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Ditch The Diet – Eat Well On The Road

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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. 

While each of these resolutions, or goals, is a big ask, living an RV lifestyle makes them a little easier to reach, especially as they relate to our diets. After all, we travel with our kitchens and have access to the abundance of each season. Who among us doesn’t appreciate sweet, ruby-red grapefruits during the Texas winter, u-pick farms and farmers markets everywhere all summer long, or the soft goodness of a slice or two of Wheat Montana’s delicious, nutritious bread? Keep reading to learn how to eat well on the road – in a delicious and healthy way.

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, but 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, plantbased 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, plantbased 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.

6 Steps To Getting Started - Eat Well On The Road

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If learning how to eat well on the road resonates with you, start slowly and begin incorporating a few new items into your snacks and meals each day. Below  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.

2. Powerhouse Punchers

Add some zing to your plate in the form of fresh herbs. These powerhouses add plenty of nutrition in addition to their bursting, fresh flavors. Chiffonade fresh basil to sprinkle over pasta. Roast a batch of rosemary sea-salt cashews. Add fresh thyme to your vinaigrette. Chill out with a glass of ice-cold, lavender lemonade. Toss fresh chopped parsley, cilantro, basil and/or other leafy herbs into a green salad. Make tabbouleh with bulgur, mint, parsley and fresh lemon juice. 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. 

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. This is one of the best ways to eat well on the road! 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. Stop at a roadside stand when passing through Minnesota and purchase a bag of delicious native wild rice. Pick cherries in Washington State or Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Don’t miss the pecans in Georgia. Invest in local-only olive oil as you explore California’s central coast. In addition to the health benefits of these neat foodie excursions, you’ll have what the RV Cooking Show likes to call simple dishes as souvenirs.

5. Eat Local

Wherever your stop-over is, make a point to visit the local farmers’ market each week to shop for in-season produce. You’ll really eat well on the road experiencing local flavors. If you travel with children, take them along to teach them where their food comes from. You’ll find it’s less expensive, healthier and will have fun chatting with the farmers. If you’re not sure what to do with an unfamiliar vegetable or fruit, don’t be shy—ask.

6. Adjust Your Portions

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.

Simple Shifts

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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 to eat well on the road 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. 



Evanne Schmarder

Evanne is sure she got the wanderlust bug from her Grandpa and Nana who traveled the U.S. in their city bus conversion in the 1940’s as what we now call ‘workampers’. In 2000 she and her husband Ray set off on their own RV adventure, affectionately called Operation Sunshine, from hip but rainy Portland, Oregon. A nod to their “love to travel, love to eat” philosophy, these young fulltimers founded the RV Cooking Show, as seen on TV stations across the country. They believe in RVs as all-access tickets to adventure and have adopted the motto: simple dishes as souvenirs and menus as memory makers.

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5 Responses

  1. Really enjoyed your article on the RV diet. It’s simple ,healthy and provides an excellent dietary philosophy while on the road! And by the way it looks great on you!
    Michael Aherin

  2. Excellent article!! I am 78 and we have been eating whole-food, plant-based for almost 10 years and love the results!!! Lots of energy and no prescriptions and there is lots of science supporting this way of eating. I wish we know about this many years before.

    We find it very easy to cook this way and even eat out with some planning. I suspect there are many of us full timers that understand the power of plants.

    We have taught classes on the road and at schools and we have been thinking about trying to form a BOF group for recipes and support for the WFPB way of eating. An thoughts?

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