Devin Ellsworth

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Vegan Roadtripping: What To Eat On The Open Road…

This last weekend, me and a few friends piled into a car and took a road trip to Chicago. The trip itself was tons of fun, but I wanted to write specifically about what it’s like to be on the road as a vegan.

I think there is a common misconception that vegans are all only friends with other vegans, only do vegan activities and only eat at organic-crunchy-raw-vegan-kale-filled restaurants.

And while I enjoy my trips to those types of restaurants, the reality is the vast majority of my friends are not vegan, nor even vegetarian. A few have joined me on this journey, and that is wonderful! But most, while definitely eating more plant-based than before, are still very typical eaters by and large.

That’s ok with me.

So the stereotype that if you go vegan you have to change up your entire lifestyle and find all new friends is simply not true. In fact, apart from a very select few occasions, it has not impacted my day to day life at all.

It’s 2015, and finding a vegan option on a menu has never been easier.

There is, however, a seemingly barren final frontier — the open road.

Passing Wendy’s and Culver’s and McDonald’s and A&W’s and rest stop after rest stop full of junk food, it can be tough on the road to eat healthy.

Tough, but not impossible.

So here’s how I did. I started the trip with a bunch of bananas and a 3 lb bag of clementines. I didn’t bring any other snacks as I knew we’d be stopping.

I should have brought more fruit, because I immediately lost 3 of my 6 bananas to my friends, and nearly half the clementines.

Being a health coach, though, I didn’t mind. I was pretty happy actually to have provided some quality nutrition to my friends. I knew it would get worse as the day went on, after all.

We stopped at rest stops and most the snacks are not only not vegan but utter junk. I did grab some peanuts at one stop and some baked Lays chips at another — not exactly healthy, but vegan and some energy. Gas stations are tough…

The big stop was lunch — hard to find good vegan food on the road. I opened up my Happy Cow app, but it only found vegan-friendly restaurants several miles off the highway in Madison, WI. Too far a detour, we were on a schedule. And it’d be a tough sell for my meat-eating friends anyway.

We debated and I googled and we drove.

Then, we passed a sign for Taco John’s.

“Can you eat anything at Taco John’s, Devin?” said my friend Nick.

And after a 2 second google search I said, “yup. Super easy.”

Gotta love the internet and smartphones. Makes being vegan so much easier, because lo and behold, someone else had posed this question in a forum and the answer was right there.

I got myself 2 bean burritos, no cheese. Were they outstanding? Nah, not really. But tasty nonetheless, and 100% vegan!

Making it work.

Taco John’s isn’t the only place we could have gone. I suggested Chipotle, but those are often not right off the highway. Subway is super easy to get a veggie delite sub with just vegetables on toasted bread with a good vegan dressing. Or they now have a veggie patty that is vegan!

Taco Bell just made their menu super easy to make vegan. Just say “make it fresco” and it instantly means it’s vegan! Pretty outstanding and progressive for the chain my friends and I grew up believing that they served meat just above dog food standards.

And if you’re desperate and with friends who insist on a place like Wendy’s, you can get a baked potato with no cheese or sour cream!

After spending two full days in the car with my meat-eating friends, road tripping and having a great time, I can safely say that my dietary choices did not affect my enjoyment in the slightest. They weren’t even the smallest hindrance. It’s SO easy to be vegan, why aren’t you yet?!


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