This summer I made my way from Ontario to British Columbia in a van. I did a lot of planning, packing, and research around snacks and meals before hitting the road (and during thanks to this FREE Happy Cow phone app). Along the way, I was also able to catch a couple of meals at actual restaurants! This is always a treat for a travelling whole foods vegan who isn’t about to stop at a fast food restaurant for supper.
Leading up to the trip I made, dehydrated, and purchased lots of food to keep me happy (not hangry) in between the restaurant and grocery store interludes. As such, this post is two fold: 1) it will provide insights on planning healthy snacks and meals while road-tripping and camping; and 2) review the restaurants, health stores and supermarkets that stuck out in my mind after the road trip and camping was said and done.
Hitting the road doesn’t mean you have to leave behind how you eat when you’re at home. If you have an oven or a dehydrator, a cooler to take with you, and knowledge of what the US will NOT allow you to take into their country (I still mourn my 3 organic avocados lost at the border…) you’re set!
If you have an oven or dehydrator you can make granola (or gRAWnola) to take on the road and to have while camping. It will keep for a couple of weeks (longer if dehydrated and stored with a moisture packet – silica gel).
Here’s a list of what I took with me. Maybe you will find some inspiration in it?
- Sprouted buckwheat gRAWnola. I made three types in my Excalibur dehydrator: brazil nut maple syrup; carob kale walnut banana (that’s right, I said KALE. a sneaky way to get your greens in!); and apple cinnamon date.
- I made hummus as I normally would and then DEHYDRATED it. I wish I had of taken a photo for you to see. Next time.
Simple steps to dehydrated hummus:
>make hummus normally (chickpeas, garlic, oil, salt, lemon juice, etc)
> spread onto your dehydrator sheet (I line mine with unbleached parchment paper instead of non-stick plastic sheets)
> dry at 125 F for 6-8 hours (or however long it takes for it to get all cracked and dry)
> let it cool then run it through your clean processor or coffee grinder until it’s a powder.
> Store the powdered hummus in plastic baggies (to save packing space) or in reusable containers that you can add water to when you need to REHYDRATE come eating time. Storing in baggies is a great (albeit not the most enviro friendly) option if you’re hiking or climbing for the day as it doesn’t take up much room.
>Rehydration is really easy. Simply add water, a couple of tablespoons at a time, and mix until it reaches your desired consistency. If stored in a baggy you can just add water to it and mix by squashing the baggy with your hands (just ensure there are no holes!).
*Suggestion: try to partition out serving sizes of your hummus onto the dehydrator sheets before it dries so then you have individual serving sizes ready to go. Otherwise, you may rehydrate too much and have nowhere to store it while on the road or in the woods (i.e. a fridge!)
- Dehydrated cooked beans.
dehydrated black-eyed peas
This is a great alternative to canned beans, which take up space! To dehydrate beans: cook as you normally would, rinse, cool, and then spread out on your dehydrator sheets. Can take up to 12 hours, if not more, to ensure all the moisture is out of the beans. I dehydrated black-eyed peas (aka cow beans/peas) and black navy beans. I didn’t want to try anything larger (such as kidney or chickpea) because I was afraid they wouldn’t dry properly and would go bad.
- Dehydrated fruit and vegetables. I dehydrated green beans and bought dried fruit as I decided this route was more cost and time effective. You could also slice carrots, sweet potato, and other roots veggies into thin chips and dehydrate (viola, veggie chips!)
- Nut butters. Artisana snack size nut butters all the way. You can buy a variety and not worry about glass breaking or them going bad. I bought a bunch of walnut-cashew, plain cashew, coconut butter, and cacao bliss (a dreamy blend of cacao [raw chocolate], coconut butter, and agave syrup). Sometimes I ate these butters straight out the package, but while bouldering in Squamish I would sit down on a rock and have a little snack of rice cakes, nut butter, and banana. Note: these little guys are hard to find in Canada right now.
- Organic rice cakes. I stuck to the multi grain ones (rice, buckwheat, millet, and quinoa).
- Hemp seeds and chia seeds. Hemp seeds are handy as you can sprinkle them on anything from grains to veggies to sauces. You can also sprinkle chia seeds, but I prefer making a chia pudding. Add 1/2 cup water to 2 tablespoons chia , stir, let sit, stir again, and viola (in about 10 minutes you have a pudding!). You can add sweetener if you like.
- Buckwheat. Every night I would soak buckwheat, and drain it in the morning to have with my hemp seeds and chia seeds for breakfast. You can do this in a hotel room in a plastic container or in your tent (actually, do NOT do this in your tent. You don’t want bears comin’ ’round after smellin’ food!)
- Dried lentils and other grains (rice, quinoa, millet). A propane stove is a great thing to have while road tripping and camping. You can pull over in a parking lot and cook up a warm meal – lentils, grain, veggies, and some seasoning. Bam!
- Fresh fruit and vegetables! Bananas, oranges, pears and apples will keep outside of a cooler. I washed strawberries and blueberries before hitting the road and stored them in the cooler. Carrots are also a good choice. Note that not all fruit and veg is allowed when you cross the border. See customs website for more information, so that you don’t end up crying at the border when they throw out your produce right in front of you.
- Kale chips. A delicious excuse to get my greens in. You can make these in your oven or dehydrator, or buy them at a health store depending on where you live.
- Bars. Vega endurance bars and a few Lara Bars were the two things I brought that were the most processed (not to say that rice crackers aren’t processed). I like the acai berry flavour endurance bar: it has 8 grams of complete protein, 15% of your daily iron intake, but doesn’t leave your stomach feeling heavy.
