Living Young Until a Ripe Old Age

Jennifer Hill
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Editor’s Note: Jennifer Hill is a member of LTV’s sponsored content team, The Leisure Explorers. Do you own a Leisure Travel Van and enjoy writing? Learn more about joining the team.

How many lifestyles do we live during our days on this earth? Looking back to earlier times, I’ve realized just how much my lifestyle has evolved over the years.

Adopting And Adapting Camping

In the late 1980s, I was in my twenties and finding independence. After getting married in 1988, my husband and I started to build a life together and the lifestyle we adopted at the time influenced our story. We loved traveling and camping and as two working professionals, we took every opportunity on the weekends and on vacations to explore our world. Camping back then consisted of a two-person pop-up tent and a duffel bag filled with camping essentials however, electricity or “hookups” were not in our vocabulary during those days. On the weekends, we would spend time exploring with friends. Stuffing our tiny Toyota Camry with four (young) adults, tents, camping chairs, and sleeping bags sure didn’t provide much glamour but when it came to food, that’s where I brought out my love for cooking. My friend and I both shared the same love for cooking and together, we made each weekend a new culinary adventure by experimenting with cooking over campfires and charcoal. We made steak, seafood, and amazing pork chops on the same Weber Smokey Joe that we still use today! In the coals of our campfires, we cooked roasted potatoes, corn, and onions, just to mention a few.

The late 1990s was the beginning of bringing children into our lives. Our camping adventures started to involve a family tent with a 10 ft x 10 ft center and three rooms that extended from the sides. We had a portable crib in each one of the rooms and my husband and I slept in the center with all of our gear; needless to say, we no longer fit into a duffel bag! Our dinner choices became more simple with a family but we still appreciated a good burger over charcoal! Besides, how can you go wrong with a hotdog on a stick over the fire? Of course, roasted corn and potatoes still had their place in the hot coals of the fire, and s’mores were always the highlight of the evening!

A flash back to tent camping with young children.

The early to mid-2000s brought a much more hectic schedule than we could have ever imagined. Our camping weekends gave way to soccer games, dance recitals, swim meets, and gymnastic meets, and the camping adventures turned into backyard sleepovers and we added a simple 10 ft x 10 ft Coleman tent to our collection for the ease of setting up. Back yard parties with neighborhood families ended with s’mores and kids sleeping in the tent in the backyard. In those days, we fed ourselves well during our neighborhood parties even though our Smokey Joe gathered dust in the garage, our new Weber gas grill served the neighborhood well.

Back yard camping with young teenagers.

Empty Nesting And Changes For The Good

Fast forward to 2017, our last child graduated high school and moved away to college thus beginning our lives as empty nesters. This phase has proven to be the most drastic lifestyle change on many different levels. Inevitably, as you enter the empty nest phase, you do indeed get older but also as you get older, you have to watch your parents get even older and in many cases, decline in health. As with many people our age, we started to watch and deal with the health problems of our parents, particularly on my husband’s side. After months of research, we made the decision to go on a heart-healthy diet because of the heart disease that runs in my husband’s family. A major cause of heart disease is inflammation in the body so we decided to cut out all foods that cause inflammation from our diet which is a long list. The main foods on the list that we no longer eat are sugar, grains, legumes, and night shade vegetables which include tomatoes, white potatoes, peppers, and all members of the squash family. We have now been eating this way for five years and it’s become more of a lifestyle rather than a diet and while we never set weight loss as the reason for this change, with regular exercise my husband lost 35 pounds and I lost 14 pounds over the course of a few months.

Now that we have recently entered retirement, we continue to live this lifestyle with the goal of “living young until a ripe old age.” We often meet people who are curious about our eating style as well as those who are completely overwhelmed by it. Most people who are overwhelmed also struggle with weight or health problems and don’t believe they can sustain a healthy eating habit long term. If you are one of those people, I hope you find some encouragement in the substitutes in my delicious recipes.

Over the years, we have found substitutes for almost every type of food that we have eliminated. These substitutes are better for our bodies and overall health. However, don’t be fooled when it comes to calories. In many cases, these substitutes have equal or more calories. For example, most alternative flours are made from nuts which naturally are higher in calories. Therefore, don’t let yourself be tricked into believing you have a free ticket to overindulge yourself because just as many things go in life, moderation is important!

The Journey To Our “Wanda Jane”

About the time we became empty nesters and started our new eating lifestyle, my dad gave us an aged, Coleman trailer that he no longer used which we pulled to some new places that we had never been to in our home state of Colorado.

