Vegetarian Culinarian

Recipes and resources for food lovers going green, local, and compassionate.

Tag: To-Go Ware

Airlines, Airports, and the Vegetarian

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Airlines, Airports, and the Vegetarian

I’m about to embark on yet another flight – a long, 12 hour one. My preparations by now are almost mechanical; the checklist in my head honed from the need to protect myself when I venture into the meat-eater’s world. It is frustrating to be stuck somewhere, hungry, with limited options and few sympathizers. I thought a rundown of my experiences and planning tips might be of use to some of you out there. I would also love to hear tips from other traveling vegetarians.

On the airplane:
If your flight is long enough to offer an in-flight meal, airlines will allow you to reserve a vegetarian or vegan meal. I’ve done both; the vegetarian options have usually included some sort of cheesy, vegetable pasta such as lasagna (though flight attendants usually can’t verify that the cheese is rennet-free), or a boiled egg and muffin for breakfast, but airlines (even international ones) seem at a loss for vegans, whose meals often include the standard fare minus animal foods. This has left me with plates of lettuce and bread many a trip. Only one memorable flight (to Hawaii) afforded me the opportunity to sample a hummus & olive platter, which was delicious and nourishing (and $9.00).

At the airport:
Airports offer little more. If you are lucky enough to find a Burger King, a BK Veggie Burger made with a Morningstar Farms Veggie Patty is a filling vegan option if you hold the mayo. Some airports, like Houston’s, are almost anti-vegetarian in their limited choices and meat-scented corridors. You can assuage your hunger with snacks from one of the many over-priced airport shops – granola bars, chips, and the like – or Starbucks offerings like scones, oatmeal, or the cage-free egg-white and spinach wrap. When I’m taking a short flight, and am hungry enough that I don’t care about overpaying, these are doable options. However, when I’m traveling ten or twelve hours, I need to plan ahead.

Packable, cheap, security-friendly food options:

Subway. Get a footlong veggie sub on your way to the airport. Yes, it can go through security. This sub is two meals, complete with protein, just-baked bread, and fresh veggies of your choice. Alternately, you can make sandwiches at home, but I’ve found that meat substitutes like soy chicken patties tend to get stiff and chewy shortly after heating, while Subway’s veggie patties stay moist and tender longer.

Hummus. Good-for-you protein that is filling and delicious. Your typical carton of Sabra Hummus can’t go through security, though, so you’ll need to head to Whole Foods and get the dry hummus mix from the bulk bin section. I sprinkle in some chile flakes and dried parsley, as well. This dry mix is lightweight, takes up very little room, and is security-friendly. Once on the plane, either ask the attendant for a cup of water or use water from your water bottle (which you filled after going through security). I take along a pack of crackers (like Triscuits) with which to dip the hummus, and a container of olives (from which the liquid has been drained).

Oatmeal and fruit. I don’t use instant oatmeal at home, but a packet of oatmeal is another easy-to-carry, lightweight, packable meal which is security-friendly and can be mixed with hot water once on the plane. Check the nutrition labels at the store; some brands are infinitely better for you than others. Bring along cheap, potassium-packed bananas or a box of raisins to mix in.

Snacks. Once again, Whole Foods bulk bins come in handy as a cheap way to bring along organic nutrition. Mix your own trail mix using your favorite dried fruits and nuts. I also get fruit leather and limited-ingredient animal crackers from Whole Foods.

Drinks. Bring along your water bottle, which can be filled after going through security. I pack my own non-dairy creamer for the flight because oftentimes the only creamer option for coffee or tea is half and half. I also bring individually-wrapped Yogi tea bags. Tea bags are another little luxury that are light-weight and security-friendly, and infinitely better than what you’ll be offered on the plane. Alternately, there are many drink choices at the airport gift shops if you’re willing to pay.

Foods you can’t bring:
Unfortunately, many go-to travel food choices aren’t options at the airport. Anything liquid-like won’t go through security. This includes individual packs of applesauce, yogurt, peanut butter, veggie dip, and protein shakes. You can sometimes find these items in gift shops after security, but they will be pricey, and your brand choices will be limited. (For example, Yoplait Go-Gurt tubes are widely available, but contain gelatin.)

What else to pack in your carry-on:
*To-Go Ware Bamboo Utensils. Eco-friendly, reusable, beautiful. I have three of these sets, and don’t go anywhere without at least one. A set includes a bamboo spoon, fork, knife, and chopsticks. Invaluable when you pack your own food and need to mix up hummus or eat oatmeal!
*Dr. Bronner’s Liquid Castile Soap. You can buy a 1 oz container of it which will fit into your allowed 1 quart ziplock bag of liquids (remember that each item in your 1 quart bag cannot be more than 3 oz.), or you can buy a larger bottle, and pour some soap into a small travel container. You’ll use this for everything – washing utensils or containers, hands, and face. Great for sensitive skin, cruelty-free, vegan, and biodegradable.
*Yes to Cucumbers Facial Towelettes. Grab a small travel pack at Target for a few bucks. These are great face refreshers for after a long flight, require no rinsing, and are security-friendly. I also use them as regular wipes to clean my hands and tray table before a meal. Great for sensitive skin, cruelty-free, vegan, and biodegradable.
*Tupperware. These reusable products are airtight, recyclable, and BPA-free. They don’t leach when filled with hot food or liquid or when microwaved. They are great for after the flight, too, when you need a reusable, microwaveable container for your restaurant leftovers. Tupperware products I carry with me include: water bottle, Vent n’ Serve sealable mug (useful for oatmeal, cereal, coffee, tea, soup, hummus, leftovers), and sealable snack containers for my homemade bulk snack mixes.

