It’s getting easier and easier to be vegan at home. New meat and dairy replacements are popping up every season and cooking veggies, legumes, and grains is affordable in most areas of the country. What happens when you leave the safety of the kitchen of your home? If you eat out often, you already know some of the tips and tricks on how to order a vegan meal and how to choose a restaurant that will respect your vegan lifestyle. But flying or riding the train for hours on end requires a lot of planning as it can last over the course of a full day. Are you supposed to bring three-plus meals with you? Can you order when you get to the concourse like everyone else? Can you rely on airplane food? It depends on your departing airport’s destination, the cities where you stop, and how long you’re on route. And what happens when you get to your destination? If you’re not in control of the menu and kitchen, you need to make your hosts aware of your dietary needs in order to make sure you can eat! Here are our best tips on how to maintain your vegan diet while traveling for the holidays.
How to Eat Vegan at an Airport or Train Station
Many sit-down restaurants at airports and train stations now have vegan options. Basic meals like pasta and sandwiches can be veganized so don’t be afraid to ask for an ingredients list. Look for meals loaded with veggies, grains, and vegan protein (beans, seitan, tofu) to keep yourself full along your journey. Watch out for hidden dairy and eggs in sauces.
If you’re limited on time or don’t want a sit-down meal, more and more fast food chains are adopting meat-free alternatives. Carl’s Jr/Hardee’s has the Beyond Burger, Burger King has the Impossible Burger, and Subway has the Beyond Beef Meatballs. Not all locations have these alternatives so make sure to call ahead or look for advertising that says it’s available.
If your journey is short and you only need a vegan snack, options like nuts, dried fruit, pretzels, chips, and candy can be found at many convenience shops. Before purchasing, look out for hidden ingredients like milk, yogurt, and gelatin.
How to Eat Vegan on a Plane, Train, or Bus
Whenever you book with an airline, you can make specific requests about your meal. Of course, this is only if they offer meals during your flight, as airlines like Southwest do not. Before booking, do the research to see what airlines have the most vegan-friendly options. Don’t be afraid to use social media and contact the airlines directly even after you’ve made your reservation to ask about the vegan meals. When in doubt, ask your flight attendant about the ingredients in your meal and ask for replacements for anything that is not vegan.
If you are taking Amtrak, your vegan options will depend on which train you take. For example, if you are taking the Coast Starlight or the California Zephyr, their only vegan options are a black bean burger and a tiny penne pasta with tomato sauce. However, if you are taking the Lakeshore Limited going from Chicago to New York, they have a full vegan meal that includes a quinoa wrap, side dish, protein bar, and more (as of December 2018). Breakfast options will always be scarce, so we recommend bringing most meals with you whenever possible. We used our long stopover time in Chicago to buy vegan sandwiches at Upton’s Breakroom to supply us with meals for two days!
Finally, if you’ve chosen to take a bus for your holiday travel, you will either have to rely on options you bring or whatever food is available at the rest stop they select for your bus route. When in doubt, bring your own options as you never know what limited section might be available at the rest stops. If you’re lucky, you might find yourself near a salad bad or near a fast food chain with a vegan burger, but your options will almost always be slim.
Now that you’ve arrived to your destination…
How to Encourage Your Host to Offer Easy Vegan Options
When a host is challenged with different diet preferences, it can feel like they have to make a separate meal for everyone. Cooking meat for a few people, cooking vegan options for a few people, and using a separate pot to cook gluten-free items is a lot to manage.
If your family is already heavily reliant on meat and dairy, we would encourage you to to recommend they buy a pre-made vegan alternative or ask for them to allow you to cook your own vegan options, as chances are they may not be equipped as to how to prepare a vegan option other than un-buttered mashed potatoes and bread rolls. When they are buying their ingredients at the grocery store, ask them to pick up items like a Tofurkey, vegan cheesecake, or stuffing you can easily veganize. If this seems like too much of a hassle, call up a local caterer or restaurant and order a few vegan options for your holiday celebration. Respecting your vegan diet should take no or minimal effort. As long as you remind your host that your diet is not a hindrance or a hassle, your diet should be welcomed and respected at your family gathering.
How to Talk to Your Family About Your Vegan Diet
Depending on your cultural background, the influence of meat and dairy will be different in every household. For instance, if you’re from Wisconsin, your community surely revolves around dairy products, specifically cheese. Those from Kansas City are reliant on their barbecue culture. And those from Jewish neighborhoods are used to chicken broth in matzo ball soup and deli platters.
The vegan lifestyle is no longer a new concept in bigger cities around the world, but in smaller cities and towns, they may not even be aware of the word “vegan” let alone a concept of eating a diet with no meat or dairy. Encourage your family members to ask questions without condescension. Come prepared with truthful and kind answers and don’t be afraid to let them know if their questions or ideas aren’t based off facts but instead cultural ideals.
If you’d like to have these kind of conversations, encourage your family members to do so when they’re not at the dining table. Remove the food from the equation and talk face to face without a turkey sitting in between each of you as other family members might feel judged for their actions. Diet is a personal topic and as soon as you say something along the lines of “I challenge everything you know to be right and healthy,” you’re bound to ruffle some feathers.
Unless your whole family lives in the same town, traveling is inevitable around the holiday season. With these tips and tricks, we know you will be able to stay nourished and maintain your vegan diet without much hassle. There’s already plenty of stress during the holiday season. Figuring out what to eat shouldn’t be one of them.
If you’d like to learn more about how to encourage preparing a vegan meal for the holidays check out our article here. If you’d like to stay updated with our latest articles, sign up for our newsletter which can you can find on our home page.