This is a post borne out of necessity – mine, to be exact! On my little road trips across the UK, my partner and I often stop at service stations purely to stretch our legs… plus, I don’t know about you, but I also to get some feeling back into my bottom! You see, I am usually barred from driving the two of us anywhere, because I become a stressed driver pretty quickly as soon as we come to any kind of reasonably built up area, or if I don’t know where I’m going: because of this, on our jaunts across the country my bum usually goes numb first, because I have to sit still (rather than shifting around changing gear and so on).
A guilty pleasure
Prior to deciding to follow both a healthy lifestyle and a largely whole foods based vegan diet, these places were a guilty pleasure. McDonalds, Burger King, KFC…. plus glorious Starbucks, Costa and even Krispy Kreme’s! I remember one particular time that I stopped for a McDonalds “Happy Meal” about four years ago, after leaving a job interview (for my current role) and swearing blind I’d messed it up!
These days… not so much. And in the early days of moving towards this plant-based, vegan diet it was a little overwhelming to be honest. I mean, when you don’t eat meat, or dairy… what is there to eat at motorway service stations? That was certainly my initial thought!
But, there is hope
Trust me – it can be done, in several ways, in fact! But, first of all, we need to look at our options. There are three primary types of services stations in England:
- Welcome Break
Each type has it’s own “set” of brands, which are currently as follows – however, not all brands are available at each service station. I’ve placed a * next to the ones I see most often.
- Moto: Burger King*, Costa*, EDC*, Greggs, WHSmith*, Arlo’s, Harvester, The Fifth Wheel Bar & Grill, M&S Simply Food*, West Cornwall Pasty Co, El Mexicana, Chow
- Roadchef: Costa*, McDonalds*, Fresh Food Cafe*, RestBite!, WHSmith*, Hot Food Company, Cho Zen Noodle, Soho Coffee Co, Carvery Express, Krispy Kreme*, Spar
- Welcome Break: deli2go, tossed, Ed’s Easy Diner, Waitrose*, KFC*, Starbuck*s, WHSmith*, Subway*, Papa Johns*, Dunkin Donuts, Burger King*, Harry Ramsdens
I was originally going to cover all three in this one post, but to be honest, the post got really long! So I’ve split it into (you guessed it) three, and will cover each type separately. So, what are my three tips for finding vegan food at Welcome Break service stations? Read on!
Tip 1: Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed
This is a bit of advice really: don’t walk in, smell all the fried chicken, cheesy pizzas and sweet donut scents and fall into the old “but there’s nothing here I can eat!” groan. There will be something – it might not be your first choice, but that’s no different for non-Vegans either. Lets face it, the most commonly seen selections are generally of the traditional fast food variety, rather than a salad bar.
Take a big breath, if you feel a moan about to start, or if you start to think of just not bothering despite the grumble in your stomach and the shake in your hands, and walk on in.
Tip 2: Don’t shun the obvious!
Don’t be afraid to go for the easy option: that’s why these places exist, literally! To provide you with quick, easy food to get you through your journey. At the time of writing (June 2016), the following “fast food” options are there for the easy pickings:
Get the original base, ask them to hold the cheese, and you’re good to go! Personally, we love to get a garden party with extra mushrooms!
Go for the Veggie Delight on 9-Grain Wheat, Hearty Italian or Italian. Sauce wise, you’ve got a choice of: Barbecue Sauce,Hot Chili Sauce, Sweet Onion Sauce or Marinara Sauce. Please note none of the Subway soups are vegan; nor is the Veggie Patty (contains egg and milk/lactose).
In the morning, Starbucks has your back with dairy free porridge, with jam if you fancy it. I like to get one of their little packs of nuts to put in there too. For a lunch or light dinner, grab the the Moreish Meze Salad. Don’t forget you can have either soy or coconut milk coffees too!
I’ve yet to find one personally (they seem to be limited to the London area largely), but a quick look on their website reveals several options – including fresh smoothies! If you’re around for breakfast, there’s the banana & custard pots or the coconut porridge. Soups include: tomato & basil and the Thai chilli & kale (both the accompanying wrap and roll are ok too). Grabbing a salad? Pair it with a dressing! Salad dressings that are suitable for vegans are: balsamic dressing, balsamic vinegar, french dressing, lemon juice, olive oil, soy & sesame. Want a sandwich? Go for the Greek wrap with avocado.
A few quick notes on what could be mistaken as vegan, but aren’t:
- The tossed! falafel is not suitable for vegans.
- The pesto is not vegan
- The veggie mezze is not vegan
There’s plenty more too
Ed’s Diner has sweet potato fries. Waitrose, deli2go and WHSmith sell fresh fruit. Waitrose sells little boxes of premade salads that are genuinely very good! WHSmith sells things like popcorn, Nakd bars and Trek bars usually too, if you just want to grab something and go.
Tip 3: Think outside of the box
Personally, a lot of the time none of the “obvious” choices tickle my fancy – it’s not that I’m a picky eater per se, but usually there’s no Mezzo Salad left, or the queue for pizza is longer than my patience.
So, on our last road trip, we went on to Bristol… and I started creating my own!
- To make the Veggie Delight from Subway more substantial we got a pack of falafel from Waitrose and added those to make a falafel sandwich
- Order some chips (fries, if you’re visiting from America) from your choice of fast food restaurant, and pair with bread, a Subway Veggie Delight, or a salad from Subway, Waitrose or tossed!
- As above, but pair some vegetable samosas and a green salad from Waitrose
- Bread, pitas and rice cakes with fresh salsa and hummus (the Marmite rice cakes in particular Waitrose are my personal recommendation for an easy snack!). Then mix with any/all of the ideas below:
- packets of tomatoes
- premade salads
Do you have any of your own tips?
And that’s a wrap – my top three tips for grabbing Vegan food at Welcome Break motorway service stations! Check back soon for Moto and Roadchef editions, and let me know if you have any top tips of your own!