In this second part of the text on how to sustain a healthy vegan diet when traveling I’m taking you to my on the road kitchen to explore some of the convenient tips and shortcuts to always have fresh meals on the go. Or at least, most of the time. Plus, I’ll be sharing some of my favourite recipes I cook when out of home which you can easily transform to adjust to your taste. All delicious and very easy to make as we don’t want to get stuck in the kitchen when there’s so much to explore and enjoy outside, right? So let’s start!
1. Cook Your Meal Base Ahead
Grains such as rice, quinoa, millet, buckwheat or barley are nutritious, delicious and so versatile. Depending on what you add to them, you can turn them to a savory or sweet meal in no time. And though most of them don’t require more than 15 minutes to cook from the scratch, having some already cooked grains in your fridge really makes a difference when you’re looking to cut down your time in the kitchen. Simply boil them in a plain water, drain, let cool and store firmly sealed in the fridge. Cooked grains can last in the fridge for a few days and can easily be reheated if needed. During summer months my favourite one is quinoa, (not officially a grain, but hey 🙂 which is very nutritious as a complete protein and has that yummy nutty taste to it that adds more flavour to my lunch or breakfast:
QUINOA LUNCH BOWL
Finely chop 2 red capsicum peppers, 100g green olives, 1 lemon and mix with 200g cooked quinoa, 100 pumpkin seeds, 200g cooked chickpeas (open a tin) drizzle with a bit of extra virgin olive oil and season with some fresh oregano and salt.
Mash half a banana with a fork and mix with 100g cooked quinoa, chopped dates, almonds and desiccated coconut.
Grains make a wonderful base for both savory and sweet dishes, so having them all ready in your fridge is a huge time and energy saving when it comes to making and packing a delicious meal. Quinoa being a complete protein is an excellent option for a nutritious meal.
2. Master the Art of Overnight Breakfasts
I truly believe this discovery was one of the turning points for me. You open a fridge in the morning and just grab a delicious all ready to eat nutritious breakfast. Amazing! And all the investment you need is some 5 to 10 minutes a night before. As well as just a few basic ingredients that you can combine in as many ways you can possibly imagine.
My favourite ones are crushed flax seeds and rolled oats. Flax seeds, just like chia ones, absorb a lot of liquid but unlike chia, flax seeds soaked in a non dairy milk into a nice smooth, almost as milk&cookie texture. Combine this with some rolled oats, fruits and nuts and you get a feast for breakfast.
Another of my go to overnight treats is a combination of soy yogurt, rolled oats, crushed flax seeds, almond butter and fresh fruit. Just replace flax seeds with chia, change the butter for some almond flakes and add a different combo of fruit and you get a whole new taste with nearly same ingredients.
Instead of oats, you can use any cooked grains or dry flakes you like, millet, quinoa, buckwheat, even rice.
Now, I get it these are all sweet options, I’ve never been much into savory breakfasts anyway. In fact, a rich sweet breakfast would make up for all the sweets I would need in a day, so I find it a perfect sugar intake meal for me.
All you need is a pack of your favourite seeds, like chia or crushed flax seeds, non dairy milk or yogurt, nuts or nut butter and fresh fruit. Combinations are endless.
3. All you need are just a few essentials
A perfect ready to go lunch is a properly balanced one with about 10-20-70 ratio of fat-protein-carbs. And also the one that wouldn’t spill all over and more importantly, that would taste good even when it gets cold.
Pasta with a thick sauce, tinned legumes, noodles or meal salads are my favourite choice that take up to 20 min to make:
TOMATO, PEACH & APRICOT SALAD
Mix 100g watercress salad, 1 large diced peach, 4 sliced apricots, 200g red and yellow cherry tomatoes cut in halves, a handful of almonds, 2tbsp of ground flax seeds and season with sea salt, extra virgin olive oil and balsamico glaze. When making this to go, pack the seasoning separately and add to the salad immediately before eating.
CHICKPEA & BEANS BOWL
200g mix salad, 1 tin (200g) red beans, 1 tin (200g) chickpeas, 300g tomatoes, season with salt, olive oil and balsamico glaze.
WHOLEGRAIN FARFALLE ARRABIATA
Quickly saute 5 cloves of crushed garlic, 1 sliced chili, 6 sliced small carrots, a pinch of oregano in a bit of olive oil. Add salt and 8 diced plum tomatoes, 1 tin of pelati. Stir and let it simmer for 10-15min. Add a splash of balsamico glaze, more salt if needed and mix with cooked pasta. Sprinkle with lots of fresh chopped parsley.
Make sure you always have a tin of chickpeas or other legumes, a tin of tomato passata or pelati, fresh and dry herbs, some garlic, dry pasta. These make essential basics for quick and delicious meals to go in your kitchen.
4. When it comes to this one, follow your brain not your heart
Not all that says healthy is in fact healthy. It’s enough for something to just have that healthy sound to it, such as muesli and our brain is ready to assume that it must be a good and nutritious meal. But keep your mind alert, read the labels always when shopping and ask all the stupid questions you need to when ordering food in a restaurant. Because both of the photos above sell their breakfast as muesli, but only one is good for you. The other one is sadly full of sugar, or even worse, glucose syrup.
Just because something is labeled as healthy or has a pretext of healthy doesn’t mean it actually is. There are “gluten free” protein bars full of glucose syrup, granola full of sugar, nut butters with artificial additives and you get the picture. So read the labels and when ordering food always ask even seemingly obvious questions to avoid poor choices.
5. Hope for the best, be ready for the worst
Even when you don’t pack a whole meal and plan to eat out, a few selected food items that you carry with you can be a game changer. Especially if you find yourself in a place where there is not a single option that suit your needs, it can be a first aid if you’re really hungry and until you find a next place with better food.
The sandwich on the left is originally served with cheese which I asked to be removed and inserted a peach from my bag. A simple green salad topped with some almonds or sunflower seeds will make for a more wholesome, nutritious meal. Remove a sugary granola, leave the berries, add a banana and a handful of peanuts.
I always pack a small bag of nuts or seeds, a banana, apple or a peach, even dried fruit or a healthy nutritious bar in my bag, traveling or not. Not only it can help rev up a blend restaurant dish, it’s my first aid to keep me from starving or making wrong choices if there are no my food options nearby.
6.The most vital nutrition of any meal
Yup, food is fuel. It determines our energy and health level. It can nourish and heal or make us sick or depressed. At the same time, food is so much more than that. In fact, it’s so personal to most of us that food choices are looked upon almost the same as our choices on religion or sex. We take food on a very personal level. We’ve all experienced that feeling a familiar aroma can invoke in us in an instant. A certain melt in your mouth taste that suddenly transports you into that happy moment of your life. Or the cozy warmth we feel when the scent of a freshly baked bread fills a room. We speak of food as comforting, mouthwatering, succulent, irresistible, full-bodied, hearty, delightful.
Just like anything we take into our body, the way we do it with food matters. There is no amount of healthy meals that will keep us healthy if we are obsessed about every calorie, micro and macro ratio, organic or conventional, fast or slow, “clean” or not and the list goes on. Being so very strict in diet might make sense in a short term only, or in case there’s any medical reason for it. Other than that, constant obsessing about what you eat creates stress that impacts your body so much worse than a bit of dairy free but sugar sweetened ice cream or dipping that piece of bread into some good olive oil.
Be present. Enjoy every bite. Eat with merak. That is the most important nutrition you can give to yourself.