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November 19, 2023

The Tree Planting Series V – What I Eat in a Day as A Gluten Free Vegetarian Planter

This series was started so my family and friends have a more clear idea of what I am doing as a tree planter and turned into something else. So many people reach out to me with similar questions, so by now I just end up writing about those things people keep asking and fascinates my mind to turn it into an article.

As a vegetarian for 20 years, living with Celiacs it became of an interest of people what I eat on a daily basis, especially with a job so phisically demanding as tree planting and other forestry jobs I do when we aren’t planting (like brushing, etc) so I thought the next part of the tree planting series could be a little peek into my day food wise.

I am that type of person who just needs to eat. All-the-time. Period.

Since tree planting is an arduous job it will inevitably tax your body, so you need to make sure you give it enough and proper nutrition. Since I am vegetarian and have to eat gluten free it makes food prepping  a wee bit more challenging, but is totally doable.

In brief, I noticed that during the day I perform best when my body is fueled on glucose and eat most of my protein and carbs after work, which is important for the recovery for the muscles. Supplementing is important too, but have to do it the right way and I had to make many mistakes to learn to do that properly. But we get to that later.

On day offs I can happily strive on two large meals a day, a big brunch around 10 am and something nutritious around 6 or 7 pm would do it. On planting days this won’t cut it. I usually end up with 6 or more meals.

Depending on how far the site is from our accommodation I either have breakfast at home or prepare my breakkie ahead in a jar and consume it on the way, eating it latest 30 minutes before arriving to site to have time to digest it.

Most of the times my breakfast looks the same: plain plant based yogurt, vegan protein powder, gluten free oats or granola with seasonal fruits (mostly banana, apples, or dried fruits), and here and there a tiny spoon of honey, PB or jam to sweeten. A cup of coffee or tea with honey and plant milk and a glass of orange juice.

Lots of carbohydrates my body can use well for long and short term energy. I try not to eat too much in the morning, otherwise I find yourself waddling around.

Then snack or “baby food time” as we call it with my boyfriend around 10am when I normally get hangry if I don’t have anything to eat (and trust me, you don’t want to experience that), so I always keep a little pack of pureed fruits with me (hence baby food) or if I need more energy I hide an extra candy bar in my pocket, most likely a Snickers bar. Always make sure that I drink my water after the Snickers because it feels awful to have that sweet, sticky feeling on my teeth and in my mouth after.

Lunch is different every day, usually leftovers from dinner the day before. Sometimes I make me 3 sandwiches from gluten free toast bread with cereals. 2 savory sandos made of hummus, pesto or mustard, with lettuce, rockets or spinach, paprika or sun dried tomatoes and fried, seasoned tofu slices. Sometimes I steal from the cheese of my boyfriend, too. And one with peanut butter and jam. (I just have to have something sweet after meals.) Of course, some fruit for dessert –  I love mandarines and oranges or apples with PB. In the summer I drink water with lunch, in colder months hot tea and sometimes a little coffee.

Some days I make a huge salad with mixed greens, peppers, olives, tomatoes, beans and sauce with stir fried veggies like bell peppers, courgette or even mushrooms and beans to have a little more, as just the leftovers are not always enough.

I rarely have snack in the afternoons, but the baby food and a snickers bar is always hiding in there, just in case I would need it. Then we head home and if we stop to shop I can rarely stop myself from buying potato chips and eat it all in the car, but mostly I eat some dark chocolate right after getting home. In cold months, I love to make myself an instant miso soup to warm up my body from inside. In the summer I love to eat watermelon after work. This summer I really got hooked on GF baguette dipped in olive oil with salt, sun dried tomatoes, olives and Comte cheese on the side. And grapes!

For dinner I usually have GF pasta, potatoes or rice with roasted or fried veggies and tomato sauce or hummus and a bowl of salad to accompany it. I always make sure there’s protein in my dishes, so I add beans, mushrooms, lentils, chick peas or tofu in whatever I cook. Sometimes a good, hearty curry with loads of veggies and tofu is good for my soul too.

And to top that, dessert is plain yogurt (vegan or sheep/goat yogurt because cow’s milk just effs up my digestion), with chestnut cream (it became my favorite in France) and a nice cup of green tea after.

Before my period I always add extra eggs and tuna into lunch and dinner because my body is craving it.

In my bag, I always carry with me dried fruits and trail mix, just in case.

I always make sure to get my vitamins and minerals, too especially in the winter so I make sure to add a good amount of garlic to my dishes when I feel getting sick. I add more salt to my food than I would normal to avoid salt depletion.I like to add spirulina in my breakfast too (or mix it with pineapple juice) or other vegetable powders and when I’m very tired I make a shot from activated charcoal, lemon juice and a little water.

I add honey, lemon or lime juice to my tea, often add apple cider vinegar to my water and a glass of water with Berocca tablet with dinner. I always make sure to drink electrolytes too after work (I learned not to drink them during the day, especially when it’s very hot ‘cos I always ended up sick or getting sun stroke). And of course, don’t forget the magnesium pill before bed, it helps with good sleep too. Overall, I try to drink a liter of water before work (preferably before breakfast but it doesn’t always work out), during the day at least 2 more liters (at summer it went up to 5L while brushing) and at least 1 or 2 more after work. It might sound a lot but making sure I am well hydrated makes a huge difference.

In the end, the most important is to listen to my body. There are days when I feel like eating shit food like chocolates and chips and cookies, other days I feel like eating salad and fruits only. The body knows best, so like it or not you have to learn to listen to it. Some days I eat nothing at all all day while I’m planting and it feels amazing but it only works on those days when my body is telling me to do so. If I feel like eating less, I eat less, when I feel like eating more I allow myself to eat as much as my body needs. When I feel like having an extra dose of protein shake, i give it to myself.

In the end, tree planting is much like an endurance sport, that can last up to 10 hours a day… I kinda consider my body as a machine, and honestly I don’t mind any cents I spend on food and supplements because it’s worth it. The better I fuel my machine, the better it works.

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