I also couldn’t live without:
*Happy Cow. This searchable website is a guide to vegetarian and vegan restaurants and health food stores the world over. http://www.happycow.net **As Valerie mentioned in the comments section, this is also an ipad app!!**
*VeganXpress. This ipad app is a great guide for figuring out what is and isn’t vegan at many fast food chains and restaurants.

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Green Your Life With These Green Companies

1. To-Go Ware®

I first discovered To-Go Ware® at a Whole Foods Market in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The light-weight set of bamboo utensils in their cute, snap pouch was not on my list, but immediately solved a long-standing and nagging problem: for my many road-trips, flights, and lunch trips to the local market (La Montañita Co-Op’s pad thai – yum!), I needed utensils that were stronger than plastic but lighter than silverware.  Something I could reuse several times – preferably forever. I hadn’t realized anything existed that fit these exact requirements, and so I’d been making do with a set of baby utensils (reusable, portable yet strong, but obviously small).  So without hesitation, I snagged two sets of To-Go Ware® bamboo utensils (in fuchsia and hunter green pouches) – one for my purse and one for my lunch bag.  Each set was on sale for $9.99 and included a standard-sized spoon, fork, knife, and two chopsticks.

I already knew about the wonders of bamboo firsthand from an enthusiastic tour guide at a chocolate/vanilla/tropical fruit/bamboo farm in Hawaii. Bamboo is a beautiful, strong wood (technically a grass) that doesn’t absorb or retain food odors. It is a fast-growing renewable resource, and its harvesting process doesn’t harm the earth.  Consider that when bamboo is harvested, the roots are left in the earth and the bamboo continues to grow. This prevents soil erosion and deforestation. Plus, the harvesting cycle for bamboo is only two to seven years (depending on the species) compared to twenty to fifty for other woods (or fifty to one hundred for hardwoods). It also requires little, if any, pesticides or fertilizer. Lastly, this stuff is durable. I’ve used and washed my bamboo utensils every day (every single day) for the last six months, and they are still like new.

Beyond all of this, (and I don’t mean to gush like an 8th grader or sound like a door-to-door salesman, but I do get excited when I find innovative companies that are committed to sustainability and social justice…) To-Go Ware® is the epitome of a green company. They are smart green in that they support the Principles of Environmental Justice and the Bali Principles of Climate Justice. They are actively green in everything they do –  from using bio-degradable cleaning products in the workplace to refusing to partner with companies that lobby against environmental conservation. They are committed to human rights, and partner with WEAVE and CONSERVE. (If you don’t know about these empowering organizations yet, click, click, click! You will feel inspired and connected – they will make your day!) We can green our own life and promote sustainable practices in businesses by purchasing from ethical companies like this one. Read more about the To-Go Ware® mission and sustainability practices here.

2. ResnackIt™

According to World Watch Institute, Americans throw away 100 billion polyethylene plastic bags every year. I used to contribute to that number until yet another trip to a Whole Foods Market.  These nylon-lined cotton sandwich bags (again, not on my list) caught my eye immediately, and I’ve been using one for the past four months. It is ultra-convenient. I’ve packed burritos, sandwiches, bagels, almonds, chips, and carrots in it. Not only am I saving money and the environment by not buying plastic bags, but the nylon lining of the bags is lead free, phthalate free, BPA free and PVC (vinyl) free (read: safe to touch your food).  It can be thrown in the dishwasher, washing machine, and dryer, but I’ve never needed to – the interior wipes out easily. I take it out to recess duty (my afternoon snack is usually almonds or pistachios), and all of my students ask where they can get one.  When I’m not using it, it takes up almost no space, which is why it is great for travel. Check out ResnackIts™ at mom-powered Live and Dream Green LLC!

3. Tupperware®

Buy it once, use it your whole life, then send it back for recycling. Yes. You heard me. Tupperware® recycles the products sent back to them. Did you know that? Besides Tupperware’s environmentally friendly manufacturing practices and their worldwide environmental initiatives, Tupperware® products themselves help us green our lives. First off, they are BPA-free (read: safe). Secondly, they help us greenies in our sustainable lifestyle. There are products which are designed to keep fresh produce fresh – which is invaluable to those of use who forage for produce in local farmers’ markets. This means less pre-packaged waste, and less spoiled food being chucked into the compost bin. There are storage products which are designed with air-tight seals for those of us who buy flour, rice, and legumes in bulk. Buying in bulk saves money and reduces packaging waste. I also find a greater variety of flours, sugars, and rice are offered in the bulk section than in the isles of pre-packaged goods in supermarkets. There are products which help us replace disposable items, such as water bottles and coffee mugs. (Did you know that plastic bottles take 1,000 years to break down?) Lastly, Tupperware® products are a traveling vegetarian’s dream. Pack soup for lunch at work, bring your own spill-proof ‘doggie bag’ container along to the restaurant, pack pilaf or tabouli for a picnic or road trip, or bring a few empty containers on a road trip for hummus or olives bought along the way. With Tupperware® I can save money, reduce waste, buy locally and in bulk, and when I’m on a road trip (read: not close to vegetarian-friendly stores and restaurants) I can pack my own healthful, cruelty-free snacks and meals. Find more tips for sustainable living from Tupperware® here.

There you are, three of my currents favorites that help us become agents of change. It’s easy to adopt a disposable lifestyle because of the convenience, but with a little help from green companies like these, we can make sustainable living just as convenient, and more affordable as well.

Photo Credits: Recycle Bag by Kittikun Atsawintarangkul at

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