As I prepare for my big four month road trip, I am aware that one of the biggest challenges for me on the road is going to be eating healthy. I know this already because most of the time, I follow an eating plan that my super awesome doctor Mark Hyman describes as “Peagan”. Peagan eating is basically plant based paleo; with small portions of high quality meat (grass fed, no feedlots or confinement operations). The advantage of eating this way is that it quickly reduces inflammation in the body and that is a huge deal for me. I have autoimmune issues that are severe enough that if I don’t really pay attention to taking care of myself, I can end up seriously ill in fairly short order. Most of the autoimmune symptoms take the form of inflammation in one way or another, and so shutting that down through diet is a very effective tool for me. This means that dairy, sugar, grains, and legumes are off the menu, as well as unhealthy fats. When I’m at home, I eat lots of vegetables, some fruits, seeds, nuts, and healthy fats like olive oil, or butter from grass fed cows, and high quality meats. The good news is that if I eat this way, I am not hungry and don’t feel deprived and yet the autoimmune issues get dialed down to the point where I tend to forget about it. The challenge of it all of course, is that when you take away the sugar, grains and dairy, you eliminate 99% of the “convenience” foods. I got a bit off track last year (menopause was a strange experience), but have been sticking with it pretty carefully lately and I don’t want to lose my healthy momentum while I’m on the road. This means I have to plan for it, so that the options in front of me make it easy for me to opt for the choice that keeps me healthy. I am also planning for the occasional sweet craving, because I shoot for sticking to this way of eating 95% of the time, knowing that sometimes I’m going to want a gluten free cookie.
I THINK that my main challenges while on the road will be (but I’ll update if I discover otherwise):
- Limited fridge space. I have a fridge in the camper, but it’s the size of a typical dorm fridge, with a tiny shelf of freezer space.
- Limited pantry space. My camper actually has more storage than most, but it’s still quite limited so I have to be thoughtful about how I stock it.
- Access to fresh produce and quality meat. I have no idea what will be available when I’m on the road, especially in the more remote areas that I’m planning to see.
- Water. I drink a lot of it, and I don’t really want to rely on water from plastic bottles. I haven’t found a good solution for this yet though.
- Time. I don’t want to spend a lot of time cooking on this trip, but I also don’t want to be eating the same thing all the time, so I need to develop some recipes that are both easy and for small portions. I also need to really like how the recipes turn out, or I know I won’t bother.
Here are the strategies I’m planning to use:
- I’ll keep the pantry stocked with only one or two of each item that I think I’ll likely use in any given week, which keeps the space inside the RV as open as possible.. Extras will be kept in a storage bin in my truck bed (which has a locking cover), and I’ll re-stock from there.
- I’m creating spice blends instead of packing a bunch of individual spice bottles.
- I plan to re-stock my gluten free and harder to find pantry staples from Amazon, using their “Amazon locker” locations for pickup. This requires some advance planning, because they will only hold items for three days, so I’ll need to pay attention to both the “delivery date” and the date I will be arriving in an area.
- I will be staying in some private RV parks along the way, most of which have a small convenience store. I’m assuming the prices will be very high for fresh produce and other perishables, but the convenience factor and the fact that I am only buying small amounts means this will probably make sense.
- I also plan to stop at big box stores along the way, most of which now have grocery sections and some have organic and gluten free options. If there is a Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s in the area where I’ve stopped, I’ll go there.
- I have discovered that a small slow cooker is extremely helpful. I stopped using my big one after my kids left for college, because my old recipes just made too much. I’ve modified some old recipes, and developed new ones so that they are sized to a 1 ½ quart slow cooker, and will work with the limited ingredients that I will have in my camper. I’m not doing any 27 ingredient curry recipes on this trip!
- I love fresh strawberries, but they tend to go bad quickly, even in the fridge. My friend Laura taught me that if you rinse fresh strawberries in a solution of white vinegar and water, then rinse again with water, pat dry and store in the fridge, they will keep much longer and this really works! Ratio is one part vinegar to two parts filtered water.
- Flavor boosters! I have made space in both the pantry and the fridge for small bottles and cans of things that I can add to basic recipes with a big flavor punch.
The Plan is to Keep It Simple!
