Somewhere in between Ann Arbor and Omaha, I learned the secret that would change the way I eat and plan my meals.
I don’t remember exactly where I was, because the whole book tour was something of a blur — 40 cities in 50 days to promote No Meat Athlete when it was published in 2013.
It was a different hotel every night. Sometimes with a fridge, sometimes not. No kitchens. No dishes. No blenders.
Basically, nothing that resembled the comfortable food routine I had at home. And as you can imagine, vegan restaurants aren’t exactly plentiful in places like Wisconsin and Nebraska (though Omaha actually surprised me).
So I learned an important rule for driving across the country as a vegan: when you find a good grocery store, stock up. On foods that you can eat on the go, with no prep.
Very quickly, I learned what foods worked best in the car to keep me from resorting to junk:
- Fresh fruit
- Fresh vegetables
- Hummus (I’d eat it fast because it wouldn’t last more than a day without a fridge)
- Trail mix (the raw kind, because I figured if my nutrition was going to suffer, raw would be better than roasted)
- Smoothies made from just fruit (the pre-made kind — definitely not ideal, but a way to get a lot of good calories quickly)
- Giant salads from the salad bar — I’d grab enough to last for two meals, dump a bunch of chickpeas on top, and if I was lucky enough to be at a Whole Foods, add some oil-free tahini garlic dressing.
- Anything cracker-like but still healthy (could be baked corn chips, Wasa crispbreads, rice cakes, etc.)
Here’s what’s interesting. For the first few days of eating this way, I kept thinking of this as the in-between. A way to survive between “real” meals.
But gradually I came to a realization: that on these in-between, do-what-you-can days, I was eating healthier than I ate at home!
Fruits. Vegetables. Beans. Raw nuts and seeds. Whole grains. And little or no added oils.
In other words, the stuff just about every famous vegan doctor will tell you is the healthiest you can eat.
And yet I wasn’t spending energy thinking about protein, fat, or carbs. Not eating “square” meals. And spending literally zero time cooking or washing dishes.
I was putting less time and energy into food, but eating better than ever. And feeling absolutely fantastic, and full of energy, as I kept up this extremely frantic book tour schedule with talks and meet-and-greet type stuff (where you have to constantly be “on”) almost every night, and hours in the car in between.
This is when it hit me: The healthier you eat, the simpler it becomes.
I had been doing it wrong. Not totally wrong — I still made good choices back then — but just putting too much effort into time-consuming meals that don’t do as much good as much, much simpler ones.
So once I got home? No, I didn’t swear off cooked, delicious dinners or throw away my cookbook collection or anything extreme like that — I still love cooking new recipes on weekends, and no matter how “minimal” I make my diet, I’ll always value sitting down with my wife and kids for a hot dinner.
But breakfast, lunches, and snacks … I’ve simplified, and drastically. So much so that even if we still spend 30 minutes making dinner each night, all the rest of our food during the day is handled in 10 minutes or less, total (no exaggeration).
And, crucially, it’s the healthiest food you can eat. Not fancy superfoods or hard-to-find, expensive and exotic ingredients. But good, whole food I feel great about eating — and even more importantly — about feeding my kids.
So if you find yourself with the issues that pretty much everyone who pays attention to what they eat finds themselves with — not enough time to plan and cook, worrying about variety or that you’re eating snacks all the time, or stressing over macros — you can relieve a great deal of stress by recognizing that a lot of it is an illusion. Square meals, the constant need for (too much) variety, and worst of all, the “numbers” approach to food … it’s all just junk that we’ve been fed, so to speak.
And if you’re willing to go against the grain by streamlining most of your meals down to a few whole foods, “combined” more than cooked, I think you’ll begin to experience what I have. That you can have healthy, quick, and stress-free, without making compromises. And the more you do it, the better you feel, and the more motivated you become to go even further.
Introducing Health Made Simple, a Different Kind of Meal Plan Program
Note: This program is currently closed
I’m happy to announce that after a year of work, my friend and certified nutritionist Sid Garza-Hillman just opened the doors to our first-ever plant-based meal plan program.
It’s called Health Made Simple, because, well … that’s what it is. Healthy, plant-based food, yes, but presented in five different meal plans built for simplicity above all else. And combined with personalized nutrition coaching via live Q&A sessions, to help our members adapt the plans to their particular needs and lifestyles.
We’re running a great offer for our first “charter” members, now through the end of the day on Thursday, April 21st.
If healthy and simple sounds like what you need, learn more about Health Made Simple here. (Note: This program is currently closed)
(Or to hear more from me and Sid about our “simple health” philosophy, you can listen to a 3-part interview with Sid that we released on NMA Radio last week.)
Here’s to eating simply!