Ah, summer vacation! Even though our school years may be over, the prospect of a relaxing getaway during the languid months of June, July, and August is exhilarating! Whether you’re attending a wedding or planning a sojourn to a sunny beach spot, it still feels like summer break. And even though we may toss our cares out the window for a few days or weeks, it’s a good idea to include lots of energizing healthy foods during our hard-earned time off. Plan a plant-based vacation and feel good about your health, animal welfare, and the environment as you add new adventures and memories to your story.
It’s always smart to bring a cooler with snacks or light meals and a selection of drinks – include some caffeine to keep you going! – on a road trip. When planning a plant-based journey it’s even more important to ensure you have cruelty free eats for the ride. Not only will you save time and money, but you’ll also benefit from healthier choices than the typical fare found at fast food restaurants and gas stations. When it comes to travel food, think small bites; finger food that isn’t messy and can hold up well on the road. Standbys include apple slices with individual packs of nut butters which personally I adore. Surprise your companions and level up with a mixture of spiced almonds and macadamia nuts as well as an assortment of olives. Throw in a few crustless chickpea salad sandwiches and you’re a hero!
We encourage you to include some tempting yet easy to prep ahead treats that will make it easier to resist the lure of junk food. These Chocolate Coconut Pecan Energy Balls are packed with protein, fiber, and healthy carbs that will keep you alert on the highway, are a terrific choice. You can make them several days in advance in under 30 minutes. Bring them along in an airtight, sturdy container and keep cool. They won’t last long!
Chocolate Coconut Pecan Energy Balls
Healthy No-Bake Summer Treats
A sweet treat that’s packed with protein and fiber, they will keep your energy flowing all day. All you need is a handful of ingredients, 20 minutes, a food processor, and an airtight storage container. These are an ideal travel snack. Make a few days ahead of time and freeze. Keep refrigerated or in a cooler during your trip.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Chill Time: 30 minutes
Vegan, Gluten Free
Yields approximately 2 dozen energy balls
2 cups of pitted dates, organic
1 ¼ cups organic shredded, unsweetened coconut DIVIDED
Note: Use ¾ cup in date mixture and the remaining ½ cup for coating the energy balls as you roll them.
½ cup chopped pecans
1/3 cup unsweetened organic cocoa powder, Dutch processed if possible
2 tablespoons hemp hearts (shelled hemp seeds)
1 teaspoon coconut oil, unrefined
1 teaspoon vanilla
1-2 tablespoons water
- Soak dates in warm water for 10 minutes, then drain well.
- Process dates until there are no more intact pieces, 60 – 90 seconds, pulsing and scraping down the sides of the bowl as you go. Be careful not to overprocess or you’ll end up with a gummy paste which is difficult to work with.
Note: Be SURE there are no pits in the dates before you begin. Pits can break your food processor blade and perhaps the food processor itself.
- Add remaining ingredients EXCEPT the water and reserved coconut. Process for one minute. If the mixture is dry and will not hold together when you pinch off a piece and squeeze it, add one tablespoon of water and process for another 45 -60 seconds.
- Pinch off a small piece of the date mixture and squeeze again. If it is still too dry to hold together (you will be rolling the mixture into balls) add the remaining tablespoon of water one teaspoon at a time, pulsing briefly between additions, until a rollable consistency is achieved.
- Rolling the date mixture can be a bit messy. I always don a pair of disposable culinary gloves.
- Have an airtight container ready to fill with the energy balls as you roll and coat them in coconut.
- Pour the reserved coconut into a small shallow bowl.
- Use a small cookie scoop or tablespoon measurer to portion uniform amounts of date mixture.
- Roll lightly between your palms to form a ball and then roll in shredded coconut immediately.
- Add the coconut covered energy balls to your airtight container as you go.
- Refrigerate for around 30 minutes for optimal flavor. Sample a few immediately if you can’t resist!
- Store in the refrigerator for a week or freeze for up to one month.