- I brought a pencil-case of seasonings and other little things: dulse flakes; nutritional yeast; various spices; psyllium husks…
- Vitamins/minerals. Although I don’t take supplements everyday I wanted to ensure I had stuff with me on the road for days where I maybe didn’t meet my nutritional needs. (I ended up bringing a pile back with me, but that’s OK!)
My main pieces of advice if planning a road or camping trip (and hoping to do so with plant-based, minimally processed foods) is to give yourself 2 weeks before to buy snacks, prepare food, and organize your meal plans. Researching places you’ll be driving through is also integral to a healthy ride as it will allow you to top-up your supplies, or enjoy a sit-down meal.
With that advice in mind, here’s a drive-by of a few places I stopped at:
You’ll see a lot of fields when driving across Canada/the US
Communitea Cafe in Canmore, Alberta
I had high hopes for this place, as I had been drooling over their vegan/gluten free options before hitting the road. The menu is impressive looking, and the cafe itself has a nice atmosphere and intention (lots of natural light, comfy chairs, local/organic when possible), but the salad and service did not deliver. The menu says quinoa is in the salad, but to me it looked like quinoa was accidentally spilled on my bowl. A case of cross contamination, not intentional positioning. I.e. there was less than a tablespoon in my bowl! I opted for their tahini garlic dressing and it tasted like maple syrup. Keeping my quinoa disappointment aside, I went up to the counter to ask if I had been given the right dressing. I had been. My eating partner had their “Upbeet veggie burger” on spinach and wasn’t blown away by any stretch of the imagination.
Before writing them off, I think all eating establishments should be given two tries (unless the first was so terrible that you can’t stomach the thought of going back). Thus, if passing through Canmore again, I will check out Communitea one more time and I hope to be pleasantly surprised. :)
The town of Squamish, British Columbia
Cleveland Avenue; Squamish, BC
Squamish is a health-conscious human’s paradise. It has well-stocked supermarkets and health stores, yoga studios, a cute cafe (Zephyr’s), and an endless amount of outdoor activities at your fingertips.
In a strip mall (Hunter Place) you will find Starbucks (free wifi), Health Food Haven, and Nester’s Market (not to mention a hardware shop , outfitters store, and other amenities expected in a strip mall). I was floored to walk into Nester’s Market (a supermarket chain) and find it to be well-stocked with organic bean, lentil, and broccoli sprouts, fresh organic fruit and veg, miniature (one serving) tins of organic coconut milk, millet cakes, hemp seeds, quinoa, organic flax, Vega protein, you name it. There was also a little bulk section that carried organic and non organic nuts, seeds, dried fruits, grains, and trail mixes. (Note that there is a Save-on-Foods further down the road on Pemberton Avenue that sells some of the same items, such as bean sprouts, for cheaper).
I bought a brazil nut energy bar from Health Food Haven out of desperation before catching the greyhound to Vancouver. I say desperation because it was 3.49 if I recall correctly. That being said, the store had a nice vibe to it and the staff were very friendly. Along with speciality health food items and supplements they also served fresh-made smoothies – though many contained bee products.
By far my favourite snack spots in Squamish were Zephry’s Cafe and In the Raw Organics: Speciality Bulk Foods and Goods.
Zephry’s serves animal products, but also serves vegan, gluten-free, and RAW options! Think hearty grain bowls, raw lasagna, and nut burgers! Due to a couple of food allergies I stuck with their grain bowls. The first time I ate there I ordered their organic quinoa veggie bowl and had hummus added to it as the protein options were animal based or tofu (soy allergy!). They had no problem with my request, actually, they welcomed it (they even had a note on their chalk board encouraging folks with allergies to talk to them about how they can help – make the food safe that is ). The bowl was super filling. I ate it for supper after hiking the Chief. The next time I ate there I opted for brown rice instead of quinoa, but wasn’t nearly as satisfied (filling wise, so stick with quinoa if you’re really hungry; flavours were still great). I kept hummus as my protein, and broke out some of my own nutritional yeast to sprinkle on top. I also had their “greenhouse” smoothie (spinach, parsley, ginger, pineapple, orange juice) and had them add a clove of garlic (wanted to keep my immune system in top shape!). They kept asking, “are you sure you want us to do this?” Ha. It was delicious – even with the chunk of garlic! (Sorry there are no food photos… I was too excited to pause and take them ; ))
Inside Zephry’s Cafe
Conveniently located by Zephrys is In the Raw Organics. A speciality bulk and health food store. I was overjoyed to find Vancouver island hazelnuts and cherries, quinoa pasta, an assortment of nuts, seeds, herbs, spices, and teas! The hazelnuts and cherries were a nice addition to my morning buckwheat that was getting boring after a week of chia and hemp seeds. Be sure to stop in here if you find yourself in Squamish!
As you might have guessed, I found Squamish to be incredibly vegan and whole-foods friendly. Turns out, there was no dire need for me to bring all my hemp seeds, buckwheat, and gRAWnola to Squamish (’cause I could find it all there!), but all that food prep came in handy along the way, and saved me a bunch of money (planning ahead tends to do that!).
Before hitting the road.
I hope you’ll keep this post in mind next time you hit the road and are looking for snack ideas (whether travelling in a car, by bus, or train!).
Until next time! (Which could be longer than usual as I’ve got a busy two weeks coming up! Keep checking back!)
View from the first peak of the Chief
(You’re probably wondering where the US reviews are? Sorry to say that I wasn’t able to hit up many along the way save gas stops that carried your typical soft drinks, chips, and roasted nuts. There were some spots I would have liked to explore had there been time, such as those found in Duluth, Minnesota, but sadly we only stayed there long enough to sleep, shower, and hit the road again.)