On Food & Eating
After six months on the road and a variety of food experiences, I think it’s about time we let you all in on what we’re eating. It changes from day to day and week to week, but there are a lot of common threads in our food choices – and we’ve learned a lot about what and how we should be eating.
The first thing that I would say about eating on a bicycle tour is learning what your individual body needs. Over the past many months, we have learned (through trial and error) all of the details about how we need to eat. For example… Russ needs meat. (Sorry vegetarians.) For whatever reason, his body doesn’t derive enough energy and whatnot from non-meat forms of protein. Peanut butter, beans, lentils are all hard on his system, whereas a good cheeseburger gets everything moving well. I have learned that I have a really hard time digesting food while we’re riding. We used to stop for actual lunches and make sandwiches, until I just couldn’t stomach all that heavy food anymore. For me, it’s best to munch on apples and granola bars and fig newtons and trail mix and jerky throughout the day, and then sit down to a huge dinner at the end. I have also learned that I need a lot more fiber and vegetables than Russ. It puts some interesting limitations on the ways that we eat while traveling, but it’s all important to know and to understand, so that we can keep ourselves functioning as best as possible, and stay healthy.
Another component of our eating habits that’s important to understand is the ways in which we focus on eating whole foods. Sure, we consume our fair share of M&Ms and chips and bottled juices and prepackaged convenience stuff. But, we also work really hard to eat fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh meat and whole grains as much as possible. I personally believe that your body gets more nutrients out of whole ingredients, so that’s what I try to focus on buying (within reason, of course, because it can be extremely difficult sometimes).
And, last but not least, we’ve learned that the foods we eat and carry and the ways we cook all depend on where we are. The Pacific Coast is such a popular route that it was easy to just carry snacks during the day and buy food for dinner near to where we were camping (allowing us to be much more gourmet). Out in the desert, where we are now, it can be days between markets, so we need to plan well and carry foods that will survive in a duffel bag for awhile.
So… on to the details… what, specifically, do we eat?
Breakfast… Generally, we’ll get up in the morning, break down camp, make coffee, and have a breakfast of peanut butter and jelly on a tortilla. It’s simple, quick, easy to prepare and easy to carry. Lately, we’ve added some Nutella in to this mix, and Russ likes to also add trail mix and/or chia seeds. But since Russ isn’t a big fan of peanut butter, we’re constantly on the look-out for other non-nut-based breakfast options. If we’re in a populated area, we like to swing through a diner for a hot breakfast or pick up eggs or bacon or cereal or yogurt for a change from the peanut butter. We had a small stint (back in September) of making pancakes every morning, until (morning after morning) we’d find ourselves hungry only an hour later.
Lunch/Mid-day Snacks… These days, we will typically stop several times throughout a riding day to eat snacks or mini-meals. Our favorite mid-day foods include: fresh fruit, granola bars, trail mix, fig newtons, peanut M&Ms, hard-boiled eggs, beef jerky.
Dinner… This is where we can get creative. By the time we roll into camp for the night, we’re usually quite hungry, so dinner has be a hearty meal, in a large-enough quantity that we both feel sated. The actual meals that we prepare vary depending on what ingredients are available. When we’re traveling through remote areas, we often have to pack for several days at a time, which means a bit of creative planning and buying ingredients (in advance) that don’t require refrigeration. When we’re in more populated areas, we can purchase ingredients near to the campground, allowing us to buy fresh cuts of meat. When we’re free camping, we try to stick to one-pot meals. When we’re camping at a structured campground and know that we’ll have plenty of time (especially if we’re able to have a campfire), we can get out the paella pan and cook a more elaborate meal.
For days when we’re in remote areas and cook quick, one-pot meals, we’ll make various combinations of: pre-cooked sausage (in not-hot weather, pre-cooked sausage is okay unrefrigerated for a day or two, provided you heat it well when cooking a meal), canned chicken, zucchini, canned beans, canned tomatoes, couscous or other heat-and-eat packaged pasta/rice dishes (we recently discovered Uncle Ben’s pre-cooked rice mixes, which have brown rice and lentils, beans, corn and only require a dash of water and to be heated through).
Here’s a glimpse of what we bought in Carlsbad before heading off on our five-day stretch with no markets (which, unfortunately, we’re discovering isn’t quite enough, so we’ll need to plan even better before hitting Big Bend)…
For days when we have more flexibility (ability to buy fresh ingredients close to camp and/or ability to cook more slowly in more than one pot), we’ll cook meals like…
– Beef and vegetable stir-fry with rice (tip: soy sauce doesn’t need refrigeration, so you can carry a small bottle and then make a quick sauce with soy sauce, water and lemon)
– Sausage and sweet potatoes, served over rice or quinoa or made into burritos
– Pasta – a quick and easy and inexpensive sauce can be made by simply cooking down several chopped fresh tomatoes – or mix cooked pasta with smoked salmon, a can of olives, perhaps a cucumber, and some garlic and salt and pepper
– or just about any other “ordinary” type of meal that you might cook in a “real” kitchen
We are both huge fans of food and eating well, so we strive to find good foods and make interesting and tasty and fulfilling meals. Since this is easier when touring through more populated areas, we are quite looking forward to getting to the end of this vast emptiness that we’ve been rolling through for the past few weeks. (Although, there is also immense beauty in this nothingness, so we’re trying not to rush it.)
