Many of you are likely aware of the Whole 30 diet, or should I saw food habit / lifestyle adjustment plan. In short, no added sugar or sweetener, no alcohol, no rice, wheat or grains, no soy or corn, no dairy, no legumes (including peanuts), and no nitrates and a few other preservatives for 30 days. Perhaps this will result in some weight loss considering the reduced carbohydrate intake and vastly reduced sugar load (drinking coffee black now, for example). And it is supposed to have great health benefits all around, resetting your body's digestive habits, eliminating food (sugar) cravings, and other such things. We just thought we could use a healthy change in our life after progressing down an increasingly unhealthy pattern of fried food, convenience eating, and a few too many pizza buffets.
But this new diet didn't happen without serious consideration for the sacrifices to made. Here we are in St. Cloud, Minnesota. Punch Pizza is just a town away with pizza pies that make me drool at the thought of them. And the Minnesota State Fair is tomorrow. What's the point of going if not to stuff ourselves with horrible-for-you goodness like a typical obese American. Okay, we'll delay Whole 30 by a day to make sure fried Oreo's, mini doughnuts, and corn dogs needn't be missed.
Upcoming trips include Wisconsin (I've been wanting to try out some fresh local cheese curds), the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (with some of the nation's best blueberry pies) and then on into Canada. We'll be visiting Montreal, apparently the Paris of North America. Not eating cheese, butter or baked goods of any kind means there goes crêpes (I'm tearing up as I write this), croissants, macaroons, souffle, gelato (I know its Italian, but it's all over Montreal) and pretty much anything else desirable.
We'll also pass through Vermont (cheddar, anyone?). Isn't that where Ben & Jerry's ice cream originated? Sigh... New Hampshire... no maple syrup for us. Maybe we'll grab a bottle for future indulgent breakfast feasts.
And Maine... hooray! Lobster is just fine - and we will partake (sans butter)! And I'm sure we'll find something we are missing out on in Boston as well (Sam Adams Brewery Tour?).
And then it gets real. We'll pull into Wilken's Fruit & Fir Farm, better known as the "Donut Farm" to the boys, and stare down hundreds of freshly fried apply cider donuts, massive fresh baked pies, muffins and breads, candied apples and chocolate covered goodness. We can't even enjoy the fresh pressed apple cider. So we'll avoid the Bake Shop, our usual hangout and place of work, for the first week.
And then it gets complicated. Because not only do we miss out on regional wonders for the palate, but we'll be visiting friends along the way.
"Why don't you all join us for dinner. We're having some friends over for pizza!"
-"Uh, that'd be great, but we'll bring our own food if that's okay. Pizza is not on the program."
"Hey, man! Long time no see. Wanna beer? Local microbrew, 9% ABV Stout. Pretty fantastic stuff."
-"Sorry. I wish, but no can do."
"You can't make an exception? We hang out just a few times a decade."
"How awesome that you're passing through town. Let's meet for lunch! I know an awesome Chinese place."
-"Uh, can we do a picnic at a park? Sugar and soy tends to be in just about every Chinese food, so I don't think that'll work for us."
And then there's the family reunion at the farm, with big nightly dinners, fancy wines and fresh pies for dessert. Maybe we'll do the cooking for the first week. "Everybody likes cauliflower, right? Brynn makes a mean dairy free mashed cauliflower."
I think it can get a little awkward bringing your own dinner to a dinner party, or imposing our dietary restrictions on others by doing the cooking ourselves. But hey, sometimes that's what it takes to see something like this through.
Complication #2 - Football Season
We don't carry a Direct TV satellite dish in our camper like most of the RVing community, and in general try to avoid such passive entertainment (though the kids do watch many a movie on the road). But when football season rolls around, I'm once again eager for some broadcast TV. But without satellite or cable, we resort to watching the occasional game "out" to avoid having to listen to it on the radio. That might be accompanied by wings, nachos and beer in the past. But now with a football weekend only days away, I may find myself at the local sports pub ordering a side salad with no dressing and a club soda with lime. That's gonna be hard to swallow (especially without any dressing). Even more so if my team loses.
Complication #3 - Road Trip Snacks
[Now two weeks into Whole 30] I don't think I realized how much these kids of mine snacked until doing Whole 30. We try to keep snacks healthy, avoiding chips and sweets. We'll do granola bars, maybe some PB&J for the road, summer sausage, and if it were up to LJ, a truckload of cheese sticks. Maybe even some Annie's Organic Lemon Cookies. Man, those are tasty! Well - not anymore! This is a family affair, so no more of any of our usual snacks will work. Snacks now consist of almonds, fresh fruit, natural apple sauce, and unbreaded cooked-at-home chicken breast strips. And for a special treat, dates. Those kids, Baby A in particular, always seem hungry. They go through apple sauce like water, a large bunch of bananas daily, and berries get gobbled up as they are rinsed just after coming home from the grocery store. I found a dozen "on the go" emptied apple sauce packets in the car earlier today. All eaten within the last 18 hours. The heavy fats and proteins part of this diet doesn't seem to quell the ravenous nature of these growing youngins.
