Vanlife – Food Hacks to Eat Healthy

Vanlife – Food Hacks to Eat Healthy

Written by: Dominique Paquette
@v.for.vanlife (Guest Writer and Podcast Guest Ep 86 Vanlife – Food Hacks to Eat Healthy)
Edited and updated by Sandra Gentleman, RD


Vanlife is a growing trend for people who want some adventures on the road and to explore and see new places. Being away from home can present some challenges to eating healthy and staying well, but, with careful planning and preparation, eating on the road, through van living can be fun. Vanlife meals can be healthy and satisfying.

Although the limited space and resources may pose some challenges, with careful planning and creativity, you can maintain a nutritious diet with vanlife meals.

Eating healthfully while living in a van or practicing vanlife is definitely possible!

Dominique Paquette is a woman who lives in her van in the summer and travels across the continent annually to visit her sons. Her two grown boys both live in the Pacific Northwest and she has been travelling across Canada for the past three summers in her van to spend time with them.

Through her experience and passion for the lifestyle, she offers some personal suggestions and practical hacks for eating well with vanlife meals!

Here are some tips:

1. Plan your meals

Before hitting the road, you can plan some meals for the day or for the next few days. This will ensure you have a well-balanced diet and you can make a shopping list accordingly.

2. Choose nutritious staples

Stock your van with water and healthy staples like whole grains (quinoa, brown rice), canned beans, nuts, seeds, dried fruits, canned fish, and fresh produce that can last a few days without refrigeration (apples, oranges, carrots, etc.).

3. A well-thought-out kitchen in a van is definitely a plus

If you are not quite there yet in your van design and conversion, invest in portable kitchen equipment: Get some space-saving kitchen essentials like a portable stove, a cooler or fridge, and cooking utensils to make food preparation easier. Tiny cooking accessories for vanlife meals can also come in handy for maximizing space in the van.

4. Opt for whole food options

Instead of relying on processed or pre-packaged foods, focus on whole foods like fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. These can be easily stored and prepared in small spaces.

5. Make use of local markets and farm stands

Explore local farmer’s markets or farm stands along your travels. They often offer fresh, seasonal produce, which is not only healthy but also supports local businesses.

6. Cook in batches

Save time and maximize resources by cooking vanlife meals in batches. Preparing larger quantities of meals will minimize cooking time and allow for easy reheating.

7. Utilize outdoor cooking

Take advantage of the great outdoors by cooking over a campfire or using a portable grill. Grilling vegetables, fish, or lean meats can add flavor and variety to your meals.

8. Make sure you have potable water

Carry a refillable water bottle and refill whenever possible to avoid reliance on single-use plastic bottles.

9. Don’t forget about snacks

Pack nutritious snacks like trail mix, granola bars, fresh fruits, or cut-up vegetables to curb hunger between meals. This will keep you fueled and prevent unhealthy cravings.

10. Stay flexible and adaptable

Embrace the vanlife mindset by being open to local food experiences. Explore new cuisines, try local specialties, and enjoy the culinary diversity that comes with traveling.

By incorporating these tips into your vanlife journey, you can maintain a healthy and well-balanced diet. Remember, it’s all about planning, making smart choices, and being intentional with your food choices. Enjoy the adventure while nourishing your body!

Learn more by tuning in to Ep 86 of My Wife the Dietitian to hear about vanlife meals during our interview with Dominique.

Listen in to Episode

#86 on My Wife the Dietitian Vanlife – Food Hacks to Eat Healthy, Dominique Paquette

Podcast – Sandra Gentleman, or on YouTube.

My Wife the Dietitian
Greek Yogurt vs Regular Yogurt: Which is Better for You?

Greek Yogurt vs Regular Yogurt: Which is Better for You?

By: Aly Bouzek, MS, RDN
Edited and updated by Sandra Gentleman, RD

Greek vs Regular Yogurt: Which is Better for You?

Chances are, if you’ve ever walked past the refrigerated section in a grocery store, that you have noticed the yogurt section. Looking a little closer, you likely saw that there were not only different flavors of yogurt, but also different types of yogurt.

Greek yogurt and regular yogurt have many similarities. But they also have many differences from nutrient content, to texture, to health benefits, to use as substitutes in recipes.

