My territory for work takes me across 67 counties in Iowa and up into a small part of South Dakota. In a state where hogs out number people, you sometimes get weird looks for asking what is vegetarian or vegan on a menu in the middle of no-where Iowa. I have some suggestions for your car and for fast food eating. Here are some road-tested rules for traveling.
Rule #1 – Plan ahead and Pack your Car!
Small healthy snacks for your car are essential. Don’t be tempted by the overpriced sugar filled snacks at the convenience stores. As you will see from the list below – there is always food in my car. No one goes hungry when traveling with me!
Take care of yourself before hunger ever strikes. Ideas for snacks that travel well include:
- Peanut Butter (This is a necessity just in case – see rule #4)
- Refillable water bottles – fill them before you leave home
- Larabars or granola bars – perfect size to fit a few in your glove box!
- Apples or pears
- Banana chips & apple chips (kids of all ages LOVE these!)
Rule #2 - Know your fast food menus.
Unfortunately, you can’t walk into a fast food venue and see items marked as vegan or vegetarian. However, most fast food places have their menu, and nutrition information, including ingredients, posted on their website. The thing about Iowa and Fast food – is that the small towns all seem to have the same exact fast food restaurants. There is not a lot of variety.
Panera – Thank goodness for the black bean soup. This is my staple on the road!
Also vegan at Panera: Sourdough bread, low-fat Vegetarian Garden Soup, salads with no cheese or meat. I am not sure why – but it is really hard to get them to change up the sandwiches and make them to order. I usually stick to the soup!
Taco Bell – The Fresco Burrito has no cheese! If the Taco Bell you visit has no Fresco menu, my all time favorite is a bean burrito, no cheese, plus rice.
Taco Johns – In rural Iowa Taco Johns seem to be much more prevalent than the Bell. Unfortunately, the soft tortillas are not vegan. Go for a bean taco, no meat, no cheese. The secret here is ALWAYS look at your taco before eating. I am not sure why, but they always mess this up. The upside, is that if you are frugal like me, you take back the first taco they messed up, ask for another and get a coupon for free food the next time you visit! (If you go into a situation knowing it will be messed up – there is always a bright side to look forward to!)
Subway – You can rely on almost all of the small towns in Iowa having a Subway. There is not a lot for protein, but you can make a salad to order at Subway or get a veggie sub. The breads that are vegan include: Hearty Italian, Ciabatta, Roasted Garlic and Italian (white). The wheat and honey oat breads have honey in them.
Rule #3 – Research the Community Before You Leave Home
With so many small towns in rural Iowa we are fairly limited on our expansion of fast food variety. Many small towns have a Chinese, Japanese, Thai, or Mexican restaurant that will offer some variety if you are traveling. Although, these small places don’t always have websites to check for nutrition information ahead of time. If you are traveling wider than Iowa – some great sites to check out include:
www.happycow.com Happy Cow is a great resource for travelers and has a list of tried and true vegetarian, vegan and vegan friendly places to eat and shop in cities around the world. If I find a vegan friendly place to eat that is not listed on Happy Cow, I suggest to the owners or managers to add their restaurant as a resource for other travelers.
www.veganeatingout.com This is a helpful resource listing common fast food places and what exactly can be found vegan on their menus.
Rule #4 – If all else fails Rely on the Peanut Butter you packed in Rule #1
If you have a jar of peanut butter or nuts in your car – you have protein to get through the day. If all else fails, I dip my apples, banana chips, carrots and sometimes my fingers into the creamy goodness of peanut butter!