Complication #4 - RV Cooking Nuances
Whole 30 requires a lot of "made from scratch" foods in order to stay on plan while keeping things interesting from a taste perspective. I don't want scrambled eggs and grilled chicken for every meal. For example, some bbq sauce would be nice. So I recently boiled cubed sweet potatoes in fresh apple cider and blended it with tomato paste, vinegar and seasonings. I was almost able to use liquid smoke to really bring it home, but the last ingredient on the bottle? Molasses. Even this negligible nutritional value/sugar content (0 grams per serving) eliminates it from possible use. So did the sweet potato sauce taste like bbq? No, no it didn't. But AJ kept asking for more sweet potato chicken, as the natural sweetness was more than enough to satisfy.
The point is, there is a lot of prep and home cooking that goes into this. Want mayonnaise with your (not just any) canned tuna? Better get out the food processor and blend up a room temperature egg white, lemon juice, and oil (not Canola! That unholy spawn of soybean and rapeseed oil is not recommended for Whole 30). So you think, "No big deal! Just cook from scratch, then. Piece of cake."
But in an RV, even simple meal prep like reheating leftovers can be an organizational nightmare. We have enough counter space for a 6"x12" cutting board. That leaves the kitchen table for prep, forcing the kids to do school work /coloring elsewhere. So when something like cauliflower rice is part of the meal, things just get crowded. Rarely (if ever) is cooking in the RV a joy. It's tight on space in every way, and between the A/C and range hood vent, it sounds like you're standing on the deck of an aircraft carrier during flight ops. There is no quiet conversation to be found while cooking. It's just screaming, "What!? I can't hear you!" over and over again.
Another RV nuance is limited fridge space. Want to make some broth for soup later this week? You could, but you'll have to finish off the bulky lettuce first so there is space in the fridge. Making food in bulk quantities is an absolute no go, so we generally resort to two to three full process home-cooked meals per day. It's exhausting.
The final RV cooking kicker? Boondocking, otherwise known as dry camping. Try cooking a meal from scratch with no running water or electricity. I know, I know. You'll tell me the Amish do this daily and rejoice in the toils of their labor. And while I respect their lifestyle choice, I've been raised as an American, where convenience equals better in almost every case. Block cheese? Uh, this pre-shredded bagged cheese looks easier. But wait, what's this? A canned cheese spray that only requires I move my index finger thus?* Even better! Americans love the Cheese Whiz way of doing things. So when I'm walking the pitch black campground trails of White Mountain National Forest to fill up a jug of water at the filling station so we can boil potatoes, I can quickly appreciate the luxury of water flowing out of my very own faucet. It's just another tricky thing to deal with when combining Whole 30 with RV living, I guess.
Complication #5 - "Field Trips"
When visiting Pictured Rocks National Seashore, Toronto, Montreal, or anywhere else away from the campground, we'll inevitably be gone during at least one meal, usually lunch. Essentially every restaurant is "not on the program". As mentioned before, I'm not interested in spending $10-$15 on a dry salad. So before we go anywhere, we meal prep. Sandwiches use to be the easy way to go, but bread (of any kind) is not permitted on Whole 30. So we boil and peel eggs by the dozen and bring salad fixings and olive oil / vinegar as dressing. The kids have almond flour battered chicken thigh "nuggets", pan fried in bacon grease or ghee and then baked. They'll eat that along with copious amounts of fruit. Homemade "breaded" chicken nuggets take a lot longer than Tyson's pop-em in the oven junk nuggets, and even the fanciest frozen nuggets have wheat or soy in nearly every case. So getting prepped for a day in the city takes a lot out of us (well, Brynn, as she has taken on the bulk of the cooking). And that's before actually getting to the city. Throw in a subway, bus or bike ride and you have five exhausted, hungry people who have eaten all their lunch long ago. With no option to grab a quick bite out to "hold us over 'til dinner", it can be a bit of a desperate situation on the way home.
Complication #6 - Foreign lands
Try reading labels to avoid carrageenan and other restricted ingredients in a different language. Comment dites-vous "soy lecithin" en Francais? Grocery shopping in Montreal ends up taking A LONG TIME, let alone trying to do some kilogram to pound, Canadian dollar to US conversion so you know how much you're spending.
So you see, this Whole 30 thing ain't easy. In fact, we easily could have convinced ourselves that this was just not the right time to start such a program considering all of the missed dining opportunities while traveling and visiting friends, as well as the challenges amplified by living life on the road at a frantic pace.
But when, honestly, would any of us say, "You know, Whole 30 would be a lot of fun right now. I can't think of a single challenge or complication we'd face in the upcoming 30 days." Even the Amish family I enjoyed some homemade ice cream with earlier in our travels would likely find Whole 30 challenging.
So why'd we do it? Because in the end, the best time to accomplish something, and really the only time to accomplish something, is NOW. Tomorrow is always a day away, and is often used as an excuse to delay. If you have something in life you want to achieve, do it NOW! Don't consider the obstacles. Consider the accomplishment.
And yes, we'll still be at the "Donut Farm" when Whole 30 concludes, at which point I'll promptly enjoyed 30 holed donuts.
*See Jim Gaffigan's "Spray Cheese" bit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iGjTWS7a1ZU
A very special thank you to Brynn for all the hard work she put in to making this Whole 30 program a reality for us. Though Canadian poutine fries are tempting, we have been eating like royalty some nights. I had marlin steak for the first time as a side dish to an incredible beef stew last night. What a treat!