Preparing healthy, plant-based meals while traveling 0

You’re on the road, and while you love eating out, you realize you’re eating out for just about every meal, which is starting to take a hefty toll on your food budget.  Or perhaps you’re just tired of eating out and instead feel like a simple meal prepared in the comfort of your “home” (i.e. hotel room).

Usually there are a few key barriers that prevent travelers from preparing even the most basic meals at home while on the road.

  1. You don’t have access to a kitchen.
  2. You probably don’t have basic condiments such as salt, pepper, olive oil or vinegar unless you purchase full-sized containers of these items, which makes little sense unless you’re in the same place for more than a week or two.
  3. The amount of time you have for food shopping and preparation is limited.  You’ve been out and about all day either for work or leisure and the last thing you want to do at the end of your day is to go to the grocery store or farmers’ market and spend your evening cooking…in your hotel room.
  4. You’re motivated to find budget-friendly restaurants because for you, it’s important to experience a new culture or country through the local dining experience.

I have found myself in all of the above situations over the years, but my most common excuse is #4.  I love good food, and I especially love finding food establishments that offer high quality, nutritious food at a reasonable price.  I enjoy the scavenger hunt of seeking out the best restaurants and cafes, especially when I’m faced with the challenge of finding healthy, plant-based restaurants in the smaller towns far outside of city centers.  I’m not always successful though, and in those instances, I’m relieved when I know that I can choose to go food shopping and prepare my meal at home.

To ensure that you give yourself the opportunity to choose to cook or eat out, consider booking a hotel, apartment, hostel or motel that has at minimum a simple kitchenette included.  While you may not have all the pots, pans or gadgets that you have back at home, you’ll at least have a small refrigerator, microwave and stovetop along with basic flatware, glasses, and tableware.  Also, invest in a travel spork like this one from Light My Fire.  The fork-spoon-knife combo has been the perfect travel utensil for our picnics on the beach, lunches in the mountains and quick bites in the car.  We use our Sporks on a daily basis!

Even for the most avid restaurant-enthusiasts, there is something gratifying about sitting in the comfort of your own space and enjoying a meal that you prepared from start to finish, even if that space happens to be your hotel room.  The enjoyment and satisfaction that comes from cooking a meal from your favorite recipe (or improvising every step of the way) is the same satisfaction whether you’re in your own kitchen at home or in your hotel room’s basic kitchenette.  You know your ingredients, you know where they came from and you know how they were seasoned and cooked to create certain flavor profiles and textures.

Here is my go-to meal for when I want to eat at “home” while on the road but not spend the entire evening cooking.  This shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes to prepare.  Also, don’t be too hard on yourself if you can’t find the exact ingredients below.  This recipe is all about customization based on the locally available produce.

Super Greens on the Go

Kitchen equipment needed: large bowl, sharp knife, cutting board, utensils and a plate/bowl
Serves: 2

Ingredients:

  • 5 oz. fresh dark leafy greens: baby spinach, kale or arugula (washed)
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons baba ghanoush
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons hummus (go with your favorite flavor!)
  • 1/4 – 1/2 avocado, mashed
  • 1 – 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 carrot, shredded or thinly sliced *
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes sliced in half *
  • 1/2 onion (raw or sautéed, whatever you prefer) *
  • 1 tablespoon seeds (sunflower, chia or ground flax) or nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 cup organic tempeh or seitan chopped into bite-sized pieces

* If you don’t have these ingredients, substitute a 1/2 cup of any colorful vegetables that happen to be in season (mushrooms, peppers, cucumbers, zucchini, eggplant, corn, etc.). Take advantage of those locally grown vegetables that you might not be able to otherwise find at your local grocery store or farmers’ market back at home.  Also, if fresh vegetables aren’t available, check out the frozen veggie section. Usually frozen vegetables undergo flash-freezing immediately after being picked to ensure optimal freshness.  

Here are a few recent farmers’ market findings.

DSC_3650

Organic Sunday Market, Blvd. Raspail

Instructions:

  1. Place your fresh greens in a large bowl and add the baba ghanoush, hummus and avocado.
  2. With clean hands or tongs, massage or toss the greens so that the baba ghanoush, hummus and avocado get distributed throughout.
  3. Next, add the other fresh veggies along with the seeds and tempeh.  Season with lemon juice, salt and pepper.  Give everything a quick toss and enjoy.

There isn’t a right or wrong way to prepare this salad.  The base of greens coated with hummus, baba ghanoush and avocado can be supplemented with just about any raw or cooked vegetables.  Get creative.  Go for your favorite veggies or just grab those that look the freshest at the grocery store.  The fresher the vegetable, the richer the taste and the higher the nutrient content.

Also, check out the prepared foods section at the grocery store.  Consider enhancing the above salad with a lentil or bean burger.  Also, most major grocery stores around the world have packaged organic, low-sodium soups.  A  simple soup base can be supplemented with your own cooked vegetables, tempeh or cooked beans to add flavor and texture and to improve its nutrient content.

Lastly, be sure to check out the bulk section of the grocery store.  Bulk foods offer the perfect way to control the quantity purchased.  When you’re living out of your suitcase, you might prefer a few tablespoons of chia seeds versus a 1-pound pre-packaged bag.