After a year of pulling around the old Coleman trailer, we attended the Denver RV Show where we were introduced to Leisure Travel Vans. A few months later, we drove our Wonder named Wanda Jane home from Colorado Springs. 


Turkey Meatball Sandwich Featuring Against The Grain Bread

To one pound of turkey, add:

  • 1/4 cup green chili
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tbsp freshly chopped parsley
  • 1 egg

Roll into balls and bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes and serve on a toasted bun with stone ground mustard, sauteed mushrooms, and provolone cheese.

The first thing people always tell us when they hear about all the foods we don’t eat is “I can’t live without bread!” We have actually found many great brands that are grain free. Some of our favorites are Base Culture and Against the Grain. We have also found some great crackers from Simple Mills which is a company that makes a variety of grain-free products. Our favorite is their almond crackers which have become a staple in our pantry.

Simple Mills Almond Crackers are the perfect staple for your pantry!

The next most popular comment is “I cannot give up Italian food”, especially pasta and pizza! Our favorite pasta substitutes are Miracle noodles and Jovial grain-free pasta. Against the Grain makes a wonderful grain-free pizza made with pesto.

Bolognese Featuring Miracle Noodles

  • In 2 tbsp of olive oil, saute one diced onion, 3 diced garlic cloves, 2 diced celery stalks, 1/2 cup shredded carrots, and 1 cup sliced mushrooms until soft.
  • Add 1 pound grass-fed organic ground beef and cook until browned and crumbled.
  • Add 2 cups of white wine and 2 cups of water or chicken brother.
  • Stir in 2 tbsp Italian seasoning, 1 tbsp oregano, t tbsp basil, 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1 tsp black pepper.
  • Reduce heat to low and simmer until liquid is reduced to half.
  • Stir in 1 tbsp tapioca starch and 1/4 of warm water until smooth.
  • Add mixture to ground beef and simmer until slightly thickened, about 15-20 minutes.
  • To prepare noodles: rinse noodles in a colander for 2 minutes, add to a pot of boiling water and boil for 2 more minutes. Rinse for another 2 minutes and add to a hot sauce pan (with NO oil) and stir until all of the water is absorbed.

Top noodles with bolognese sauce and enjoy!

The third most popular comment is “I can’t give up Mexican food!” The brand Siete has you covered in so many ways! This is a family-owned brand that started because they had children with allergies. They make wonderful chips, taco shells, cassava, and almond flour wraps that don’t fall apart) Siete also makes a variety of Mexican sauces without additives, gluten, or sugar. Crepini and Egglife both make amazing crepe-like, grain-free wraps that can be used for an array of recipes including sandwiches and burritos.

Siete Chips
Enchiladas made with Crepini wraps

Lastly, there is the whole issue of sugar because it is literally in almost everything! Primal Kitchen does an amazing job with its sugar-free products. They make every condiment from ketchup to barbecue sauce to salad dressings and marinades all sugar-free! For a sugar substitute, we found that Lakanto makes a monkfruit sugar substitute. Monkfruit is a herbaceous perennial vine of the gourd family. This plant is cultivated for its fruit extract, which creates a sweetness 250 times stronger than sucrose. In our opinion, it tends to have a less undesirable aftertaste than pure stevia.  Needless to say, if you have a sweet tooth, monkfruit sweetener will get the job done! The best part is that when used in recipes, it behaves very similar to the real sugar without spiking your glucose. Note: I always reduce the amount by half when substituting in recipes. We choose to use monkfruit sparingly, but on those occasions where dessert is needed, it is a perfect choice! 

Primal Kitchen Sugar-Free Sauces
Monkfruit Sweetener

We also love Birchbenders which is a Denver, Colorado-based company that makes a wonderful sugar-free and grain-free mix for pancakes and waffles.

Birchbenders pancakes: Shown here with unsweetened yogurt, berries, and grain-free granola.

Look At How Far We’ve Come

At the beginning of our eating lifestyle, we either gave up foods we loved or tried baking them ourselves. Although we do have a few favorite recipes we still make from scratch along the way, we have found substitutes for almost everything. The products we have found make it very easy to continue eating healthy while we travel with Wanda Jane. We no longer have a desire for fast food or truck stop junk food and I feel just as great cooking in my LTV kitchen as I do in my own house. 

If you have considered adopting a more healthy eating plan for weight loss, health issues, or simply longevity of life, I hope you have gained some encouragement to do so. Start small by giving yourself a goal of thirty days. You can do anything for a short amount of time and chances are very great that you will join me in never turning back. After all, everyone deserves a long, healthy lifetime of enjoying their LTV lifestyles.

Jennifer Hill

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