Vacation Meals

Pulling together decent meals while on vacation can be even harder than when at home if you don’t have access to the ingredients you need.  With a little planning, though, it’s easy to be prepared and not spend the whole vacation in the kitchen.

Our vacation earlier this month was a “Big Family” vacation.  We are fortunate in that all four of our parents have big families, so whenever we get together with extended families, it’s always a big group – the more, the merrier!!   In addition to planning meals that are easy to make for a big group, we also needed meals that were easy for vegetarians and omnivores to enjoy together.  Check out the list below and give your suggestions in the comments!

Dinners

Burgers (Prepared grain burgers were a treat here)

Tacos or Rice Bowls

Rainbow Orzo

Low country boil (Field Roast sausage, beans, potatoes, carrots, and sauerkraut for the vegans)

Stirfry

Spaghetti with pink sauce

Lunches

Mac and cheez

Hot dogs (Carrot Dogs would be a good option here but we opted for Field Roast hot dogs as a treat)

Beans and franks

Sandwiches and salads

Leftovers from dinner

Breakfasts

Pancakes

Overnight oatmeal

Apple pie oatmeal

Cereal and smoothies

Fake sausage, baked hashbrowns, and toast

Desserts

Chocolate Ganache Pie

Lots and lots of chips. . .

 

Next time, I’ll do things a little differently:

  • I won’t be as worried about spending more time in the kitchen, since I can’t be out in the sun the whole day anyway.
  • Our easy meals did not have as many veggies as we usually eat, so I’ll focus a little less on fast and easy.
  • I’ll have more healthy snacks available.  Everyone was drawn to the chips- perhaps the combination of salt and dehydration or the fact that vacation sometimes means vacation from healthy eating.  Either way, having more healthy snack options will help.
  • Sharing a meal with non-vegans is a great opportunity to show that vegan food can be delicious in addition to nutritious, so I need to take more advantage of that opportunity.

I was really proud of my Big Family – those who were willing to try the vegan dishes thought they were fine, even tasty, if they even noticed they were vegan.  Between now and the next Big Family get together, I’ll be working on more recipes to showcase a whole foods plant based diet!!

Planning for Thanksgiving

Apologies to the Canucks for once again missing their Thanksgiving celebration last month.  Hope it was tasty!!

For the ‘Mericans, though, now is the time to start planning how to navigate this food-laden holiday if you haven’t already.  Everyone else should make up a reason to get together with family and friends – life is too short not to celebrate whatever we can together.

As you’re looking through a myriad of recipes trying to figure out what to make, consider our favorites below.  The loaf, casseroles, and gravy travel well in a thermo pack or in a cooler if there will be oven space to reheat.  The desserts need a cooler.  The mashed potato-flowers travel well in a crockpot.  Of the recipes below, really all you’d need to make at the last minute would be the sautéed kale and for the best texture, the brussel sprouts.

Thanksgiving Loaf

Pineapple Casserole

Fig Pecan Squash Casserole

Green Bean Casserole

Mashed Potato-Flowers

Brown Gravy

Roasted Brussel Sprouts and Apples

Sauteed Kale with Raisins and Pine Nuts

Squash Casserole

Pumpkin Pie (GF, soy free)

Chocolate Ganache Pie

If you’re hosting Thanksgiving, plan to start making food two days in advance so you can enjoy the day and spend time with your family and friends.  Maybe even do that 5k Thursday morning!!  Here’s the order I make these dishes in advance: desserts, gravy, loaf, squash and green bean casseroles, then the rest the day of.

Unless you’re hosting Thanksgiving or have converted your entire family and close friends, Thanksgiving can be a challenge for those who aren’t willing to sacrifice animals or their own health for a holiday.  Use the holiday to set an example for others in how you make your health a priority and still enjoy delicious foods.  If you’re a guest, always take at least one dish so you know you’ll have something to eat and to share with others who are open-minded about incorporating more plant based foods into their diet.  Remember that weight gain is highest in November and December and to stop eating before you’re full.  There’s no reason you can’t make that delicious dish again next week!!

On the Road Again

As if consistently making healthy choices isn’t hard enough at home, traveling can really make things challenging.  The focus of this post is on business travel, where you don’t need to ensure anyone but you is making healthy choices.

It had been almost a year since I’d been away for work for an entire week, so I knew I needed to take more time than usual to prepare for my recent work trip, both mentally and physically.  Based on how my calendar was shaping up, I knew that I wouldn’t have time each day to break for lunch, much less the frequent bio breaks I was used to.  Right off the bat I knew this would affect my ability to stay hydrated, so I decided I’d have to drink as much water as I could early in the morning and then again between dinner and bed.  This wasn’t ideal but was my best strategy at the time.

Exercise and dehydration don’t go together well, as I learned after returning home at the end of the week and participating in a rigorous workout the next day.  But what did help throughout the week was meditation and stretching in the evenings with moderately vigorous exercise in the mornings.  I planned the next morning’s exercise the night before, knowing that I couldn’t trust myself to come up with a decent plan right after waking up.  The workout facility at this particular hotel didn’t interest me, so I worked out in my room, doing different combination of situps, pushups, burpees, air squats, and lunges.  This made a significant difference in my mood after sitting in meetings and at the computer for 12-14 hours each day.  I slept much better the nights that I stretched and did some meditative breathing before going to bed, which made it easier to work out the next morning.

 

Exercises

 

Another strategy that I regularly use is taking plenty of snacks with me: nuts, dried fruit, granola, fresh fruit, and dark chocolate.  I usually pack oats as well, as it’s easy to find hot water or a microwave to make oatmeal.  After the first day of this trip, I had already eaten over 1 cup of nuts (almost half of what I had packed for the entire week) and both apples due to a very early breakfast, no lunch, and a late dinner.  Fortunately my meals were more regular the rest of the week, and I was able to restock my snack stash with hummus and pretzels and another apple.

 

Portable_Snacks

 

If you are not choosing the locations of your meals, as may be the case for business dinners, it can be challenging to find a great plant-based meal that is both devoid of animal products and not swimming in oil.  If you’re lucky enough to be at a restaurant with a legitimate chef, let the waiter know what your dietary needs are and hope the chef is feeling creative.  If not, don’t think twice about making special requests loosely based on the menu.

Through their 21 Day Kickstart program, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine offers tips for finding plant-based dishes in different types of restaurants, plus common ingredients you want to ensure are not included in your dish.  The 21-Day Weight Loss Kickstart book by Neal Barnard provides recommendations on what to order at common fast food chains.

 

Restaurant_Tips

 

One easy approach is to order a salad with every dinner – it’s such an easy way to increase your daily servings of veggies.  I’m not advocating eating ONLY salad, unless you find yourself at a restaurant with fabulous salads, which are not as common as you would think.

Although it may not be the most comfortable thing to ask for veggies and whole grains without butter and a dry baked potato or just a plate of vegetables in front of your colleagues or business partners, keep in mind that your health is a priority.  You can do hard things and you’re not giving up anything — except the risks of cancer, heart disease, and diabetes associated with the standard American diet.

A healthier lifestyle is the most loving gift you can give yourself.  Start now.

On a lighter note, traveling can be a great opportunity to try out a new vegan/vegetarian Philly_Cheese
restaurant.  Before departing or even after you arrive you can use an app on your smartphone like Urban Spoon or go to Happy Cow and search out what your destination has
to offer.  Who knows, you might even be able to convince a colleague or two to join you for what is usually a fantastic meal.  Like vegan Philly “cheese steak” at Hip City Veg in Philadelphia or a vegan “Twinkee” at Source in San Francisco!

Twinkees