Logan February 16, 2010 at 1:31 pm
It will be interesting to see if TexMex cuisine will influence your diet for awhile. I’m surprised after your time in the southwest that y’all haven’t experimented with MASECA (corn/lime flour) and pinto beans (a complete protein combo). We really love baked beans with honey, and a MASECA crust on the top. Kind of a southwest pot pie. 🙂
Food must be a hard subject to blog about if you are running low on fuel. Have you considered adding honey to your mobile pantry. It doesn’t go bad, its calorie dense, and it complements both food and tea. If its too sweet for you try buying safflower honey and staying away from the star-thistle variety. 🙂
rachel February 16, 2010 at 8:04 pm
Out of my interest in some day traveling around by bike, I must ask, “What about water?” What do you do for water when you’re in the desert for these stretches?
(Thanks for sharing!)
Dave February 17, 2010 at 5:32 am
M&M Peanuts possibly the best traveling snack ever invented!
The other Carl February 17, 2010 at 8:30 am
With out getting all preachy (me being vegan and all, we often do.. 🙂
I have found as a vegan that it is possible to to extreme things physically
on nuttin’ but fruits veges and nuts. I commute 30 mi each way into LBC 2-3 x per week.
Adrian S. does the same 5 days/wk same miles as a Raw vegan. he also went across the USA Georgia to Calif. and Tour
Divide route Canada to Mexico as a vegan. Carl Lewis was a vegan and won gold medals.
I stepped into this over a 3 year period and came from a “losing weight / health aspect” but know I see the compassionate side too.
It is really amazing how good I am feeling 1 year as a vegan/ 3 years vegetarian. Weight is a issue I struggled with all my
life. I see now that the struggle came from eating non-nutritous Standard American Diet(SAD). I can go on
but my message is one of many I hope add up into a synchronistic mega message. I ate “normal” for years – it was slowly killing me.
and I find it sad that I found out and acted on it way later than I should have. I also understand we all have
and should be our own path-follow your heart.
Dave February 17, 2010 at 3:40 pm
Maybe I’m more attuned to it from living with colitus for tweenty years but, I think if you read between the lines, it’s about how individual bodies react to food. that’s all, no opinions being offered.
P.S. Carl lewis might have been the greatest vegan ever but, i’d rather hear
a carnivor that cansing the national anthem 🙂
Joshua Baker February 17, 2010 at 10:17 pm
Firstly, I’ve been lurking for weeks. You guys rock. I have my own LHT on order right now. Can’t wait to get on the road.
Second, I second the honey idea. Other suggestions: Oatmeal(I like to do super natural kind cut half/half with regular Quaker stuff. Makes it have more volume and adds more texture. Protein powders have come a long way from their early days, they’re light and some are very calorie dense(plus they taste good) and some are reasonably “natural.”
Third, I don’t think it’s necessary to for you to apologize for Russ not being a Fundamentalist Vegetarian/Vegan.
The other Carl: You are preachy, you’re condescending, and your commute is not “extreme.” Whenever I go past Petsmart and they have the “Adopt our Bunnies” booth setup I look at the photos imagining how delicious they would be with a glass of Merlot. Same goes for healthy cats, dogs, doves, and most anything that crawls, walks, flies, or swims. Tigers don’t feel bad about chomping on baby Tapirs. Neither should we.
Sebastian Wevers February 20, 2010 at 7:34 pm
Personally I believe that avoiding packed food when possible is number 1. Sweets are absolutely out of the question since they are just fast energy providers that make you eat less from the real food later in the day so you will be hungry for fast sugers again and so on and on. Only exception is dark chocolate when crossing high 5000 metre passes and plateaus.
Although I try my best, a few months of travelling will always make me lose 4-8 kilos depending on altitude.
A good meal at the end of the day is my remedie. When the muscles are not asking for too much attention, the digestive system wakes up and can handle the abuse of stuffing pasta into it. Making the meal tasty by herbs and spices is a good way to keep the appetite.
Bike Touring and Food « Against the Grind December 7, 2010 at 11:32 pm
[…] will really depend upon our particular diets. Russ and Laura over at The Path Less Pedaled have a great post discussing what their particular bodies “need” while bike touring. In a nut shell, […]
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