When I started eating vegan meals one year ago, I started fielding questions vegans attract constantly: “How do you get your protein?” and “How can you sustain the energy you need with just vegetables?” and “OMG RLY YOU DON’T EAT CHEESE AND YOU LIVE IN WISCONSIN?” Stuff like that. Thank goodness my beau James, a seasoned vegan with strong arguments, handed me his copy of Becoming Vegan by Brenda Davis and Vesanto Melina, a veritable vegan bible delving deeply into the nutritional sciences. Being also an avid bike tourist, James was able to guide me as we packed food for my first vegan bike tour this past year.
Before I get too far into this posting, I want to note that I do not label myself “vegan;” I do consume hunted and gathered meats several times a year, as well as eggs from the rescued backyard chickens I help maintain. I do not consume animal product whose origins I do not intimately understand and participate in. I share this disclaimer for those who know me and could be sensitive about my use of the term.
Back to mid-winter wanderlusting over summer bike tours….
James and I completed a 360-mile tour through southwestern Wisconsin last fall. I called it the “Euglena Tour” because the shape of our route’s loop resembled that of the microscopic, single-celled flagellate. James described it as the more mundane “Peanut.” At any rate, I started learning about touring-while-vegan leading up to this ride, as James and I had taken several overnight trips throughout the summer. Pre-vegan, I often relied on dense salty snacks like jerky to get me through a bonk while touring, or blocks of cheese to fill my tummy with fatty goodness. The occasional diner breakfasts of buttermilk pancakes or tavern dinners of juicy cheeseburgers would provide sustenance and relief from having to prepare my own meals over camp stove. Needless to say, there would be no mental-health ice cream breaks from here on out, or at least a lot fewer of them, as vegan ice cream is hard to come by outside of the city.
So what were my new staples as far as snacks, bonk-relief, and hearty, lightweight, packable meals on the road?
Enter Field Roast vegan meats. Yes, please enter those directly into my mouth. James turned me on to the Field Roast brand early in our relationship, and their grain-based vegan meats have been a key part of our bike travels. Although not the easiest product to find on the road, and certainly not the most affordable, their franks and brats offer dense protein and easy digestibility to our hungry biker bellies. They’re also compact and can last a few days unrefrigerated (against the company’s suggestions, by the way). We’re lucky to live in a part of the U.S. where packs of hippies have started health food cooperatives in small towns throughout the countryside, so James and I were able to restock our Field Roast supply at least once during our 9 days of travel.
Other important snacks I’ve found helpful for my own carbohydrate-centric diet include vegan energy bars, sesame sticks, apples, and dark chocolate, all of which I’ve toured with regularly in the past. Bagels or flour tortillas with peanut butter make great carb-heavy snacks or entire meals when paired with other foods.
Restaurants are often able to accommodate a vegan diet. For breakfast, even small-town diners in Wisconsin will whip up hashbrowns with extra veggies. Slushies make a great alternative to ice cream on-the-road and can be found virtually everywhere. For me, being able to sit down to a hot meal you didn’t cook is an important part of maintaining good spirits on tour. I often experience anxiety around ordering vegan foods in a strange place, so I’m particularly thankful to tour with an experienced vegan who holds no shame in asking about meat- and dairy-free options.
I invite you to peruse our vegan meal plan from our 2015 Euglena Tour, as I collected this data for a reason (beyond my own weird obsession with recording such things—what can I say, there is still some scientist left in me). You’ll note that many of these foods can be found at regular grocery stores and gas station convenience stores (both of which we shopped at), not just specialty health food cooperatives. Many thanks to James who cooked 95% of our meals, which may explain some of our odd food combinations!
Day 1 biked 45 miles
Lunch: cucumber slices and vegan franks in flour tortillas; garlic sesame sticks; cherry Slushie
Dinner: spaghetti with onion, bell pepper, peanut butter, and sesame oil; apple
Snack: muffins our housemate made for our trip ❤
Day 2 biked 62 miles
Breakfast: oatmeal with raisins, coconut, and cinnamon; apple; coffee
Lunch: cucumber slices and vegan franks in flour tortillas; garlic sesame sticks; kombucha
Dinner: vegan mac ‘n’ cheese; fresh carrots with peanut butter
Snacks: trail mix (nuts, seeds, and dried fruits); Clif Bar
Day 3 biked 55 miles
Breakfast (small-town diner): hashbrowns with vegetables and salsa; sourdough toast; coffee
Lunch: bagels; trail mix; apple with peanut butter
Dinner: vegan chili dogs (buns, kraut, chili beans, vegan franks); tortilla chips; beer
Day 4 hiked 3 miles (no biking – State Park time!)
Breakfast: oatmeal with raisins, coconut, and cinnamon; coffee
Lunch: ramen noodles with seasoning; fresh carrots
Dinner: spaghetti with tomato sauce
Snacks: apple; Raw Revolution bar; tortilla chips and bean dip
Day 5 biked 60 miles
Breakfast: vegan frank; peanut butter in flour tortilla; carrots; coffee
Lunch (from food co-op): pre-cooked tofu on fresh rolls; pineapple
Dinner: tofu, vegan brats, kraut, and avocado on flour tortillas; banana chips
Snacks: Clif Bar; Larabar; sesame sticks; apple; trail mix; date rolls
Day 6 biked 38 miles
Breakfast: bagels with peanut butter; apple; trail mix; coffee
Lunch: vegan brats on flour tortilla; apple with peanut butter; trail mix
Dinner: spaghetti with a roasted eggplant mix; chorizo seitan with broccoli
Snacks: vegan lattes; tortilla chips and salsa; beer
Magical Dessert: hot cocoa a friend made from scratch in Guatemala!
Day 7 biked 43 miles
Breakfast: oatmeal with apple and peanut butter; tortilla chips; coffee
Lunch: vegan dogs on buns with avacado; bananas
Dinner: macaroni with tomato sauce; fresh cucumber
Snacks: sesame sticks; Larabar; tortillas; vegan franks on buns; coffee; beer
Day 8 hiked 4 miles (no biking – State Park time!)
Breakfast: oatmeal with apple and peanut butter; vegan dog on bun; coffee
Lunch: tortillas with refried beans, cucumber, and sriracha sauce
Dinner: spaghetti with ramen seasoning and sriracha sauce
Snacks: Larabars; soda
Day 9 biked 52 miles
Breakfast: oatmeal with apple and peanut butter; coffee
Lunch (small-town pub): walnut burgers with lots of fixin’s; sweet potato tots; fries; coffee; beer
Snack: Clif Bar
These meal plans work well for any kind of travel, not just bike travel. We’ve used similar meal plans while staying at hotels during nerd conventions, for example, where there may be a lack of affordable vegan options and little downtime to do food runs. I’m happy to report to the skeptics that I’ve stayed healthy, full, and energized with these simple meals, many thanks to Field Roast dogs, flour tortillas, and peanut butter. I’ll even thank carrots, which I do not like much, because they are such a travel-friendly vegetable option.
What are your go-to vegan travel foods? How do you eat healthy on the road? Any tips and tricks from fellow vegan bike tourists? Please share in the comments below!