Happy New Year, Adventurers! Wow, 2016 sure is getting off to a great start. There was finally an agreement out of that big climate summit in Paris. Okay, so that was technically in December, but close enough! Besides, lots of exciting developments came out of that summit regarding food, agriculture and related topics. But we’ll get to all that later. And, of course, it’s Veganuary.
Veganuary (vee-gan-you-airy) is an effort, started in the U.K. in 2014, to get people to try ditching animal products for the month of January. It’s since become a worldwide campaign. If you’ve lived in Northeast Florida for a while, you might be familiar with the No Meat March campaign that’s gone on for many years—same concept.
Anyhoo, Veganuary has had Adventurers asking LOTS of questions about eating a plant-based diet. One in particular hit upon several popular topics such as How do I handle eating on the go? Will I be able to stay healthy and get all the nutrition I need? What about snacking? and Can I do this on a tight budget? So I thought I would share because…
Adventurer Tania has been trying to eat a plant-based diet for a while now, but finds it tough sometimes. She’s crazy-busy. In fact with her physically demanding job, I’m not sure she ever stops moving! She also has a really fast metabolism and has a hard time keeping her weight up. Plus, her budget’s so tight, you could feed it coal and it’d squeeze out diamonds. (Boy, that would help, right?!) So she wanted to know what a good portable, high-calorie (yet healthy) plant-based snack that’s budget-friendly would be.
Nuts, seeds and fruit, my friend! They’re all healthy, portable and more budget-friendly than packaged junk food. The nuts and seeds are the high-calorie part (Hey, there’s a reason squirrels stock up for winter!) and the fruit is the quick-energy part.
Another Adventurer (Hi, Julia!) was asking about a particular packaged cookie. It was free of animal products, which is a good thing, and the name included the word “complete,” which gives you the impression that it’s healthy, as in “complete nutrition.” Here’s where you have to resist convenience and read the label. This particular product is just a cookie, folks: flour, oil, sugar and a bunch of other processed crap. It might be okay as an occasional indulgence, but not a daily, healthy snack. Such is the case with pretty much all packaged, processed “food.”
Nuts and seeds, on the other hand, provide unprocessed, nutrient-rich calories and are a great source of things we don’t get enough of in the Standard American Diet (which is why it’s SAD) like omega-3s. Plus, the fat and fiber in them fill you up quickly and keep you feeling full much longer than any refined-flour and simple-carb cookie ever could. (P.S. We’re not talking about the super-salty canned nuts or seeds in pouches that have added oil and fake, processed flavorings. We’re talking raw, unsalted nuts and seeds.)
But isn’t fruit carbs? Yes, but it’s complex carbs and delivers a dose of fiber with the carbs. That’s why fruit is such a great pick-me-up, but won’t leave you feeling queasy and drained an hour later like that cookie. Extra fruit bonus: What do we forget to do when imitating the Roadrunner all day long? Drink water! Fruit’s high moisture content means that it’s hydrating. And since dehydration can make you feel hungry (tricky, that brain of yours) fruit can help. But, of course, nothing can replace drinking lots of water, so bottom’s up!
Show me the money
A lot of people think whole, real food is more expensive than cheap food-like substances. Not so! The cheapest snack/junk food I could think of is a candy bar that happens to have some peanuts in it. Remember their marketing campaign about it being filling for busy, hard-working people? That candy bar is 35 cents per ounce. An ounce of walnuts is 30 cents. Fruit is a lot harder to compare, but an ounce of apple is around 25-35 cents (all prices compared through Amazon). Candy bar loses. The cookie from earlier is 62 cents an ounce. Major loser!
But there are other costs to consider when comparing packaged, mass-marketed “food” to whole, real food. First, you’re going to be a lot hungrier, a lot faster after eating that candy bar or cookie than you would be after eating those nuts, seeds or fruit. So you’re going to have to eat…what? Another candy bar? Maybe then, just because of the sheer number of calories, you’re not hungry anymore, but you’ve spent twice as much as you would have on real food. But wait! There’s more! Let’s say you eat those candy bars and cookies (and chips, soda, etc.) for a number of years. There’s going to be a high health price to pay. According to the American Diabetes Association, diabetes costs a person almost $8,000 PER YEAR! I don’t know about you, but that’d sure leave me wishing I’d made different choices with my food budget.
Nuts, seeds and fruit are the original fast foods: individually wrapped in edible or compostable wrappers, relatively light weight, last a long time from harvest, and don’t require refrigeration. If the fruit is dried, it lasts even longer. Go easy on the dried fruit though—the (natural) sugars are concentrated in the drying process, and you can get more than you think you’re getting.
Bonus money-saving tips
Aside from whole nuts, seeds, fruit, mixes and the standard PB&J, here are a few of my favorite super-fast or portable recipes that fit today’s criteria.
My favorite speedy breakfast: Creamy Avocado (yep, it’s a fruit with a nutty nutrition profile!) and Sea Salt Toast. I spread hummus on the toast too and add a dash of turmeric and black pepper.
What are your Veganuary (or just general going-plant-based) questions? What tips do you have for portable, healthy, plant-based snacks? For making it easy on the wallet? Leave your comments below!