Healthy Eating On A Backpacker Budget in Australia
When you travel, you sometimes scrimp on the quality of the food that you buy, in that you can't always afford the freshest most healthiest options. But you still fork out for random takeaways now and again, because, let's face it, cooking is time-consuming and when your hungry, you don't fancy walking round the supermarket trying to formulate a mouth-watering recipe. You just wanna eat.
We lived like this for the most part of our first 6 months travelling, regularly making the most of the $5 domino's... which co-incidentally was when we were staying mostly in hostels and campsites, some of which were difficult to cook in: always competing for burners, using pots and pans that have had the most basic of backpacker washes, and having not much space to store all the food you would like to be cooking. This can end up being not only inconvenient, but also kinda expensive and lead to you to multiple visits to the shops/local pizza place, more than once a week.
A shopping trip that costs $30 doesn't seem like a lot at the time but if you do this 3 times a week, then add on alcohol spending plus impulse purchases, it is a hefty chunk of your savings down the toilet. Literally.
Since settling in Noosa for an extended period, moving into a house with a fully-equipped kitchen, and being generally busy working/blogging/flailing about in the sea, we have embarked on a healthier eating challenge. We spend a fair bit of money, in one go, on a weekly shop. But we think this works out not only economically but it means we are prepared better and don't end up making bad choices.
- We always make a meal plan, and then a shopping list.
- We rarely deviate from the list or buy into deals on things we wouldn't normally buy.
- We have a rough budget in mind and avoiding those tempting offers help us stick to it.
We currently shop at Coles, even though Aldi is nearby too, but it is definitely too much of a trek for a weekly shop (seeing as we carry it all back in our rucksacks). The delivery for food from the supermarkets is super expensive so we prefer the 30 minute round-trip rather than an extra $40 a month.
A Typical Week Of Food Shopping
This shop came to $90.83. There's a range of things, including salad vegetables, fruit, beans, sugar-free hot coco, red hot sauce, bread, eggs, and some spices. I also did a mini shop the day before (as we had no food at all and I needed din din's) costing $18.57 for some Kale, milk, a massive block of cheese for Taran the cheese fiend, plus some potatoes and tempeh.
What You Can Make From All That Food...
Taran is on a strict pasta and cheese diet, with occasional fruit smoothies. I am trying to get him to consider eating less of the beige carb's and more greens but it's a slow process. When I think Taran, I think pasta. The guy single-handedly keeps spaghetti in business. I am however eating a bit differently to how I have in the past. I now eat with more consideration for what's in my food and I have finally fought my unhealthy cravings into submission over the last few weeks.
A typical lunch or dinner now consists of mostly vegetables and legumes, and maybe some dairy.
A favourite is some brown rice with kidney beans plus roasted sweet potato and salad. It's filling but most importantly, not processed. It also isn't a restrictive diet meal, as it has a generous helping of carbohydrates. I generally snack on fruit only between meals, or in the afternoon if I don't have lunch I might have some rice crackers with capsicum (red pepper) dip on top. I'd like to make my own in the future though, to avoid even more hidden nasties.
For breakfast I have my old faithful, peanut butter (organic) on whole-wheat bread (I check the label to ensure the primary ingredient is 100% wholegrain or whole-wheat flour) with a banana.
Taran might have cereal or nutella on toast, which I can't argue, remains a deliciously terrible craving of mine. I am not currently having any 'treats' per se, but I do genuinely enjoy my bowls of fresh watermelon and berries, providing more than enough sugar in my diet.
One of our favourite meals we have together is falafel.
We put it with pitta, wraps, home-made salsa and salad, plus cheese for Taran. The salsa is just tomato, garlic (wow did we have garlic), onions, coriander and some jalapeno pepper. We mixed it all up and blended it briefly to combine the mixture.
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Why I Decided to Change Things.
I was sat on the bed one night recently, having overeaten again. I had stuffed myself to beyond fullness during my evening meal and some more snacking afterwards. I think I have always had a problem with over-eating, often happening when I was bored or down. Maybe there's something wrong with the message delivery between my stumach and my brain, always being a bit late to tell it that I can stop eating. Or maybe I just always eat too fast and don't allow that message to get through (nutritional advice for weight-loss often centers on slow eating and savouring your meals more).
Either way, I felt really gross that night. I was 6 months pregnant with a fatty-food baby.
What I wanted to achieve from a change in my eating habits, was firstly, to just know that I was putting better things into my body. I have been educating myself on food and nutrition lately, and have been able to see just how what you eat is so tied up to your mood, and the quality of your life, that it would be crazy to not make some changes.
It's easy to stick to the same eating habits we have always known, especially if we don't experience any overwhelming negative symptoms, but years of certain habits create the perfect situation for illness in later life.
Years of high sugar consumption lead to pre-diabetes early on in life which then leads to type 2 diabetes (this super interesting book I'm reading shed's light on the relationship between lowering blood sugar and totally reversing diabetes).
Of course bad eating habits also lead to a number of other illnesses, from fatty liver disease, to heart disease, to cancer. But knowing that reducing your intake of sugar could mean you can almost totally prevent some illnesses (including diabetes which leads to limb loss and blindness).
In the present though, bad habits strip you of energy and impact the way your brain works in the short-term.
When you have only ever engaged in bad eating habits, you don't actually know what it feels like to be firing on all cylinders.
I wanted more energy, a better attention span, and to lose weight. So far, I have felt clearer-minded, I can get through my day without sugar crashes, and I go to bed feeling satiated. I also feel slimmer, which whilst a major incentive has become a fringe benefit.
I know some people will pick apart my eating habits, saying that carb's are starchy and bad for you, dairy is bad for you, basically not being on an entirely plant-based vegan diet means I am just failing at a true healthy diet.
But these dietary changes have been the most easy to stick to compared to any I have done in the past. I make solidly healthy choices 95% of the time and when I do buckle and 'cheat', I don't actually enjoy it. The things I once craved simply don't enter my mind. I didn't really believe it when people said that the cleaner you eat, the cleaner you want to eat, but it appears to be true so far.
It also helps that I don't count calories. I believe in portion-control but also don't limit myself during meal-time too much, seeing as it makes up the bulk of what I eat in a day now that I forego snacking.
Most importantly, I am not consuming processed products, I am making everything from scratch, I am eating more vegetables and fruit, I am not adding salt or sugar to my foods or drinks, and dairy is only a small part of my plate each meal.
I feel like I have adapted really well to my new habits, and my motivation to be healthier is having a great impact on me physically. No longer do I practically fall asleep after each meal, or do I spend my entire evening feeling disgustingly bloated knowing I have consumed way more than my body needed. I enjoy my meals but food is no longer the be-all and end-all of my day. It is fuel for my body and my mind, and is no longer consumed just for the sake of it.
The result of these changes means I basically desire less of the crap by filling myself up with the good. Plus we spend a bit less overall on food, and no longer make impulse purchases. We don't waste money on filling up our tanks with shitty fuel.
I won't never eat the bad again, but the cheats don't really feel so tempting anymore. If I can make healthier and cheaper versions of my favourite bad foods I will endeavour to, and share them here when I do!
Thanks for reading!
Hannah and Taran here. We hail from Southern England, where we met online and are now realizing our mutual passion for travel here at Nomad'erHowFar. We discuss Nomadic Living, Simplifying your Life and Long-term Travel, to empower, motivate and inspire our readers. Get to know us here!
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