at 21:20 last night, i returned back to los angeles, fifteen days after i left on what was my first european backpacking trip. being an active member of the fitness/health community, i am grateful to know many dedicated and inspiring individuals who stay committed to their nutrition and exercise regimens when they travel. prior to leaving on this trip, i ate a 90% vegan diet and worked out for an average of two hours every day. it’s a beneficial and sustainable lifestyle for me and it’s more a passion of mine than an obligation. that being said, i elected to Not keep up with these habits while traveling. i wanted to fully immerse and experience the cultures and ways of life of the places i visited, and, in retrospect, this is one of the best decisions i made. yes, i miss my active and healthy lifestyle and yes, i am kind of shocked i don;t weigh 400 pounds, but i honestly loved every moment of being in europe eating and drinking and Not exercising. you don’t need to punish or starve yourself for enjoying your life in these ways, you just come home with different goals.
the first thing i had planned to do upon landing in my lovely hometown was go to the beach and drink champagne to celebrate a happy homecoming and a wonderful trip; gratitude is a big part of my life and something that’s pretty important to me to think about and express. long story longer, that didn’t end up happening, but i instead made some good plane friends, met the usa water polo team, and got to explore a little of washington dc on what turned out to be an extended layover. i made a plan the next day to go to tan early yoga class, for a hike, and then to the farmer’s market to get myself out of the pizza-wine-pasta carbs-on-carbs life and back to something more what i am accustomed to.
meal-prepping with farmer’s market shopping can happen one of two ways: either you make a firm menu (and get whatever you can from the farmer;s market, knowing you’ll have to stop by someplace else on the way home) or you make a firm shopping location (where you treat the farmer’s market like the only food in your fridge and see what you can make with it). option one is easier and, actually, quicker, while option two is more time consuming and energy-intensive but is more creative and fun.
to begin with i pick a couple plant-based dishes i might want to eat in the next week. after a cursory glance around the farmer’s market, i saw bunches of basil and heirloom tomatoes on sale and built my menu around that. you can (and i used to) go super militant and every bite you take each day, but now i opt for a more lenient meal planning model where i make x amount of food each kitchening session and my task is to eat it within the week.
“the key to successful meal-planning is to allow for some flexibility. plan so that you can improvise“
the meals i picked were: tomato basil spiralized zucchini noodles and new orleans style sauteed okra. i gathered whatever i could at the market, and picked up the rest of the ingredients later. both of these thing are stupid easy to make.
tomato basil zucchini noodles.
- 3 medium zucchini
- 4 medium tomatoes
- large bunch of basil
- white onion (you’ll use half)
- garlic (to taste)
- grapeseed oil
- salt, pepper, seasonings of your choice
heat oil over medium heat until hot, and add onion and garlic. cook until fragrant and tenderish. while that’s happening, spiralize zuzzhini (you can also use a mandolin).
add tomatoes and seasonings of your choice. sautee until tender. (i like to add some red wine here, for a little extra flavour, but you can add water. simmer for around 10 minutes, just to reduce.)
top with basil and cracked black pepper. (you can also add cheese here, if you;re into that.)
when i have the time and energy (and the wine and jazz music and preferably a kitchening-partner) i love to make my own marinara (i’ll post that recipe later) but it takes a while to make it good and this is a quick alternative with a few simple fresh ingredients that doesn’t taste like you rushed through a half- assed version of a good marinara. i say “tenderish” on purpose here — you want this to taste fresh and even a little undercooked so the favour stays bright.
new orleans okra.
- 1/2 lb. raw okra
- white onion (you’ll use half)
- garlic (to taste)
- 1 can italian style dices tomatoes
- grapeseed oil, salt, pepper, seasonings
heat oil over medium heat until hot.
add onions and garlic, cook until tender.
slice okra into thick, even slices, cook until softish.
add diced tomatoes and simmer.
this is maybe the easiest vegetable dish ever, the key here too is not too cook the hell out of your okra. it’s slimy and weird enough as it is, no need to exacerbate that situation.
nutrition is only half the health battle; the other crucial part is physical activity. returning from a vacation is a perfect time to modify or reinvent your strength-training regimen. the internet is filled with ideas about when, how, and how often to work your muscle groups. try a couple things out first and see what fits. improvisation is key here too, if something isn’t working, don’t force it: it’s not quitting, it’s re-working. in theory, i alternate upper and lower body strengthening in the following 4x a week format:
- chest and triceps
- legs (quad focus)
- back and biceps
- legs (glute focus)
in an ideal world, your anterior and posterior chain would need the same amount of conditioning; maybe yours do. if so, the above model is perfect. if not, you can modify a little to incorporate more of what you need. in my case, my anterior chain is slightly overactive and my posterior slightly underactive, so i take out some quad exercises and add more ham/glute exercises on both of my legs days.