bringing it).
Fruit. 8 oranges, 12 small apples, 1 pound strawberries, and 2 bunches ripe bananas.
Veggies. 4 romaine hearts, 6 zucchinis, 2 red bell peppers, 2 small bunches celery, 1 pound bag carrots, 1 pound sugar snap peas, and 1 lemon.
Misc. 4 cups rolled oats, dijon mustard, ground flaxseed, and 1 cup almond milk. I also brought Vega smoothie mix for insurance, but I didn’t really need it.
With the exception of the bananas (which require ripening), I could have purchased all this when I arrived at the local grocery store. But I already had the stuff at home and reduced my anxiety by bringing it with me.
If no fridge (or electric cooler):
I would bring foods that don’t need to be chilled: apples, oranges, bananas, peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, peas, lemons, oats, flaxseed (a few days room temp won’t kill it). I would have made a quick grocery trip for some greens each day after work to make a dinner salad. It doesn’t take any more time than going out for dinner each evening.
Exactly What I Ate Each Day
Monday – driving day
Breakfast. Green smoothie while driving. In a glass jar with a glass straw. Pineapple (1/2), kiwi (6), strawberries (4 cups), kale (2 cups).
Lunch. Salad – 6 oz spinach, 1/2 pineapple (diced), 3 apples (diced). Even in the rural town of Tonopah (pop 2,500), I found a tiny park with a picnic table to stop at and eat.
Snack. Carrot sticks, sugar snap peas, orange slices.
Dinner. Chopped romaine hearts (2) with dijon. Container of Veg Out African Yam Stew. I should have stopped there, but I was indulgent and microwaved some rolled oats with almond milk and cinnamon. Hey, none of us are perfect!
Tuesday – office work day
Breakfast. Apple banana bowl – diced apple (5 small) and bananas (2 small)
Lunch. Romaine (1 heart), oranges (4), and strawberries (1 pound)
Snack. Carrot sticks, sugar snap peas, celery, one small apple.
Dinner. Salad – romaine (2 hearts), 1 bell pepper (diced), 1 zucchini (diced), dijon for dressing. Then oatmeal with ground flax, almond milk, and Vega smoothie powder.
Wednesday – office work day
Breakfast. My now favorite mashed bananas (4 small) and diced apple (3 medium) topped with cinnamon. When you let the bananas sit for a few minutes, they get liquidy and the whole thing becomes like porridge.
Lunch. Work-provided buffet style. They didn’t have a vegan “main course” and I didn’t bring my own (which I usually do just in case). Turns out they couldn’t find a veggie burger without dairy or eggs. No sweat, I saw that they had a salad station and a giant fruit bowl. I piled two plates with romaine leaves, tomatoes, and fruit salad. While everyone else ate heavy burgers and hot dogs and fell asleep during the presentations after lunch, I was feeling perky and my digestion was humming along smoothly.
Snack. Carrot and celery sticks and sugar snap peas.
Dinner. Zucchini pasta, the juice of one lemon, one red bell pepper – simple but surprisingly tasty combo. Oatmeal with ground flaxseed and almond milk again.
Thursday – driving home
Breakfast. My banana-apple porridge.
Lunch. Diced salad of 4 oranges, 3 apples, and a few stalks of celery. The oranges coat everything in their sweet juice and the celery adds a tangy, savory crunch. Surprisingly nice combo.
Snack. Carrot and celery sticks and sugar snap peas, extra apples (2 small) and bananas (2 small).
Dinner. Finally arriving home, I made myself a big chard salad with purslane and tomatoes my hubby had picked up from our CSA. I dressed it with some lime juice, nutritional yeast, and the liquid from a jar of roasted bell peppers. Then I followed with steamed sweet potatoes – which I was really craving and ate way too much of!
Check out vegan friendly restaurants.
Healthy ones. Check the Happy Cow database. In rural areas, you probably won’t find much worthwhile. But, remember Rule #2 – you might be pleasantly surprised!
Map out any health food stores.
This is going to be your life-line. When you have a choice, shop the produce department over any local restaurant. It will always be healthier because you have control. Plus, it’s cheaper! As a last option, regular grocery stores are okay. Eating non-organic produce for a week won’t kill ya.
On the Road
Pack a lunch for your day of driving.
This will minimize stress later and keep your energy up. If you have to drive all day, fruit is a great idea!
When I was paying for gas, I was behind this girl who was buying a bag of cheetos and a rockstar. I felt so sorry for her when I thought about the giant pineapple, apple, romaine salad I had just eaten.
Truth is, with fruit sugar you won’t be crashing later. And I didn’t really get that heavy, yucky feeling I used to get after a day in the car.
Pack healthy snacks.
Driving up, I had orange slices, carrots sticks, and sugar snap peas. Coming back it was celery sticks, carrots, peas, and apples.
For Your Destination
Request a room with a fridge.
Or pay extra for them to move one into your room. It’s worth it! Because I thought I wouldn’t be able to get a fridge, I brought an electric cooler. That brings me to my next point:
Pack in as much fruit and veggies as you can. Yes, it’s inconvenient, but it’s more inconvenient to get hangry later when you don’t have any ripe fruit and end up eating something that you know isn’t good for you and you don’t even enjoy!
Until I found my electric cooler, I was planning to only bring food that could be kept room-temp and supplement with some quick grocery trips. Most fruit is great for this because you can just stash it anywhere in your room, no chilling required. You also don’t need a microwave to prepare oatmeal. You can just soak your rolled oats for as little as 5-10 minutes to several hours. You can brew hot water in the coffee-maker or just use water straight from the tap.
Since I can give you advice all day long, but that doesn’t mean you know how to apply it, I thought I would tell you exactly what I ate for each meal and what I packed.
Hopefully this has given you some ideas you can put into action. Because it’s not enough to eat healthy if we don’t move our bodies, check out my followup post Staying Fit While You Travel. This post was shared with Healthy Vegan Fridays.
Now your turn. What are your best healthy travel tips? What are your biggest road trip challenges? Post them in the comments below.