Thursday, December 15, 2011

"Ask Amy" On Travel Tips

Q: I'm traveling over the holidays. Any tips on eating vegan while traveling?
A: Fortunately, vegan eating is more mainstream today than ever. Many restaurants/airlines know what this term means and do their best to offer veg-friendly items or are willing to modify their menu choices.
Below is a summary of the 2010 Airport Food Review from the Physicians Committee For Responsible Medicine (PCRM). Also, when traveling by air, many airlines will give you the option of pre-ordering a vegan meal. Check with your airline's website to see how such meals are defined (they may not be listed as "vegan" but by another term). Also, I've read that it's recommended to contact the airline again a day before your flight to confirm your meal option.
In terms of traveling on the road or dining when you arrive at your destination, the key is often to modify existing menu options if you can't find anything that is clearly vegan. If you're going to modify your restaurant order, it is helpful to let the server know this means no dairy, fish stock, animal stock, or other animal products.
Ethnic restaurants, such as Indian, Mexican, Asian, and Italian, often offer veg-friendly options or have dishes that can be easily modified for vegan guests. And you can use to find vegan restaurants around the world!
It's easier than ever to travel the globe, sticking to a plant-based diet. Bon Voyage!
Following is a summary of what PCRM nutrition experts found at each airport, ranked from best to worst: 1. Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (96 percent): Detroit received the highest score for the third year in a row. Almost every airport restaurant continues to offer at le
ast one healthful entrée, such as the veggie sushi at Musashi, the hummus veggie wrap at National Coney Island Express, and tabouli, veggie stir fry, and almond rice salad at Mediterranean Grill.
2. San Francisco International Airport (95 percent): San Francisco is in second place again this year and improved slightly from last year’s 94 percent. Hungry travelers can enjoy a vegetable curry and rice plate or vegetarian chow mein at the Harbor Village Kitchen or a falafel in pita bread with cucumber, broccoli, and tomatoes at Amoura Café.
3. (tie) Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport (90 percent): Houston moved up from last year’s fourth place position with a gain of four points. Healthful options include the Berkeley Vegan Pizza with vegan cheese, veggie crumbles, zucchini, tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, and peppers at zpizza and the minestrone soup and veggie burger at Lefty’s Lonestar Grill.
3. (tie) Newark Liberty International Airport (90 percent): Newark increased its healthful options this year, rising from 85 percent to 90 percent and tying for third place. Health-conscious travelers can enjoy a veggie burger or hummus and veggies with flatbread at GreenLeaf’s Grille or a Veggie Supreme bagel sandwich at Great American Bagel.
4. Washington Dulles International Airport (89 percent): Dulles is this year’s most improved airport. It made a huge jump from its spot in second-to-last place last year with a score of 68 percent. Out of 36 restaurants, 32 now offer at least one healthy, low-fat meal. Health-conscious passengers have a wide range of options, including the veggie burrito with rice, beans, guacamole, and grilled veggies at California Tortilla and the veggie roll and veggie dumplings at Matsutake Sushi.
5. Denver International Airport (88 percent): Denver saw a substantial gain of eight points this year. Now 50 of the airport’s 57 restaurants offer at least one healthful plant-based meal option. Filling low-fat choices include the Veggie “Philly” Sandwich at Lefty’s Front Range Grille, the Colorado Sunshine Wrap or the Tofu Wrap at Itza Wrap! Itza Bowl!, and the grilled portobello sandwich (request no cheese) at the New Belgium Hub Bar and Grill.
6. Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (85 percent): Minneapolis gained two points this year but stayed in sixth place because of tough competition from other airports. Diners seeking cholesterol-free meals can enjoy a Southwestern black bean salad at Caribou Coffee, the grilled tempeh Reuben or veggie chili and rice at French Meadow Bakery and Café, or the smoked tofu burrito at 360 Gourmet Burritos.
7. Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (84 percent): DFW has seen some ups and downs in the past few years. The airport tied for first place in 2008, and then dropped a staggering 18 points in 2009. But this year, DFW started to move back up with a gain of seven points. The food and beverage manager at DFW has set a high bar for future concession establishments, requiring they have at least one featured vegetarian menu item. In the meantime, health-conscious travelers can find a substantial number of healthful options, including vegetarian sushi from Blue Bamboo Xpress and the Tofusion Bowl at Ufood Grill.