Follow along as we dive deeper into these two protein-laden dairy products.

What is Yogurt?

Yogurt is a popular dairy food that is produced by fermenting milk with bacteria. It has become so popular, in fact, that the United States’s yogurt sales rose to more than 7.2 billion dollars in 2021 (up from almost 5.6 billion in 2011).

Why is yogurt so popular? Its popularity stems from its versatility in dishes, as well as being known by the general public as a “healthy food.” The two main types of yogurt that you will see in a grocery store’s refrigerated section are Greek yogurt and regular (cow’s milk) yogurt.

Note that you will likely see more variety in yogurt types when visiting a health food store, a health market, a specialized grocery store, etc.

(For more specifics on yogurt as a general topic, visit our Soy Yogurt article).

Nutrient Profiles: Greek vs Regular Yogurt

Yogurt is a good source of calcium, protein, and other nutrients. When comparing Greek vs regular yogurt, their nutrient profiles are slightly different. This is due to the way each type of yogurt is made.

While regular yogurt is made by fermenting milk with bacteria, Greek yogurt is actually made by straining out whey with a cheesecloth. Let’s learn more below.

Greek Yogurt

Calcium found in yogurt is contained in the whey (the watery part) of the yogurt. Have you ever opened a yogurt container and seen the watery layer on top of the yogurt? That actually contains a great deal of calcium, and it’s intended for you to mix the watery yogurt before eating so that you are getting all the calcium provided.

Now, with Greek yogurt, by removing more of the whey (the watery part), some of the calcium is also removed. This is why Greek yogurt actually has less calcium than regular yogurt. Greek yogurt is still a good source of calcium, but if you are really needing to increase your calcium intake, then regular yogurt would be a better choice.

As far as protein is concerned, Greek yogurt has more protein vs regular yogurt as the yogurt is less watery/more dense, and thus more concentrated when it comes to protein. 6 oz of Greek yogurt provides about 17 grams of protein.

Greek yogurt is also lower in carbs when compared to regular yogurt. Additionally, Greek yogurt has about ½ the amount of sodium as compared to regular yogurt, and has less sugar.

Regular Yogurt

Regular yogurt contains more whey than Greek yogurt (remember that the whey is not strained away here, as it is for Greek yogurt). Because of this, regular yogurt can have up to 2-3x more calcium than Greek yogurt.

And since regular yogurt is not as “concentrated” as Greek yogurt, it has about 9 grams of protein per 6 oz, and has fewer calories.

The amount of fat of both types of yogurt will vary depending on how much milk fat remains after processing. Both Greek and regular yogurt come in fat content options of: non-fat, low-fat (1-2%), and whole milk fat.

Comparing nutritional content of 6 oz of plain, low-fat Greek vs regular yogurt:

Which is Right for Me?

The first thing you should consider when deciding on a type of yogurt, is your personal preferences and any health needs you may have. If you are on the hunt for a yogurt that is high in protein and also low in sugar, then Greek yogurt is a great choice.

On the other hand, if you want a yogurt that is high in calcium, low in calories, and mild-tasting, then regular yogurt may be a better choice for you.

Note that flavored yogurts may have different nutrient profiles, such as:

  • More calories
  • More sugar
  • More carbs
  • More sodium

Be sure to read all food nutrition labels before making your decision. Additionally, feel free to grab some smaller single-serving containers and do an at home taste test! Try to have a few different brands, flavors, and types of yogurt in your line-up.

Both Greek yogurt and regular yogurt are probiotics. This means that they are produced with “good/healthy” live bacteria cultures. These bacteria help to balance your gut, improve digestion, regulate bowel movements, and help improve bone health.

Nutrition benefits of Greek and regular yogurt include nutrients such as:

  • Protein
  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Potassium
  • Phosphorus
  • Riboflavin
  • Vitamin B6
  • Vitamin B12
  • Zinc

Taste & Consistency

Taste and consistency are known to make or break a relationship with yogurt. Some like their yogurt thin and smooth, while others may like their yogurt to be thick, tangy, and creamy. The good news is that with so many different kinds of yogurt, you’re bound to find one you like!

