Chapul Ambassador Matt Park shares his experience of maintaining a healthy diet as a vegetarian while living in his van.
It’s been five years since I ate meat. The last three have been spent living in a van with my wife. When I was living in a house I had a complete kitchen to prepare meals and experiment with my new diet. I was eating super healthy, constantly trying new things, and cooking my own meals more than eating out. Moving into the van was hard for multiple reasons but especially hard on my diet. The inconvenience of cooking was compounded by a small space. We no longer had an oven—just a small, two burner gas stove with a small sink with a hand-operated water pump to do all the dishes in. It took a while to get into the groove of cooking in our new space, but it was never to the extent that I did when we lived in an apartment.
I have never felt that I was missing out on something during the 5 years I have not eaten meat. I hear stories of vegetarians that crave meat and long for bacon. That’s not me. I left it behind and that was that. I never felt hungry, malnourished, or deficient for the first couple years. I think the newness of the lifestyle motivated me to explore recipes and try new veggies. The huge variety in my diet filled and nourished me better than when I was eating the same old things with meat.
When we first moved into the van, food prep became less important than things like where to park, do our laundry, shower, use the bathroom, and keep the van clean and figure out exactly how much stuff we needed in the van without crowding ourselves out. Slowly, I started to feel like I was lacking from time to time. A mental energy was lost. I also began to feel like I wasn’t recovering from activity as well. I could still perform well when hiking or climbing, but I felt subpar in somewhat inexplicable ways. A general lack of gumption is the only way I can describe it.
One year ago I started eating crickets. It was a hard decision that I debated for a long time, but the environmental and health benefits won me over and I became a believer based solely on that. It helped that they tasted good. I had become an Entomo-vegetarian. (Entomo = pertaining to insects; Entomo-Vegetarian = Vegetarian who eats insects.) What I didn’t expect was for that void to be filled. According to some accounts, 70% of all vegans and vegetarians are Iron and vitamin B12 deficient. Crickets are packed with Iron, B12, Omega-3’s and of course Protein. I think it took me a few years of not eating meat to work through my body’s store of these vitamins and minerals to where I felt a difference. This explains my lack of gumption and feeling like I wasn’t always recovering from activity like I used to. B12, which is important for brain function and energy, is really hard to get naturally if you do not eat meat. Iron can be sourced from dark leafy greens and legumes but I had been lacking in that department thanks to van life. After I started eating cricket bars I felt better— noticeably better, like when I first stopped eating meat and was eating a lot of new veggies and cooking awesome meals.
I do not see myself moving out of the van in the near future, which means that although my meals have significantly improved since first moving in, they won’t be up to full kitchen standard. But I do have crickets, which up until now I ate in the form of protein bars. Now I am excited to have Chapul’s cricket protein powder as an option to get all those nutrients I was lacking. A blender bottle is an easy addition to the van’s kitchen supplies, and I can come back from a run or a long day at work and mix together a quick boost of Protein, B12, Omega-3’s Iron and lots more, all sourced from crickets.