8. (tie) Los Angeles International Airport (81 percent): This celebrity hotspot holds steady in the middle of the pack, gaining just one point from last year’s score. Healthful highlights include the vegan fajitas at Camacho’s, vegetable sushi rolls at Sushi Boy, and the vegetable sandwich with sprouts, sun-dried tomatoes, and avocado at Creative Croissants.
8. (tie) Miami International Airport (81 percent): Miami International Airport’s restaurants have been busy adding healthier options this year. Miami jumped up to eighth place from its 10th place spot last year. Visitors can find bean soups, avocado salad, and plantains at La Carreta Restaurant, a coconut mango salad and grilled veggie sandwich (no cheese) at Casa Bacardi, and a vegetarian platter and black beans and rice at Bongos.
9. (tie) Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (80 percent): Phoenix is this year’s biggest loser. The airport fell to ninth place from last year’s third place finish, with a loss of seven points. Just 48 of the airport’s 60 restaurants offer a healthful, cholesterol-free entrée. These low-fat meals include pea and barley soup at California Pizza Kitchen, veggie curry at Yoshi’s Asian Grill, and the Veggie Delight (hold the cheese) at the Great Steak & Potato Co.
9. (tie) Orlando International Airport (80 percent): Orlando lost three points this year, falling from sixth place to ninth place. Hungry travelers seeking heart-healthy fare should try the lentil chili at McCoy’s Bar and Grill, the Mediterranean wrap at Au Bon Pain, and the soba noodles or vegan Pad Thai from Cibo Express.
10. Baltimore/Washington International Airport (79 percent): BWI improved slightly from last year’s score of 71 percent. Thirty-one of the airport’s 39 eateries now offer low-fat, cholesterol-free entrées. The best bet for savvy travelers is still the Silver Diner, which offers portobello vegetarian stir-fry with tofu, veggies, and wheat noodles in teriyaki sauce, summer salad, and veggie chili with kidney beans, mushrooms, carrots, and squash.
11. Las Vegas McCarran International Airport (77 percent): Las Vegas—which has spent years near the tail end of PCRM’s report and fell to last place in 2009—has seen major improvements this year. Las Vegas gained 11 points and moved up from its 2009 position in last place. Travelers have more healthful options to choose from this year—including the vegetarian fajita rice bowl at Blue Burrito Grill and the vegetarian sandwich (guacamole, grilled zucchini, oven-roasted portobello mushroom, and peppers) at Budweiser Racing Track Lounge.
12. Charlotte Douglas International Airport (72 percent): Charlotte debuted in PCRM’s airport food review this year with a score of 72 percent. The airport has substantial room for improvement, but 33 of its 46 eateries do offer a healthful, cholesterol-free meal option. Health-conscious passengers can choose from the edamame, seaweed salad, and veggie sushi at First in Flight Bar and the grilled vegetable sandwich at Rum Grill Express.
13. Chicago O’Hare International Airport (71 percent): After falling steeply last year with a loss of 20 points, Chicago gained three points this year. However, because of other airports’ more significant improvements, Chicago remained in 13th place. While some of O’Hare’s restaurants are working to add healthier options, most terminals are still packed with restaurants serving hot dogs, cheeseburgers, and other high-fat fare. Savvy travelers can still find healthful meals, including the marinated portobello panini at Goose Island Brewing Company and the Mediterranean platter at La Tapenade Mediterranean Café.
14. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (70 percent): Atlanta’s airport—the world’s busiest airport—lost six points this year and fell from ninth place to second to last. Terminals are clogged with restaurants serving hot dogs, fried chicken, and pizza. But travelers looking for healthful meals can find a few excellent choices, including the hummus cilantro wrap at Great Wraps, the three-bean salad or hearty vegetable soup at Nature’s Table, or Paschal’s Southern Cuisine’s vegetable plate with a choice of black-eyed peas, green beans, cabbage, yams, and corn.
15. Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (67 percent): This airport in the nation’s capital had been slowly improving over the last few years, but this year it fell three points, landing in last place. Only 22 of the airport’s 33 restaurants offer a healthful cholesterol-free meal option. Hungry passengers should search for entrées such as a hummus and veggie flatbread sandwich at Cosi or a vegan veggie sandwich at Cibo Express. Many other eateries only offer burgers and other greasy bar food.

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