Greek yogurt is thicker, creamier, and more tangy than regular yogurt. This is because of the whey that is strained out. Removing the whey makes the yogurt more concentrated (thicker and creamier), and also plays a hand in the tangy-taste left behind.


Yogurt is such a versatile food that can be enjoyed plain or added to many different dishes. Greek yogurt is actually a great substitute for mayonnaise, sour cream, and can be used in smoothies, savory dishes, baked goods, popsicles, marinades, and more. The options are endless!

Here are some of our favorite ways to use yogurt as a flavor- and nutrient-boost:

  • Top baked or fried fish and chicken
  • Add to Alfredo sauce, marinara sauce, or toss with pasta
  • Use to help fill stuffed veggies
  • Top your spicy soup with a dollop of Greek yogurt
  • Dips, dressings, and marinades
  • Add to avocado toast
  • Use as a substitute for sour cream, cream cheese, mayonnaise, oil, butter, eggs
  • Mix with jam and add to toast
  • Make overnight oats or overnight muesli
  • Smoothies, smoothie bowls, popsicles
  • Add to baked goods such as cakes, pancakes, breads, muffins, cinnamon rolls, brownies, etc.
  • Use Greek yogurt to make homemade tzatziki
  • On its own, or layer with fruit and nuts to make a parfait

When preparing dips or sauces, opt for Greek yogurt as it’s thicker, and thus, not as runny. Additionally, Greek yogurt is used more in cooking because it doesn’t curdle as much as regular yogurt.

Greek vs Regular Yogurt Wrap-up

Greek yogurt and regular yogurt are both great options when it comes to choosing a healthy snack and when substituting/adding healthy ingredients to your meals. Look for yogurt with live active cultures, as they are beneficial for gut health.

As a recap, Greek yogurt is higher in protein and lower in sugar than regular yogurt, but it’s also lower in calcium. It has a strong and tangy taste, and is thicker in consistency.

Remember that the best yogurt for you takes into account both your health needs and your individual preferences. Don’t be shy to try a few different varieties of yogurt. After all, you may find more than one that you enjoy!

Listen in to Episode

Nutrition Nuggets 11: Yogurt: Greek vs Regular to learn all about Greek vs Regular Yogurt, Podcast – Sandra Gentleman, or on YouTube.

My Wife the Dietitian
Budget-Friendly Grocery Tips for Healthier Living

Budget-Friendly Grocery Tips for Healthier Living

By: Joni Rampolla, MBA, RDN, LDN / Founder, Nutrition Coaching 4U/ and retail dietitian
Edited and updated by Sandra Gentleman, RD

Budget-Friendly Grocery Tips for Healthier Living

Healthy eating is often associated with big grocery bills. This does not have to be true. As a grocery store dietitian, I help people find the right foods that the family will love and keep them nourished with the best possible nutrition.

Here are six supermarket strategies to help listeners eat better while sticking to a tight budget.

Plan Ahead and Create a Budget

Creating a shopping list for future meals, then shopping for those items can save you up to 40% compared to shopping without a list. When I have a budget to stick to, I think differently. While shopping, I am thinking of the nutrition I am putting in my cart. How much nutrition can I get for my dollar? Planning ahead and creating a list can avoid those impulse buys which can help your wallet.

Embrace Whole Foods

Buying whole foods can be less expensive than their processed, flavored counterparts. Some examples of budget-friendly pantry staples are whole grains including oatmeal, wild rice, popcorn, or whole wheat pasta.

Seek Discounts

Here are some savings suggestions: clip digital coupons, use savings apps, sign up for a store loyalty cards as they often give discounts, and shop the weekly sales by viewing the store circular or flyer. You can plan your meals based on what’s on sale this week. Consider store brands as they often are similar quality but at a discounted price.

Frozen and Canned Foods Fit

Canned and frozen fruits and vegetables offer a wide array of nutrients, convenience, and cost savings. It is so important for our health to include fruits and vegetables in any form. They also allow you to enjoy your favorites even when they aren’t in season. Canned and frozen can be just as nutritious as their fresh counterparts.

