Welcome to Part 2 of my series: Eating Healthy on Vacation.
Part 2 covers "When you are the cook", aka "When you have control".
Let's face it, when you are cooking at home, you have control over what goes into your food and what you eat. Traveling has a whole other set of problems. I went over my method of controlling my food on an 18-hour day of driving and flights (basically, take all your own food). Now I'm going to review my methods when I'm the cook.
We spent a week with my stepfather. He doesn't cook, so I did the cooking. This is a good thing! However I had to navigate some picky eating - his and mine. And my brother's family was over for dinner a couple of times, resulting in my cooking for 8 or 9 people. This wasn't too terrible because I normally batch-cook anyway. There were just no leftovers.
The difficulty in a new place is the type and quality of food. My options were Walmart and... Walmart. (That's not totally true, there is a farmstand and family gardens.) My stepdad insisted on buying vegetables ahead of time, which is hard when he doesn't eat them. I am picky about my veggies. I get very high quality in California (hello CSA!) So when in other places, I am likely to look at the veggies, and the price, and make choices. For example, I may go in looking for cucumbers and peppers, but leave with cauliflower and carrots, because they look better.
That meant I was doing a LOT of winging it with what he got. He generally wasn't interested in the veggies himself, so I tried to make what we had tasty. Here's what I made:
raw veggies: peppers, carrots, cucumbers (from his and my sister's gardens) with hummus
Greek salad (onion, peppers, cucumber, olives, tomatoes)
Sauteed frozen broccoli
Sauerkraut and kielbasa (homemade sauerkraut from my BIL!)
Baked chicken tenders with hashbrowns
I also went to a family party (took the Greek salad to it). My siblings brought lots of yummy foods, homemade mostly. I tend to give myself one meal "off" a week, so I don't need to stress in that situation. And I didn't! I also have a bunch of recipes saved for later. There was cowboy beans, pulled pork, jalapeno dip, corn pudding, pie, meatball sandwiches, veggies and hummus, salads...
The big difficulty during this week was the junk food - candy, cookies, chips, gatorade, soda, beer. (This was also a challenge for the second half of the trip.) It's hard to say no to it all the time, and my 9 year old is a gatorade fiend (we almost NEVER buy it). I ended up hiding the candy so that they didn't know about it, and they only really had chips or cookies a couple of times. I admit to a beer (or a few) and some sodas. The liquid calories were the killer all around, especially gatorade for the big kiddo. The little one was fine with water and milk.
It's hard to say no when it is there! This is why my #1 recommendation for anyone trying to lose weight or be healthy is this - KEEP IT OUT OF THE HOUSE. Now, there are some things that I didn't realize would even be tempting - like the soda! I don't drink it anymore. But it was. Seriously tempting. Because: there it is, staring at you.
Many people don't want to "deprive" their spouse or kids of the junk food, so they still buy it, and are still tempted. I say "what??" I mean the spouse and kids can get it EVERYWHERE - so let them eat it out of the house! Not stocking it doesn't mean they never get it.
All in all, I did pretty well this week. It's nice when you have control. Then, when it's hot out, you can enjoy a little ice cream.