PLANNING A ROAD TRIP THIS YEAR?
You know those times when you are in the car longer than expected and hunger sets in? Suddenly you find yourself overwhelmed with temptation to pull into the nearest fast food drive through, and… well there goes your healthy eating goals. But, with a little pre-planning, you can have a wonderful road trip with convenient, satisfying travel food, while still staying true to your plant-based lifestyle.
Tip #1: Always keep an EMERGENCY FOOD BOX in your car, because you never know when you are going to get stuck in traffic, or are running late, or you are just too hungry to wait until you get back to a plant-based safety zone. But with your food box fully stocked, it’s super easy to just open up some pop-top cans and bowl of sealed, pre-cooked brown rice, and you’ve got a delicious, FILLING meal ready to eat RIGHT NOW!
Here’s one of my favorite combinations. I keep these shelf-stable ingredients stocked in my car box at all times, just for such emergencies:
It only takes a couple of minutes to transform these ingredients into a tasty and FILLING BURRITO BOWL. (Yes, just eat it cold- it’s delicious!)
The bowl the rice comes in is small, so you might need to just scoop the ingredients into the rice a little at a time, eating as you go, and continuing to add to it as you eat some of the rice out of the bowl. But it’s such a great set of ingredients to have on hand in case of hunger emergencies. No refrigeration needed!
I use the lid of the box as a TRAY to keep things neat and tidy while eating in the car.
Also, to help keep things sanitary, I borrowed this internet hack: A plastic cereal container, fitted with a plastic bag, to use as a “spill-proof” travel garbage can. BRILLIANT!
Here’s what’s currently in my car travel box:
Brown rice bowls, cans of petite diced tomatoes (Spicy or regular) salsa, corn, green beans, fruit mandarin orange cups, packed in coconut water. If you’d like, you can get the NO SALT ADDED cans, (also with a pop-top) though I personally prefer a little bit of salt in mine, and I figure even with a little salt, it’s still SO MUCH HEALTHIER than what you might have eaten, had you gone through the fast food drive through. Right?
I bought all of the items shown above at our local Walmart. All cans are the pop-top type, or the peel back kind, so there’s no need to worry about finding a can opener. None of the items need refrigeration. You can open just ONE of the cans for a quick snack, or combine the cans, bowls and cups to make a full meal!
Speaking of SNACKS: I always have a small pop-top can of vegan baked beans in my PURSE, along with a plastic spoon. Yes, that’s right, I said MY PURSE!
These small 8 oz. cans are the perfect size to slip in a purse or briefcase. Hunger strikes even when you are away from your car too, and now you’ll be prepared to battle ANY tempting food situation you may find yourself in. It may just be the perfect thing to tie you over until you get back to your whole food, plant-based safe zone again!
The other day, I went to the grocery store to look specifically for cans of whole, plant-based food that has a pop top or peel back seal to add to my car box. Here are some of the things I found, and tips on what to look for when stocking your car box: (All items purchased from our local Walmart)
BROWN RICE BOWLS: (With NO added oil or salt- see tip below)It is possible to find shelf stable, pre-cooked brown rice bowls in the rice section of most grocery stores, BUT DON’T DO IT, because they all contain OIL! So SKIP THE RICE SECTION and head on over to the ASIAN FOOD isle. There you’ll find shelf stable brown rice bowls with NO added oil or salt! WINNER!
The rice has somewhat of a hard, dense texture when you first open the bowl, but it will soften up once you’ve added other ingredients, such as tomatoes, salsa, corn, or beans. (Place it near a heater vent 30-60 minutes before opening, and it will soften up even more!)
VEGAN BAKED BEANS:
These little 8 oz. size pop-top cans of baked beans are perfect for the car, your purse, backpack or briefcase. Just read the ingredients to make sure they are completely plant based. (Both varieties shown above happen to be vegan and oil-free, but not all varietes are, so just be sure to check the label.) There is also a variety that says “VEGETARIAN” that happens to also be vegan and oil-free (but I ate it before I got a pic, sorry) but it is actually my favorite variety, and has the least amount of added sugar and the fewest calories, so you may want to look specifically for that one.
A VARIETY OF SEALED FRUIT AND VEGGIE CUPS:
These little sealed cups of CORN (upper right) and GREEN BEANS (lower right) are just the right size to mix into your burrito bowl (either open the car door and drain off the juice first, or you can drink the juice! (Am I the only bean juice drinker out there?)
Or, if you just need a quick snack to hold you over till lunch, these little veggie cups are absolutely perfect.
Sealed fruit cups (lower left) make a nice refreshing “dessert” after a spicy burrito bowl. Look for cups with no sugar added, or cups that are packed in fruit juice or coconut water. (Yes, of course I drink that juice too.)
*Note: No sugar added varieties generally contain Sucralose (Splenda) as a sweetener, so if you are opposed to artificial sweeteners, then stick with the varieties that are packed in 100% juice or coconut water, or just drain off the juice.
Pop-top cans of STEWED TOMATOES (not pictured) are another great snack item to have in your car box. (No-salt added or regular) They fill you up as much as a granola bar, but are more nutrient dense and much lower in calories. How can you beat that?
Disposable spoons, forks, napkins, wet-wipes, etc. Keep a stock of these in your car box, so you’ll always be prepared to eat quick meals on the go.
What was the STRANGEST product I found on my exploratory shopping trip?
Hermetically sealed corn on the cob- shrink wrapped and shelf stable. Ok… this might be a little messy to actually eat in the car, so perhaps save it for the rest area or picnic spot. But it would actually be a nice accompaniment to your baked beans, right? So why not!
UPDATE: I just added this new combo to my car box, to have on hand for when I need to eat BREAKFAST on the road: Call it RICE PUDDING or RICE CEREAL, either way it really satisfies and keeps you fueled all morning long: Open the brown rice bowl and stir in some almond milk. Sprinkle on some cinnamon and mix in a few raisins.) What a delicious, and healthy breakfast for when you’re on the go!
So whether you are planning a big road trip this year, or just want to be prepared for those everyday unexpected changes to your schedule, these healthy plant-based meals and snacks are just a pop-top away!
*Note: In climates with extreme heat, you may not want to leave these items in sitting your car all the time. But they would still make a great back-up supply of food to keep at the office, or in your briefcase or purse for those days when you unexpectedly have to work late, or forget to bring your lunch, etc.
Find more great Whole Food, Plant-based ideas and recipes at WWW.LittleBluePLates.com