Think Differently About Meat

Since meat is typically the most expensive item on our plate, consider using it as a garnish to a meal instead of it taking center stage. Some suggestions are to add meat to a stew or soup filled with a bounty of in-season vegetables. Or add your meat to a stir fry with a large color variety of vegetables, and serve over a bed of rice.

Get Enough Protein

Protein comes in many foods that aren’t in the meat section of the store. Some budget-friendly protein foods to add to your shopping cart are pouch tuna or salmon, beans, eggs, quinoa, nuts and nut butters, and seeds (chia, flax, pumpkin, or sunflower). If you include dairy, don’t forget the cottage cheese and yogurt.

Listen in to Episode

#78 on My Wife The Dietitian to learn all about Budget-Friendly Tips for Healthier Living

Podcast – Sandra Gentleman or on YouTube

My Wife the Dietitian
Key Differences Between Dirty, Lazy, and the Clean Keto Diet

Key Differences Between Dirty, Lazy, and the Clean Keto Diet

By Rochelle Inwood / May 24, 2023 (Podcast guest)
Edited and Updated by Sandra Gentleman, RD

Key Differences Between Dirty, Lazy, and the Clean Keto Diet

The Clean Keto Diet is one of the latest versions of the ketogenic (keto)diet. With so much information swirling around about the various keto diets, you are probably feeling confused. You are not alone!

As you know, keto and low-carb diets are very controversial. As dietitians and nutrition experts, we try to steer our patients away from restrictive eating patterns because they are generally not sustainable.

Even with this basic philosophy, you probably wish you knew more about low-carb and keto diets.

So…what are the key differences between low carb, general keto, dirty keto, lazy keto, and the clean keto diet?

Your simplified answers are below!

Low Carbohydrate and Keto Diets

What are the differences between keto diets and low carbohydrate diets?

Keto Diets

Keto diets allow fewer daily carbohydrates due to the goal of reaching ketosis. Most adults can reach ketosis if they consume fewer than 50 grams of carbohydrate per day. Many people following a keto diet will consume 20-50 grams of carbohydrates per day.

Most keto diets take into account the other macronutrients (macros), fat and protein, as well. Those following a keto diet may calculate their macros using the following % calorie distributions:

  • Carbohydrates <10% total calories per day
  • Protein <25% total calories per day
  • Fat >65% total calories per day
  • 20 to 50 grams per day or <10% of total calories

When patients require a therapeutic version of the keto diet, please use the calculator provided by The Charlie Foundation for Therapeutic Keto.

Low Carbohydrate Diets

Low carbohydrate diets allow more carbohydrates per day than keto diets. Meaning, those following a low carbohydrate diet eat more carbohydrates than those following a keto diet.

Depending on your resource, low carbohydrate diets may have <26% of total daily calories coming from carbohydrates. These diets can range between 50-150 grams of carbohydrate per day.

Considerations for Defining Carbohydrates in the Diet. For more information on keto and low carb diets, check out this blog post: Is There a Difference Between Low Carb and Keto Diets?

Considerations for Defining Carbohydrate Intake

Based on a 2,000-calorie diet, the following definitions could be considered when discussing keto diets (very low-carb keto diet), low carbohydrate, moderate carbohydrate, and high carbohydrate diets:

Very low-carb keto diet

  • 20 to 50 grams per day or <10% of total calories
    Low-carb diet
  • <130 grams per day or <26% of total calories
    Or 50-150 grams per day

Moderate-carb diet

  • >130 grams per day or 26% to 45% of total calories

High-carb diet

  • >225 grams per day or >45% of total calories (3, 5, 8, 10).

What is the Dirty Keto Diet?

Dirty Keto Diet followers focus on macros (example: <10% carb, <25% protein, >65% fat), but they do not worry about the quality of the foods they are eating. In fact, the dirty keto diet can include processed foods, snacks, and even sweets, if these foods fit into the calculated macros.

For example, someone eating a dirty keto diet will not flinch about eating fast-food, consuming fried foods, or taking in higher amounts of saturated and trans fats.

Foods Commonly Found on The Dirty Keto Diet

  • Bunless bacon cheeseburger
  • Sugar free beverages and sodas
  • All cheese (including processed cheese)
  • Lower carbohydrate snack foods (potato chips, tortilla chips, keto cookies)
  • Pre-packaged meats
  • Pork rinds
  • Drive-thru coffees, etc.

