Sunday, April 18, 2010
Diet and Nutrition
mmmm food, one of my favourite subjects!
when it comes to nutrition, having less high quality food is better than having more empty calories and fillers. for me, having the best of the best is key. eating the same thing every day will eventually take it's toll and make you weak and ill. it's important to get as much variety and colour as possible when you choose your food. and by colour i mean fruits and vegetables!
this topic is a heavy one, there are so many factors that could determine how you will eat. whether or not you have money is a big one, but i make it a point to have money to buy food. whether or not you have a place to store your food, if you're living from a backpack or from a vehicle will make a difference too. what kind of gear you have will determine if you can cook your own food, or if you'll have to get cooked food elsewhere.. or eat raw or dried foods.
first things first
let's start with covering the basics. first of all, if you don't think you will be able to get the variety of foods you will need, multi-vitamins or supplements might be a good investment. if you're like me and you prefer the most natural route possible, then you will want to do a little research to find the most nutrient dense foods. naturally, the better the quality of the food, the more you are going to pay for it. you get what you pay for though, trust me, it's worth it.
two things that i like to have on me at all times are hulled hemp and local bee pollen. i have provided links so that you can see the health benefits of both, each has an array of vitamins, minerals, amino acids and proteins that will keep you healthy and your immune system strong. you can sprinkle them on whatever it is you're eating to make sure you get your vital nutrients. these aren't the only superfoods out there, just two of my favourites.
fresh food is the best food, always. living un-processed raw food, is the best thing that you can give your body period. and it's pretty easy to find. it's cheap, plentiful, and everywhere. if you're in a concrete jungle, chances are there's farmer's markets, fresh food markets, and foreign cultured areas of town, which are good places to find fresh cheap deliciousness. at the China Town markets in Toronto, little goes to waste. when fruit is too overripe to sell, they simply bag it up, sometimes 2 or 3 pounds a bag or more depending on the fruit.. and sell that whole bag for a dollar. you can get a couple days worth out of it if you go through and eat the most overripe pieces first.
if you're not so much in the city, then you can find wild and edible plants to add to your diet. there are plenty of wild fruit trees, berries, herbs and roots to be found. make sure you learn what is edible in your area before you go eating unfamiliar plants though, needless to say. true however.
in the town i live in there are inner city paths everywhere. one of the main ones runs up an area of town between back yards all the way to the lake, an old fire route. nearly every back yard facing onto this path has gardens, both decorative and food. many even have old fruit trees from the orchards that once existed. i walk this path so often my face has become familiar with many of the kind elderfolk who tend to these gardens. if i happen to be passing by while they're picking up fallen pears or collecting green beans or tomatoes, they will offer to give a few to taste. they're kind, but also what producer of food doesn't like to hear that they've done a good job. offering to help with gardening in exchange for some of the bounty might sound like a long shot, but there's no harm in asking.
if you live in Canada, just about any province besides BC, then you have likely heard of Bulk Barn. this is quite possibly my favourite chain store in the whole world ever. there's something similar in BC called Weigh to Go Bulk Foods... basically any type of food store where you scoop and weigh out how much you want. you can take a little or a lot of anything, however much you need and can afford. it's mostly dry food, which is good for living out of a backpack.
i try to keep a few mixed snacks in my backpack at all times, a habit i keep from hiking and backpacking. variety still being key of course. i'll have some type of dried fruit, some kind of nut mix or granola mix, and a little bit of chocolate in some form. it's a sweet treat and a morale booster, and it kills a caffeine headache.
depending on your gear, you could get dried pastas or soup mixes if you have a camp stove. there are super lightweight camp stoves out there that can fit in a pocket, like the MSR pocket rocket. a friend of mine used one of these with a small metal camp cup to heat food and boil water for his cowboy coffee. on the western Canada backpacking voyage we became a good fan of dry pasta mixes like 'sidekicks'. they come in a variety of pasta and rice flavours, so it takes a while to get sick of them. also oatmeal is super cheap and good for you. paired with an apple [or hey some of those dried fruits] it's a filling, high energy start to the day.
fast food is gross, and not actually food, so don't make it a staple. sometimes it's cheap, quick and satisfying which is good if there is no other options, or if you're just feeling some mickey D's it could be one of those treats to boost your morale. mom and pop restaurants are way better, and you usually get better quality *actual* food for the same price. sometimes cheaper. there's greasy spoon restaurants everywhere that will serve your bacon eggs and toast for as little as 2 bucks.
every place has something that's cheap, and good, and everywhere. in Vancouver BC for instance, there seems to be a competition going to see who can have the biggest, best and cheapest pizza slices on the block. the pizza joints are everywhere! my favourite is one on West Pender called FM Classic Pizza, where they sell all kinds of flavours of fresh pizza for a buck a slice, and the slices are huge. they're always super fresh too, cause the place is always steady busy. in fact it's pretty much world famous, type it in google and it will pop up before you've typed the 'a' in classic.
in Halifax [on the other coast] there's a lot of indian food places, and they all have huge awesome cheap samosas. good luck finding a cheap slice of pizza though, or a good one for that matter. oh and oat cakes, they're everywhere! you could literally go into any corner store and they would have both samosas and oat cakes fresh on the counter. 5 bucks would get me 2 or 3 samosas and a couple oat cakes which would last me the whole day. don't forget to check out places that have slices or ready made foods at the end of the night, you could get leftovers for half price or free. seek out the deals, you can eat cheaply and still enjoy every bite.
we all get a little broke sometimes. there's free food to be found and foraged if you know where to look. in VanCity there's almost always something for free at a transit station or skytrain stops. it's usually full sized products that they give away too, not just a sample size. i've gotten free cups of yogurt complete with spoon, free energy bars, snack mix packets, coupons for free products, i even once seen a van parked at a skytrain station giving out free full sized mcain frozen pizzas to a long line of people. had i anywhere to cook said pizzas at the time i might have gotten in line. they're always at the exits though, to give to transit customers. you can still walk right up and ask for some, they don't care who they give the samples to, it's their job to get rid of them. catch them at the end of their shift or at a slow time and you might get two or three.
there's always soup kitchens if you're willing to get in line. some cities aren't as hard to get into the soup kitchens as others. Our Daily Bread at the Kootenay Christian Fellowship in Nelson BC is by far the best soup kitchen out there, right in the middle of the hippie capital of Canada. they always serve a main course with meatless as an option, a salad and bean sprouts, some type of bread product, coffee and water, and a dessert. there's also a table at the back with day-over loaves of gourmet bread to take home, and sometimes overripe fruits and snacks. in my town there's a Salvation Army that charges based on your income.
there's an Out-of-the-Cold program in the winter that rotates churches each night to provide dinner and shelter. seek out all and any free food programs, make a list of when they run and plan your days to get around to where the meals are. see if your town has a Food Not Bombs group hangin' around. they prepare mostly vegetarian and vegan food and serve it free to anyone who is hungry.
don't forget the old saying, one man's trash is another man's treasure.. or feast! learn about dumpster diving, freeganism, and urban foraging. we in North America live in the most wasteful societies ever to walk the face of the planet. take advantage of this, and make use of that waste. food that's a day over expiry doesn't instantly turn to poison, it may be a little stale but it's still good to eat. exercise common sense and check that what you're eating isn't spoiled or rotten and you're good to go.