June 22, 2013

Eating Healthy on the road ...

It is so much easier to stay healthy and to eat healthy while at home. You can buy the foods you normally eat, you have access to a functional kitchen and you don't buy the junk foods that you don't want to eat. But what about when you're on the road?

What I'd really like to do here is chronicle my 7 days of travelling and client breakfasts/lunches and dinners in this post. I left home mid-day yesterday. I am also in the middle of the Happy Herbivore 28-Day Whole Food Challenge. Although I've had to relax my rules a teeny-weeny bit - I've tried to stick with the plan, to the extent possible. And that is the first rule of WFPBNO travelling - "There is no need to aim for perfection; do the best you can; that is all you can do; and you'll do better than most people around you." ... here are some great blog posts about plant-based travelling:  

Happy Herbivore - 
Vegucated - 
Engine 2 Diet -
Rugrat Chow! - 
  1. Plan ahead. Pack a banana. Pack some dates. So you always have something when you need it for emergencies and 'low sugar' moments when nothing else is accessible (and trust me when I say you will always have those).
  2. Scope out restaurants. Every self-respecting restaurant has an online menu these days. Review it and scope out recipes you can modify with minimal fuss. This helps when you're with clients.
  3. Decide on your compromises in advance. Know where you're willing to make minor compromises. Are you okay with a little olive oil? or are you okay with a little chicken/beef broth? Are you okay if there is some cheese mixed in the sauce? I decided a long time ago, that I'd compromise on the oil. It makes my life a lot easier. I always ask the server to request the chef to use as little of it as possible and have not been disappointed. 
  4. Don't be afraid to ask for what you need. Often times restaurants don't cater to special diets and lifestyles (on their standard menu) but most chefs want your business. They are artists and want to be remembered for their creations. Politely ask the servers what they can do and most often you will be surprised.  Now bear in mind, that this is not likely to happen at a Warehouse Chain restaurant (i.e. a restaurant where all their food comes in a bag, from a warehouse!). 
Day 1: Of Airports and such ... 

Breakfast: I ate my usual bowl of Everyday Oats before I left and I packed a banana in my purse.  Snack 1: At the airport, I got a large black tea with a splash of soy milk, at Starbucks, to tide me over until lunch. Lunch: During our first layover in DFW, we looked around (I was travelling with 2 colleagues - both omnivores). We had 3.5 hours to kill and they were interested in a sit down meal. So while exploring our options, we realized that our options were Chili's or TGI Fridays. Quick mental coin toss ... we settled on Chili's. I was surprised .. and quite refreshingly so ... that Chili's offers to replace a black bean patty in any one of their burgers (silent cry of joy!). I ordered a Guacamole burger, with a black bean patty, no cheese, no sour cream and a side of salsa. Instead of a side order of fries, I asked for steamed broccoli. And I had water with my meal (I never drink anything else anymore). Snack 2: Faced with a 90 minute flight delay, I ended up stopping by one of the airport travel stores and grabbed a bag of lightly salted popcorn (had some soybean oil in it but wasn't super greasy. For every 150 calories, it had 50 fat calories. I ate about a serving and a half and pitched the rest because the bag was badly torn (else I would've saved it). Dinner: Once we got to the hotel, 3 hours later than expected, we ended up going to the bar downstairs for a quick meal. I had some fresh Guacamole (one avocado, diced tomato, jalapenos and spring onions, with a touch of hot sauce) with some tortilla chips. And for my entree, I ordered a dish called 'Spiced Tempeh' it had about 6 oz of spiced grilled tempeh (yum) topped off with a wild mushrooms, greens and seasoned (roasted) spaghetti squash. I finished off my meal with a half of a Bruleed Banana. OMG that banana was amazing!!

Day 2: Client Meetings and Conference Sessions .. 

Snack 1: So far, I've polished off the banana I brought from home. Breakfast: a couple of us met at the lobby cafe and I told the server I was plant-based and he recommended a blueberry, banana and acai berry smoothie (which he said he could make with soy milk) and I ordered the steel cut oats, with dried grapefruit, raisins, cranberries (not craisins) and dry roasted pecans and raw cashews. I also had a cup of coffee with a splash of soy milk. That lasted me all the way through lunch, very comfortably. 

Steel-Cut Oats w fixings!
Lunch: I ordered off the appetizer menu - Crispy Avocado Tacos. This was amazing (and I forgot to take a picture). But it was basically wedges of fresh avocado encrusted with toasted cumin seeds, pumpkin, and other seeds (some I couldn't identify). This was placed on a bed of lettuce and grilled corn with a mango salsa. The dish actually came with a 'queso citrus miso' which I asked them to hold since it sounded like it had cheese. It was pretty good but I was starving by snack time and slipped up and had a cookie that was being served during sessions (I know - it was a bad idea and I regretted it later! Sugar slump!). Dinner: This was a bummer meal because I'd eaten part of it before but I was regretting the previous choice of cookie so it ended up really well. I had the same fresh  Guacamole (one avocado, diced tomato, jalapenos and spring onions, with a touch of hot sauce) that I had the previous night and I ordered a hummus and veggies plate. This came with sliced summer squash, carrot and celery sticks and cauliflower and broccoli florets and a couple of sectioned pita pockets. Ate a light, plant based meal to make up for my bad choice at snack time.