What is the Lazy Keto Diet?

Those following the Lazy Keto Diet only track their carbohydrate intake. They do not account for how much protein and fat they are eating each day.

Typically, those following the Lazy Keto Diet will limit only their carbohydrate intake to <10% of their total energy intake or fewer than 50 net grams of carbohydrates per day.

What are Net Carbs?

Net carbs are calculated by subtracting fiber (and sugar alcohols – if you have that information) from the Total Carbohydrate number found on the food label.

Calculating Net Carbs. Net Carbs = (Total Carbohydrate – Dietary Fiber).
For this food item, you would subtract the Dietary Fiber (4 grams) from the Total Carbohydrate (37 grams) for a total of 33 net grams of carbohydrate.

Foods Commonly Found on The Lazy Keto Diet

Any food can be consumed on the lazy keto diet. Those following this eating pattern restrict their total net carbohydrate intake to <50 grams of carbohydrate per day, but they do not account for protein and fat intake.

What is the Clean Keto Diet?

Those following a Clean Keto Diet will calculate their macros, and they focus more on eating high quality whole foods. A “Clean Keto Diet” focuses on unprocessed, whole, nutrient dense foods.
Foods Commonly Found on the Clean Keto Diet

  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Full-fat dairy
  • Healthy oils – olive oil, avocado oil, etc.
  • Lean meats and poultry
  • Low-glycemic fruits – like berries – in small portions
  • Non-starchy vegetables
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Unsweetened beverages

Are There Possible Risks or Side Effects of following a Keto Diet?

Yes, there are risks and side effects that can occur from following a keto diet. These, and other side effects should be considered before anyone starts a keto diet.

Some of the most common side effects include:

  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Fluid loss
  • Constipation
  • Muscle cramps
  • Increased blood cholesterol

Are There Certain People Who Should Never Follow a Keto Diet?

The keto diet should not be considered a safe eating pattern if a person has a fatty acid oxidation defect, a carnitine or pyruvate deficiency, or disorders of the heme biosynthesis pathway (5, 16).

These conditions should be ruled out before anyone considers a keto diet.

Additional Considerations Before Starting a Keto Diet

In addition to the medical conditions above, there are several other diagnoses that should be considered potential risks for those thinking about following a keto diet. Medical conditions that should be reviewed and discussed by the patient with their medical team include, but not limited to:

  • 18 years old or younger (or still growing)
  • acid reflux
  • cancer
  • constipation
  • diabetes (medication adjustments and monitoring required)
  • digestion difficulties
  • difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
  • eating disorders
  • gallbladder disease or no gallbladder
  • gout
  • high blood pressure (medication adjustments and monitoring required)
  • high cholesterol
  • history of kidney stones
  • inadequate nutrition intake
  • kidney disease or failure
  • liver disease or failure
  • metabolic acidosis
  • multiple food allergies
  • noncompliance to other therapies
  •  osteopenia
  • pancreatitis
  • pregnancy or breastfeeding
  • received bariatric surgery (because of possible issues w/ digesting fat)
  • religious restrictions (5, 16).

Final Thoughts on Dirty Keto, Lazy Keto, and the Clean Keto Diet

There are several versions of low-carb and keto diets, which can be very confusing. Understanding the latest versions and differences between low carb, keto, dirty keto, lazy keto, and clean keto diets can help you understand what they are all about.

If you are a healthcare provider looking for more information on low carb and keto diets so you can have better conversations with your patients about low-carb and keto diets, consider checking out my book: The Keto Conversation – A Guide for Dietitians and Healthcare Providers.

*As an Amazon Associate, I earn a commission on qualifying purchases.

The Keto Conversation: A Guide for Dietitians and Healthcare Providers

Check out the My Wife The Dietitian podcast where I had the opportunity to speak with the fabulous Sandra and Rob Gentleman about this hot topic.

Listen in to Episode

#76 on My Wife The Dietitian to learn all The Keto Diet, Rochelle Inwood, RD

Podcast – Sandra Gentleman or on YouTube

My Wife the Dietitian