No time for homemade treats? Here are some of our favorite travel snacks that can be found at many of your favorite grocery haunts:
- Louisville Vegan Jerky-wide variety of flavors
- Emmy’s Cookies – chocolate and vanilla bean
- Love Corn – several varieties
- Vegan Rob’s Dragon Puffs
- Sabra Snackers (hummus and pretzels)
- Skinny Dipped Almonds – Super Dark Sea Salt
- Annie’s Bunny Fruit Snacks
Sadly, air travel is not as carefree as it once was. Being hungry will only add to any potential stress so be sure to bring along tasty plant-based snacks (see the suggestions above) to keep your “hangries” at bay. Do NOT, I repeat, do NOT buy snacks in the airport shops…the prices are “sky high” …pardon the pun!
Most airlines offer some sort of complimentary snack, and many have more hearty options that you can purchase. Vegan complimentary in-flight snacks include Biscoff cookies (offered on Delta flights), Rold Gold pretzels, and almonds. Depending upon the airline and distance of your trip, you may be served an in-flight meal. If so, order a vegan meal in advance. Vegetarian meals are the next best option. But bring some additional food as a backup. Mix-ups can occur or you (or your travel companions – yes, we are thinking kiddos) may not like the meal you’re served.
Several airlines are jumping on the plant-based bandwagon. According to VegOut magazine’s spring 2022 edition, these are some of the most “vegan friendly” carriers in the sky:
- Qatar Airways
- Singapore Airlines
- Cathay Pacific
- Air New Zealand
Many people consider a summer trip incomplete without a roller coaster ride or spectacular nighttime fireworks display. And while we realize Florida does not have a monopoly on theme parks, two of the most frequently attended parks in the US – Universal Studios and Disney World – are located in Orlando.
Universal Studios – Island of Adventure and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Excellent News…you can now choose from several vegan meals in Universal Studios Wizarding World of Harry Potter! Three Broomsticks just added Mushroom Pie Platter, Shepherd Pie Pasty, and Irish Stew to the menu. Sadly, Butter Beer is not vegan. There is dairy in the topping and because it is a trademarked beverage, it cannot be ordered without the topping. Go figure! Pumpkin juice, on the other hand, is vegan.
Many restaurants at Universal offer the Beyond Burger and Monsters Café even has Jackfruit BBQ sandwiches. Mythos restaurant can prepare their Pad Thai without meat and add their yummy vegan peanut sauce. Pick up a Vegan Dozen at Voodoo Doughnuts in their signature pink box and try to decide which flavor you like best (we vote for Portland Cream – filled with Bavarian cream, slathered with chocolate frosting, and adorned with candy eyeballs. For something savory, enjoy a vegan sausage crêpe with vegan pesto and a balsamic glaze from Central Park Crêpes.
Hopping over to Disney World, vegan options have expanded beyond Dole Whip and churros. Casey’s Corner on Main Street offers a plant-based slaw dog and frozen mint julip lemonade, both vegan. Rosie’s All-American Café, located near the Tower of Terror, has a “lobster” roll on the menu. A combo of marinated hearts of palm, celery, and apples in a creamy dressing, it is served on a toasted bun. The Beaches and Cream Soda Shop at Disney’s Beach Club Resort touts a vegan No Way José Sundae comprised of vanilla ice cream, non-dairy chocolate, and warm peanut butter sauce. Dining upscale? Somewhat ironically, Steakhouse 71 serves up a delectable Vegetable Wellington and apple tarte tatin for dessert. Both are plant based. And happily, Mickey soft pretzels are vegan. Just swap mustard for the cheese sauce.
Theme parks around the US and presumably the world, are offering more and more vegan dining and snack options. Do a bit of research before your trip. Also look at policies for bringing your own food at parks you plan to visit. Surprisingly, many do allow outside food and beverage which can be a huge help to your travel budget. As always, read the fine print for so you’re not disappointed.
Wherever you decide to wander, be sure to enjoy our summer edition as you sip something tropical poolside. Aloha!