Day 3: More Client Meetings and Conference Sessions .. 

Breakfast: We went back to the lobby cafe for a client breakfast and I had the same blueberry, Acai berry smoothie from Day 2 and an order of the steel cut oats, which on this day came with raisins, cranberries, dry roasted pecans and some light brown sugar. Lunch: Due to various reasons, this meal ended up being delayed and then all I had was a chance grab a quick bite at the lobby cafe and I ordered Crispy Avocado Tacos (yes, that is one disadvantage of being plant-based, there is usually one thing you can order at each restaurant and if your choices are limited i.e. you go back to the same place, you have to repeat, or re-improvise). Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture, again!! 

Dinner: We went off site to a restaurant called Acacia for dinner. I asked for a Panzanella (which is a traditional Tuscan bread salad with tomato, fresh mozzarella, red onion, chick peas and fresh basil tossed in olive oil and white balsamic vinegar). I asked them to leave off the mozzarella and go easy on the olive oil. This was amazing.

Panzanella, half eaten ;)
My dinner entree .. 
And for my entree, I asked for a dish which was exotically described as "Sweet corn and Green chilly Custard, Braised Spinach, Vanilla Carrot Puree, Asparagus, Edamame, Portabella Mushroom, Baby Broccoli, Zucchini, Wild rice pilaf with Stone fruit & Pecans, Roasted sweet peppers". I told the server I was plant-based and he offered to hold the carrot puree which had some dairy. What he forgot to tell me was that the corn and green chilly custard contained eggs (duh me! it's custard) so I left it off to the side of plate after tasting the first bite. The rest was an amazing dinner. For my dessert, I got swayed and gluttony got the better of me. I ordered a Dark Chocolate and Caramelized Banana pots du crème. This was rich, had dairy and was way to sweet. I could only eat about 3 bites of it before giving up on my cheating habits!! ... I can't do sweet dairy desserts any more ... (this was a good 'prove to myself' experiment!!) :) 

Day 4: More Client Meetings and Conference Sessions .. yes, its getting tiring.

Breakfast: So I was scheduled for a breakfast session this morning, which was catered. And my oh my, their idea of catering was to provide only one choice of breakfast. They served Breakfast Burritos, with eggs, insane amounts of cheese and greasy chorizo. I passed on that breakfast (gladly!) and drank my herbal tea while the rest of the attendees wolfed it down. Instead, after the session, I went to the coffee shop in the hotel and picked up a large black tea with a splash of soy milk, and a banana to tide me over until lunch. I also ate 2 medjool dates when my blood sugar started dropping in the middle of the next session. 
Crispy Avocado Tacos!!!! Ammmaazzzing!
Lunch: Guess what? I ordered .. ta da ... Crispy Avocado Tacos, again :) and I did remember to take a picture this time. Because they left me hungry the last two afternoons, I ordered a half-size Baby Spinach salad (it had sliced dry roasted almonds) and I asked for a small cup of salsa instead of salad dressing. With the two things together, I stayed full well until dinner, by which time I was absolutely starving. 

Brushetta Bandiera Italiana
Dinner: With some clients, we ended up at a little Italian eatery called Trattoria Pina. Great food. Very accommodating staff. We ordered a their Brushetta Bandiera Italiana for the table (amongst all the omnivore stuff) and it was really good. It was done 2 ways - one had fresh tomatoes, garlic pesto with some olive oil and the second kind had marinated artichokes, red roasted peppers and a few capers tossed in. The bread was a little too thick and soggy but the brushetta tasted great.  

For my entree, I ordered one of their specials. It was Portabella and Herb Ravioli with braised Spinach and Mushrooms and a Chianti Cream sauce, but she agreed to change the sauce with marinara. The end result was rather an amazingly smooth ravioli in a messy tomato sauce .. and the portion was huge. Each ravioli was about the size of a man's palm and there must have been 6 of those on my plate. I could hardly do it justice. 

Portabella & Herb Ravioli
Day 5: More Client Meetings and Conference Sessions .. and then some ... 

Breakfast and Lunch: Same old, same old. I like consistency. I opted for the exact same breakfast I've had in days past - Steel cut oats, with dry roasted pecans and raisins, with a little bit of brown sugar and soy milk. Umm Umm Good! If it ain't broke, don't fix it!!! Lunch (unfortunately, as I'm getting tired of them) was the Crispy Avocado Tacos. Seriously, these resort hotels need to understand that it is hard to eat the same foods so many days in a row. They really need to add more vegetarian options. I did also get a half size Spinach salad with sliced roasted almonds and currants. 

