Anyone can cook and everyone should know how. Don’t get intimidated by complicated recipes and just experiment in the kitchen to learn, this post has my basic tips on where to start and a link to my FREE meal prep guide.
Broccoli for breakfast. Salad for lunch. Stir fry for dinner.
In the last few months, I have made a more intentional effort to eat two cups of non-starchy veggies with every meal. Sometimes it’s an effort but it has totally become a habit. Now when faced with a meal with little to no veggies I’m befuddled.
This is a great option for people who aren't sure exactly how to balance the macros on their plate. I mean carbohydrates, protein and fat - the macronutrients in our diet. It’s too easy to overeat if your meal is just a starch and protein. But most people tend to get confused about what to actually fill their plate with - enter non-starchy vegetables.
Eat all the veggies
I usually form my meal around the protein, which usually needs more planning or defrosting from the freezer. Then I fill half of my plate with non-starchy vegetables. Don’t get caught up in what veggie does what for your health, all vegetables are unique with their own special vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytonutrients. Nutrition is a relatively new science so there are factors we don’t yet understand. So stick to a variety of whole vegetables and you will be fine.
Start with ones you know you enjoy, then branch out and try new ones, vary what you buy with the season and what’s on sale. Mix cooked and raw veggies throughout the day and for the advanced, add fermented veggies that you can either easily make yourself or buy at most supermarkets these days - make sure to look for raw on the label and no junky ingredients.
Arugula or rocket is a gateway veggie for breakfast. Buy the washed and bagged variety to save time in the morning. Throw your eggs and preservative free bacon on top of a big handful, or just add reheated leftovers from dinner over the top of a bed of arugula, this versatile green is flavorful and goes well with anything. Be patient because our taste for vegetables will change, I used to hate celery but now I love it, same with fennel. Now I crave more vegetables and that’s a great place to be. After travelling for weeks and plenty of cafe breakfasts with just toast and eggs with a scant green leaf for garnish it’s great to be able to return to the regularly scheduled programming in my own kitchen filled with a variety of fresh produce.
Set yourself up for success
The key here is, stock your fridge with vegetables you enjoy. Make the effort and commit to filling half of your plate with these vegetables even if it means quickly steaming some to throw on - it doesn't have to be fancy or a recipe. Rotate what you buy so you aren't eating the same 3 vegetables over and over. Keep an eye on what you have in the fridge, they can go bad quickly so remember what has to get eaten first.
Final note for the busy folks. Prep a whole bunch of veggies together for several meals, keep a big container ready to go in your fridge to add to your meals. Eg: in a big wok or pan saute a mix of things like broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, kale or cabbage with the seasoning of your choice. Let cool and store in a huge tupperware.
One of the first things to fill a new kitchen?
This Lodge cast iron. I have to admit it is my third version of the same skillet. The first I left in New Zealand, it's in storage somewhere. The second was bought in Moab, UT with my better half on a climbing trip. That pan got packed into my bottomless duffle and flew to Argentina where it now lives. The third is going to live in Vancouver.
Why cast iron?
It lasts forever, is non-toxic, heats evenly and browns meat like no other.
I have yet to achieve the level of non-stick on any cast iron that allows eggs to be cooked without half remaining stuck to the pan. But I remain hopeful.
If you were to start a new kitchen from scratch, what is the first item you would buy?
Camping and health, until recently I never gave much thought to how the two could have anything to do with each other. I never camped as a child or growing up, and my first real camping experience was in my mid 20’s with my twin sister. By my late 20’s I was a turned into a camping pro by my love for rock climbing. I have camped at altitude, camped by myself on many occasions, camped in my car in rest areas and on the side of empty roads, camped on snow. But what does camping have to do with health? I started thinking more about what camping can add to my life and realised what a positive impact it can have on health.
When we spend day and night in natural light we are exposed completely to the light-dark cycle of the sun. I noticed I slept better and when the sun set’s you feel sleepy because I wasn't in an electrically lit up room. A study found just a few days of being exposed to the natural light and dark pattern of the sun re-set our circadian rhythm and resulted in an easier time falling and staying asleep afterwards back at home.
Cooking is more of a fun activity instead of a chore. We can all get involved in preparing the meal, cooking it and then eating it because it’s part of the adventure. We can invest the time into cooking a meal mindfully since we are not in a rush to check emails or watch Netflix. When car camping I always buy sturdy vegetables that last without refrigeration for days, no processed packaged convenience camp food here. Even when snow camping on Mt Baker where I had to carry in all of my food I made sure to sneak in some fresh items!
Back to our roots.
No electricity means fewer devices. When camping, by default I tend to unplug more from my phone and computer. Being in a beautiful place in nature is the best time to really be present. Take in your surroundings, spend quality time with your companions or make new friends around a shared campfire. We don’t need to see what’s happening on social media. When I’m camping it’s naturally the best time to take a technology detox. Take some photos sure, but then put the phone away.
None of these previous benefits take into account the powerful impact of being in nature. Getting away from urban life, stepping out of routine, being amongst the green of trees or desert plants or lakes, rivers, the ocean. I can observe for myself the impact these surrounds can have on reducing stress and improve mood. Research is now starting to show that not only does nature have a positive impact on our emotions but it can also help our physical well being by lowering the stress hormone cortisol and lowering blood pressure.
I didn't get into camping for the health benefits but it is interesting to see that there are explanations for the natural feeling of well being it brings. I’m sure there is plenty more research being done on explaining the positive effects of camping and nature but I don’t need to dig any deeper to know that the impact it has on me will have me coming back again and again.