How To Survive a Vegetarian Road Trip on I-95, New York to Florida

Veggie Burger

The food options on I-95 suck regardless, but if you’re a vegetarian or vegan, they really suck. I survived a recent road trip from New York to Florida with a combination of preparation and improvisation.

Preparation

For me, the most important thing to bring on a car trip is hydration. I take water and fruit and sometimes celery and carrots to munch on. I find I don’t eat enough if I dry out.

Similarly, I need car lunches that don’t taste like cardboard, but also don’t make a mess. I’ve found that veggie burgers on some form of bread with hummus work out best. Specifically, I like Isa Chandra Moskowitz’ Olive Lentil Burgers, but with a roasted red pepper instead of olives. They taste good whether they’re room temperature or fresh out of the cooler.

I’ve also been making batches of No Meat Athlete’s energy bars. I have trouble finding ways to eat my beans earlier in the day and baking them into chocolate and pumpkin bars really helps. Only problem is that this formula makes way more than I can eat, and I end up tossing a bunch at my destination. I’m also more of a granola bar person than an energy bar person; these 5 Minute No Bake Peanut Butter Granola Bars are delicious if you feel the same way. But the energy bars fill me up more.

A couple of nights before this particular trip I made Isa Chandra’s Roasted Red Pepper Mac & Cheese, delicious with either cashews or sunflower seeds. I eat cheese (I also like to pack Trader Joe’s low-fat cheese sticks), but for some reason I prefer my homemade mac not to have any cheese in it. It’s like cheese overkill. I paired it with broiled broccoli. I couldn’t finish it all by the time I left, so I stuffed both into a jar for an easy meal.

Improvisation

I was glad I had my Mac & Cheese when we got to Battleboro, North Carolina. The food options consisted of a Denny’s, a Hardee’s, and a bunch of other fast food places we were too tired to drive to. To be fair, the Denny’s menu did say they’d sub in healthy veggie options if asked, but I wasn’t brave enough to find out what they tasted like. I stuck to my mac and nibbled the chicken-free part of someone else’s salad-with-chicken-on-the-side.

I’ve learned to stick to yogurt and cereal at free motel breakfasts. The carbs (muffins, pastries, waffles) don’t fill me up, and even if I still ate eggs, they’re often paired with sausages in ready-made sandwiches. I was pleasantly surprised to see instant oatmeal (and grits!) available at the Best Western, though. I love when they have little peanut butters and bagels, but that seems rare. Fettle Vegan recommends packing peanut/almond butter, jelly, and wraps.

We stopped for lunch at a “welcome center” in South Carolina that boasted a Popeyes and a Pizza Hut. There was also some kind of sit-down restaurant and a shop that had cold sandwiches, none of which were vegetarian. When I ordered a veggie pizza at Pizza Hut they looked at me like no one had ever ordered it before. It was decent for road food, a nice change from the cold veggie burgers. I was still hungry for a burger a couple of hours later, though.

That night we reached Jacksonville, which was like a return to civilization. I had vegetable miso soup from a Japanese restaurant and finally felt alive / hydrated again, if not quite awake. I finished it the next day for lunch.

And then we reached our destination, with its lovely kitchen and nearby supermarkets. Hoorah!

Notes:

  • My preparation was helped by the fact that I knew we were staying in rooms with fridges. They’re relatively easy to find on this route.
  • You need a food processor to make your own burgers and bars. If you don’t have one where you’re leaving from, buying is much easier.
  • There are probably better places to eat on this route if you’re willing to drive further away from I-95, take backroads, etc. It wasn’t in the cards for me this time.