Eating healthy can be considered confusing for many people because healthy food is often mistaken for processed food/drink that is advertised as healthy… ‘diet’ cola or ‘low fat’ burgers for example. I also want to say that I’m not a qualified nutritionist but I want to share what I have learnt along the way and how living in a vehicle isn’t really an excuse to not eat healthily!
How to eat healthy while travelling in a van
Many people who are living in vans get asked all the time “do you manage to eat ‘properly’ and how do you do this in a van?” Assuming they mean which such a small living space, they are wanting to know how van-lifers cook hot meals and store fresh food? Well in our van- which is tiny, we store fresh meats etc in our 12v fridge which I explained how invaluable these are in a previous post: “10 ways to afford ‘Van-Life’ travelling” The key is getting a big enough fridge (and freezer if you can afford) so you can store at least a weeks supply of fresh food. We store anything you would normally in a fridge at home, fresh chicken, fish, red meats, dairy etc. By having the fridge we can stock up on whole foods and are less likely to ‘give in’ and dine in fast food restaurants like many do whilst living on the road.
I would honestly say that we eat even healthier now we live in a van, to when we were living in a house! Travelling gives you more variety of better foods because you’re constantly seeking out local, fresh ingredients such as fruits and vegetables grown in that area. Trying local stuff isn’t always more expensive because you will often find you get more bang for your buck and genuinely healthier, better quality food. Plus it’s always cool to give something back to an area you’re travelling in, support local businesses because it’s often tourism that keeps them afloat!
So what sorts of food do we eat? Well like I said before I’m not a nutritionist but I certainly know we eat healthily. I also know that there will be some vegans or vegetarians out there that won’t like what I’m about to say, so you’ve been warned haha…
We always eat good quality meats such as kangaroo (because we are in Australia at the moment) – Kangaroo is actually leaner than chicken and packs more protein! We Also eat chicken (a lot of it), fresh fish and occasionally red meats (steak for myself and often lamb for Leah) What I mean by ‘good quality’ is by how its produced and how much actual % of meat there is. Safest bet is to go to a reputable butcher rather than by packaged meats from the supermarket, (granted this can be expensive) but that’s not to say you can’t take the time to read the labels and understand then, ultimately choosing the best they have to offer. We also tend to steer away from anything from the frozen aisle of the supermarket… Mainly because we don’t have a freezer but that has been an advantage to healthy eating because often what you will find is frozen meats are poorer quality with lower meat %.
As for Carbohydrates… Oh, the carbs! I believe they are very much a friend and important (to me) for a healthy balanced diet. In a vehicle, you should generally have space for dry food storage anyway but items to buy such as rice and pasta are great options for van-life! Rice, in my opinion, is worth buying in bulk… we will buy a 5kg bag of rice that lasts us well over 3months! We love rice because you can mix anything you want with it and its always sustaining, plus easy to cook! Our fav van-life dish is probably cajun chicken with mixed rice and vegetables!
If cooking time is an issue for you then getting creative and effective at making healthy wraps or salads can be a lifesaver. We often make a really good salad with a variety of veg, maybe throw in egg/noodles/rice/pasta to bulk it out, but it’s so easy and quick –BUT STILL HEALTHIER THAN MACDONALDS! It’s also a better option for us when we are in hotter climates. Sometimes it just feels right to have colder food and not have to add to the heat whilst cooking! And it can defiantly get HOT cooking in a van!
All this isn’t to say we don’t ‘treat’ ourselves from time to time. I quotation “treat” because to us, going to a nice restaurant and eating chocolate are treats… not going to fast food restaurants or buying a pack of processed, frozen Turkey Twizzlers! We know that eating better can be expensive but that is only SOMETIMES and it all depends on where you are. We also believe that if you are going to cut costs in van-life, then what you put in your body as food/drink should be the last on the list!
Finally, I get that there are many vegans and the like out there and genuinely – good for them! It’s their life and I certainly don’t judge people. If they are concerned about eating animals then that’s up to them to pursue changing it. In my eyes there are many boundaries that people (even vegans) cross when it comes to animal welfare in general day to day life (maybe they just haven’t noticed) But kudos to them for having a crack at it… I personally just don’t want to stop eating meat and would rather focus my efforts on (in my eyes) bigger issues with the world, such as plastic pollution. I guess if you are reading this, you either want to/are living in a vehicle (your very own mobile pollution machine) or if not, you’re using a piece of technology… developed by and produce, many damaging factors in the world we live in! Where do we draw the line? you tell me…
What are your tips for eating healthy while on the road? Do you have a ‘go-to’ recipe to make life easier? We’d love to know about it! If you haven’t already, check out The Van-Lifer Directory and join us over on Facebook!
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