Several years ago, when I was first learning how to change my diet, I worked with an awesome nutritionist who gave me lots of useful advice, including the tidbit that most families eat about 10-15 different meals for dinner and just rotate those. That was an a-ha moment for me, because I realized I was making this way too difficult in my head. I’m using that advice to plan here, with the basic idea being that I have 5-10 things in mind that I can make for breakfast and dinner (when I expect I’ll be at my camper), and the ingredients for those things will be right there waiting for me. I’m not making anything complicated. I’ll also keep lunch simple with either leftovers, sandwiches, or eating out. Here’s my list of meals that I can easily make with items I plan to have on hand along with links to the recipe I use:
- Grain free warm porridge with grass fed butter and strawberries
- Chia seed pudding with fruit and nuts
- Poached eggs over stir fried greens
- Grain free pancakes with bananas and pecans
- Broccoli, red potato, bacon and egg stir fry
- Hard boiled eggs, fresh fruit (whatever is available)
- Coffee with MCT oil & collagen
- Turkey or grass fed beef burger on lettuce wrap with mayo, side salad
- Grilled chicken (or grilled whatever), grilled veggies, salad greens (good for leftovers)
- Italian meat sauce over power greens (good for leftovers)
- Chicken marbella in slow cooker (good for leftovers)
- Chicken curry over cauliflower rice in slow cooker (good for leftovers)
- Chicken stew in a slow cooker (good for leftovers)
- Lamb or beef stew in slow cooker (good for leftovers)
- Southwestern style chicken in slow cooker (good for wraps, Mexican salad)
- Turkey pumkin chili in slow cooker (good for leftovers)
- Salmon cakes, salad greens
- Baked yam with broccoli, shredded chicken and enchilada sauce
- Leftovers, Salads and Lettuce wraps (keep this as simple as possible).
Easy Stuff in a Pinch:
I’m also bringing an assortment of things that will keep for a long time without refrigeration, and that I can make a quick meal out of on the road without cooking, or that I can bring along in my backpack for lunch. Things like turkey or bison jerky, canned sardines (yes, I actually like sardines and these are my favorite), canned salmon, grain free granola, dried fruits, pouches of almond butter, and gluten free crackers. Apples, baby carrots, and other raw veggie snacks will also be in my small cooler that goes with me every day.
Here is how I’m stocking my camper:
Kitchen Tools – My awesome camper is equipped with hot and cold running water, a two burner propane cook top, a microwave/convection oven, and a small fridge with a tiny freezer. I have access to electric hookups at most places, with dual inverter generators if I need power otherwise. The fridge works on either electric or propane. I also recently purchased a small portable Weber grill that I intend to use for both grilling and roasting (outdoor cooking). These are the additional tools I’ve stocked the camper with:
- Immersion blender/mini food processor
- Small crock pot (1 ½ quart size)
- Small coffee maker w/stainless steel carafe
- Coffee percolator for stove top coffee
- Electric water kettle
- Can/bottle openers
- Sharp knives with sharpener
- Cutting board
- Collapsible bowl
- Collapsible colander
- Large griddle (covers both burners)
- Medium sized stock pot
- Medium sized saute pan with lid
- Small nonstick saute pan
- 1 cup size pyrex measuring cup
- Spatulas, spoons, tongs, whisk
- Utensils & serving spoons
- Plates, cups, bowls – Corning shatter resistant glass (can also go in the microwave)
- Meat tenderizing tool
- Wire brush for outdoor grill.
- Small round stoneware baking pan
- Small cast iron pan (works on stove top, or can us on outdoor grill to roast or bake)
Dry pantry Items:
- Salt and pepper
- Italian blend dried herbs (oregano, basil, parsley)
- French blend dried herbs (rosemary, tarragon, marjoram)
- Mexican blend spices (chili powder, cumin, smoky paprika)
- Dehydrated garlic
- House blend spices (garlic and onion powder mixed)
- Small bottle vanilla extract
- White & balsamic vinegar
- Extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil
- Spray cooking oil
- Coconut milk
- Ground coffee & coffee filters
- Assortment of tea bags
- Ziploc freezer bags (small, for individual meat portions)
- Waxed paper sandwich bags
- Brown Sugar Cubes
- MCT Oil & Collagen
- GF Pretzels and other occaisional snacks
- Canned salmon & sardines
- Jerkey Assortment (Turkey, Buffalo, Grass Fed Beef)
- Canned green beans, artichokes
- Marinated artichokes (into fridge after opening)
- Spaghetti sauce
- Enchilada sauce
- Raw almonds, raw cashews, and pecans
- Almond butter
- Sunflower, pumpkin & chia seeds
- Almond flour
- Dehydrated blueberries and cherries
- Amaranth powder, baking soda and potato starch
In the fridge:
- Probiotics & Vitamins
- Grass fed butter
- Gluten free tamari
- Meats to be eaten within the next day
- Fresh veggies (as many as will fit) – green salad mix, and power greens mix, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower crumbles.
- Almond milk (unsweetened, vanilla)
- Hemp/Flax seeds
- Lemon & Lime (1 of each)
- Tomato Paste
In the cooler:
- Orange seltzer water
- Bottled filtered water
Perishables that will last at least a week without refrigeration:
- Yellow and red onions
- Baby red potatoes
- Avocados (will have to watch these!)
So, that’s the plan. It’s basically a shorter version of what I do at home, pared down to work on the road. I’ll let you know if it works!