Dinner: This was a rather amazing experience. We were with clients and went off site for dinner to the local Fleming's. It's a premium steakhouse and wine bar and I was worried I'd have to order off the appetizer menu (I scoped out the menu in advance and saw some mushroom ravioli that I could modify) and basically eat some sides (baked potatoes and steamed broccoli come to mind). However, once the server found out that I was plant-based (her parents are too she said), she essentially created a whole dinner for me which was not listed on the menu at all.  She ordered me a vegetable plate as an appetizer. It had carrot sticks, celery sticks and some radishes and came with ranch dressing and cream cheese. As you can see, I ate most of the veggies and chose to leave the ranch and cream cheese untouched :)!! 

For my entree, the chef made me some tossed pasta which was really tasty. The server advised me that they didn't really have a cheese-less sauce the chef could use so I agreed to let the chef toss my veggies and pasta in a little bit of olive oil. In the end, it had a little too much olive oil for my taste,but he did add a LOT of fresh veggies and this was probably my most delicious dinner on this trip. The lighting was really low at this restaurant so my pictures are a little too pale but you can tell that he used julienned carrots, green beans, asparagus, red peppers, zucchini and broccoli. 

Tossed Pasta @Fleming's
For my dessert, my awesome server (with her experiences with her plant-based parents) brought me a bowl full of berries. Its part of their regular dessert menu except that it is typically served with a whopping amount of fresh whipped cream. This was a delicious end to my lovely meal at a premium steak house. So here's a shout-out to Fleming's Tucson for being wonderfully considerate about serving all their guests, not just the carnivores ;)

Day 6: Some Client Meetings, some work and feeling like I'm ready to head home ... 

Breakfast: I was ready and prepared to have steel-cut oats again for breakfast - and I did. Except today, the chef was trying something new and it was so yummy looking that I dug in and spoiled his lovely arrangement before I took a picture. 

This morning, the chef was serving steel cut oats with Bruleed Banana and fresh berries. It was really pretty, one whole banana, sliced into 2 longitudinal halves, both bruleed, and then there was a beautiful arrangement of fresh strawberries and blueberries and a little sprinkling of dry roasted pecans. This was a really nice change. You can see a couple pieces of bruleed banana in this picture. Lunch: I was relieved that I didn't have to eat the Crispy avocado tacos again. They tasted great but after 5 days of eating them for lunch, I'd had my fill. The restaurant had a lunch buffet. It was called a Fajita lunch buffet with a lot of chicken and steak and ground beef ... but guess what ..I found Pinto beans, Spanish rice, Shredded Lettuce, fresh spicy salsa and hard shell tacos. I had it made, baby!! Dinner: This was supposed to be the conference banquet. It was a formal sit down meal, even though it was a buffet. And being in Arizona, they decided to do tacos, so it turned out that my dinner was pretty much the same as my lunch. Soft shell corn tacos, refried beans and Spanish rice, with a side of cucumber salad. Not too exciting but at least they catered to every one's dietary needs. For omnivores, they served roasted fish and steak tacos. None of the desserts were really plant-based so I opted to skip those altogether. Once the dancing began, we moved to the hotel bar where I ordered a hummus plate  - this came with sliced summer squash, carrot and celery sticks and cauliflower and broccoli florets and a couple of sectioned pita pockets. Aah! that felt good.

Day 7: Heading home ... Airports again!

Took me a while to get this done :) .. so we were to leave early morning for the airport. Luckily the airport coffee shop was open at 7 am. Breakfast: I got a banana and a large black tea with a splash of soy milk, at Starbucks, to tide me over until lunch. At the airport, I was beginning to get hungry so I dug into my stash of medjool dates. Lunch: was back at DFW. We didn't have much time on our hands between connections so we decided to go to Au Bon Pain. They had a Southwestern Black Bean Sandwich, on white Chibatta bread, with caramelized onions and dijon mustard. I asked them to hold the cheese and add extra grilled veggies on this sandwich. So they added roasted red peppers to it. It was a great sandwich. To supplement my meal, I got a small container of Sabra hummus with pretzel crackers. And for my next flight a pack of unsalted roasted cashews from the concessions stand next door. Dinner: I was home before dinner, so had one of my frozen dinners Saag Tofu over brown rice.

Home Sweet Home ...  :)

Lesson Learnt: Compromise is essential and its best to decide what you're going to compromise on. As I said in the beginning, I decided I would compromise on oil, while asking for the least possible to be used. It worked. I got a few greasy meals but overall, I did real good and didn't gain a pound on my 7 day trip :) Victory :)


  1. I surfed in from your post on Happy Herbivore's Facebook page. It looks and sounds like you were able to find some amazing food on your trip.

    1. Hi Cynthia - thanks and yes, so far I've done really well with my WFPBNO meals - 3 more days to go :)

  2. Hi Pragati, thanks for the great resources on eating WFPBNO on the road! I always find sticking to the plan really challenging when I'm traveling, but like you, I just do the best I can.

    Also, I wanted to let you know that I nominated you for a Liebster Award! You can read more about it on my post: http://www.veggie-quest.com/2013/07/the-liebster-award-11-rockin-plant.html

    Please don't feel obligated to participate, I just think your blog is great and wanted to share it with my readers.

    Hope you had a great 4th!

    :-) Lee

  3. Lee thanks so much for nominating my blog! That's awfully kind of you! I'm glad you enjoy my blog :)