I once spent a month traveling up the coast of western Australia in a friends van. I loved the simple life. The idea that your home could be in constant fluctuation, bouncing between incredible spots in nature, chaotic cities, to desilt areas in the desert where the night sky steals your breath away. Years later I decided to create my own tiny home on wheels. I bought an old roofing van that had rust spots the size of my head, a life size pink panther decal on the back, and a General Contracting seal on the door, which I refused to remove. The van conversion took me almost 9 months, but with the help of my woodworking inclined family I had slowly crafted my first home. The building process was an adventure on it’s own and I can now proudly say that I can confidently use a chop saw and a power drill like a boss.
I left in the fall of 2020, after my season on the farm had ended. I slowly made my way west, towards the coast of California searching for my potential home base. I filled my days mountain biking, rock climbing, practicing yoga, and exploring coast lines. It was a dream, but vanlife is not all rainbows and butterflies. It also means perpetually seeking out public restrooms, finding safe places to park for the night, making meals in 18 degree weather, oh I could go on and on. Maintaining a healthy diet while living in a tiny box on wheels can prove to be quite the challenge, but it’s totally possible!
Here are my top tips on how to eat healthy along the road:
1. Stock up on essentials. I made sure I always had fresh veggies, tons of fruit, hummus, cans of legumes and beans, whole grains, fermented foods, & plant milks on hand.
2. Make big dinners and save the rest for breakfast/lunch the next day. Make extra portions of whole grains to easily throw into a salad for lunch the next day. Or twice as much burrito fixing for breakfast the day after!
3. Snack on fruits! Instead of buying crappy junk food from gas stations I always had a bag of grapes, apples or bananas to hold me over on long drives and in-between meals.
4. Make group meals! I made heaps of new friends along the way. Some of my favorite nights were when we shared communal dinners around the campfire. I was much more inclined to make a delicious meal when I had friends to help pitch in and to enjoy it with.
5. Grow your own food! I sprouted mung beans, broccoli, alfalfa and radish seeds in a little mason jar and added them to my salads, avo on toast, and sandwiches. You can also grow your own microgreens or herbs fairly easy in a van.
6. Make your own food when you can. I hardly ever ate out. I enjoy making my own food and knowing exactly what ingredients are going into my meals. Plus you can save some serious money this way.
Overall, I found it pretty easy to continue eating healthy along the road. I tended to eat more of a raw plant-based diet when it was still warmer out, but as the temperatures dropped I craved more warm and filling meals like soups, curries and pasta dishes. Having a strong foundation of healthy eating habits and knowing how to make easy, nutritious meals definitely helped equip me for my time on the road. And as with everything in life, it’s all about finding the balance. When you eat the majority of your calories from whole, plant foods a little pumpkin pie or pizza doesn’t hurt when looking at the bigger picture. Please let me know if you have any questions about van life, eating healthy along the way, or while at home! Feel free to share your own healthy van life tips.