With all of the holiday hubbub and talk of resolutions, this time of year our goals and dreams come to the forefront. Whether you are one of the 41 percent of Americans who set New Year’s resolutions, or part of the 59 percent that don’t, I’d wager that at least once last year you told yourself you wanted to eat healthier, lose weight and save money. After all, those are the top New Year’s resolutions.
Small Steps; Big Results
What and how we eat affects every area of our lives, from well-being to happiness to finances. Eating healthy is smart. There’s even an arm of nutritional science that studies food as medicine, and it makes sense. When we fuel our bodies with high-test, we perform better, both inside and outside. Yet, there’s a problem. Often, when thinking what it looks like to eat healthier, we picture twigs and bark, cottage cheese and rabbit food. It doesn’t have to be that way.
I’d like to introduce you to a new way of thinking about eating: a whole-food, plant-based diet. I’m not suggesting you give up meat or even that occasional, beloved jelly doughnut. Instead, I’m proposing a way of eating that is flexible, fun to forage for, easy on the wallet and delivers a big nutritional bang. If you travel this path, I can’t promise you’ll drop pounds or save cash, but I’d be surprised if you didn’t have some success in both those areas. If you stick with it, you will see and feel the benefits in the form of radiant skin, shiny hair, more energy and clarity and, likely, better results at the doctor’s office.
So what exactly is a whole-food, plant-based diet? Let’s begin with what it is not. It’s not ketogenic, vegetarian or vegan. It’s a way of life based on eating a rainbow of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, legumes and healthy fats with smaller portions of dairy, meat and eggs. It’s the eating style that the longest-lived populations of the Blue Zones adhere to. The Mediterranean Diet? Plant-based. Flexitarian, Ornish, yes indeed, plant-based. With a little tweaking, you may find that adopting a whole-food, plant-based diet is easier and more delicious than you imagined.
Resource: Michael Pollan’s 2009 book, Food Rules, is a practical, quick and easy guide to healthier eating. Three of my favorite rules? #2: Don’t eat anything your great grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food; #19: If it’s a plant, eat it. If it was made in a plant, don’t; and #64, Break the rules once in a while.
Six Steps to Getting Started
If this resonates with you, start slowly and begin incorporating a few new items into your snacks and meals each day. Below are six steps with ideas and examples to help you begin shifting your diet. With a little thought, willpower and action, you’ll be on your way to improved health and vitality to get the most out of the RV lifestyle.
1 Same but Different: Smart substitutions can make a tremendous difference. Instead of frozen waffles with artificially-flavored syrup in the morning, try whole-grain oatmeal (not the mushy instant kind), adding raisins, walnuts, cinnamon and real Grade-B maple syrup. Make a big batch to enjoy for several mornings. Have a banana on the side. For dinner, fajitas. Feast on easy homemade guacamole, salsa and black beans over red pepper, onion, mushroom and (a small portion of) chicken or shrimp. Introduce low-sugar fruit desserts, such as whole-grain apple crisp with cinnamon and pecans or, if you have a food processor or high-speed blender, my fabulous and famous banana soft serve.
3 Choose Wisely: When shopping, bring home the items that best support your eating goals. Look for whole grains, choosing brown (black or green) rice over white rice. Yes, it’s different, but not in a bad way. Try quinoa or other interesting grains. Brown-rice pasta is delicious, with a toothy, nutty flavor. When buying sweeteners, do your best to avoid white sugar. Instead, try honey, Grade-B maple syrup, or dates. While I would never ask you to forsake chocolate, understand that a higher cacao percentage really does increase the nutritional value, making it a super food. Aim for 70 percent or higher. (Add a spoonful of all-natural 100-percent peanut butter for that peanut butter “better” cup experience.) Test the sugar substitute stevia to see if you like it. If you bake, cut your white flour with wheat, kamut, rye or spelt, and substitute part or all of white processed sugar with your choice of an alternative sweetener.
4 Harvest Season: Pay attention to harvest seasons as you travel. You might be lucky to be in New Mexico during the Hatch chile harvest, Maine at the height of wild blueberry picking or the Midwest during their prolific growing season.
6 Adjust Your Proportions: Begin changing the ratios on your plate by reducing meat and dairy and increasing vegetables, whole grains and legumes. Add a big green salad with homemade herbed vinaigrette, bake a few sweet potatoes, whip up some fluffy spiced quinoa or serve a three-bean salad. Shoot for a rainbow of colors. If you enjoy pasta like I do, jazz it up with zucchini, mushrooms, eggplant, onions and fresh garlic. It’s a simple shift that makes a world of difference.
Shifting is something full-timers know a lot about. For many of us, living this lifestyle was an unorthodox goal, one we longed for and dreamt about. Getting started required a tremendous shift: a leap of faith teeming with unknowns, a flurry of daily decisions, plus a fair share of doubters. But now that you’ve done it, you know it’s well worth all the planning, explaining and effort.
Altering your way of eating is similar. Shifting to whole-grain, plant-based eating can shake up your status quo, cause your friends and family to question your sanity and take some time to incorporate into your routine. However, as time passes, you’ll begin to realize the many joys and benefits, and, like RVing, it’ll become your way of life.
Make this the year you reach this important resolution. Take small steps and have fun moving forward to a delicious shift for a healthy, happy 2018.
Brilliant Banana Soft Serve
Makes 2–4 servings. This recipe works fine in a high-speed blender such as a Vitamix, but it is even better in a food processor, my tool of choice for this recipe.
• 4 large super ripe bananas, peeled, cut into one-inch chunks and frozen solid
• 2 dates pitted and cut into quarters
• ¼ tsp water (any more and you’ll have a delicious smoothie instead of soft-serve “ice cream”)
• add-ins as desired
In a food processor, add the frozen bananas, dates and ¼ teaspoon of water and turn it on. If necessary, after a minute or so stop the machine and run a spatula around the sides. Begin processing again. The bananas will look crumbly at first, then they’ll roll around in a ball. After a couple of minutes, they’ll magically turn into something that resembles soft-serve ice cream. Now is the time for add-ins. Consider peanut butter, strawberries, cocoa powder, chocolate chips, mango, pineapple, etc. Quickly pulse a few times to mix (too much more processing and it will begin to melt) and voilà…a brilliant beautiful, banana soft serve.
Tip: If you’re using frozen fruit as an add-in, include it in the mix close to the beginning of the process and expect a slightly larger yield.