Let the Alaska Highway Healthy Foods Challenge Begin!

“Say ‘challenges,’ never ‘problems'” Jim always tells me, because reframing tough situations helps you overcome mental roadblocks to getting what you want out of life. These days I’m applying that strategy to my grocery store trips, and calling it my Alaska Highway Healthy Foods Challenge.

Our Alaska Highway Healthy Foods Challenges and Rewards

The hunt for great food influences much of our travels, but finding the ingredients for our go-to recipes has been tough up here in Canada. We aren’t snooty foodies by any stretch of the imagination, but we have our go-to recipes. Indulging in them happens more in our RV than out at restaurants because it saves us money, Jim’s a great cook and I’ve got a few specialties of my own. 

Grilled Tuna on Asian Salad
Our typical dinner: salad with grilled fish.

We’ve been pleasantly surprised to find fresh produce in most places. From kale to red cabbage to fruit, those crazy ice road truckers haul it in all week long. Much of it is pleasantly affordable because of the weak Canadian dollar, but some prices give us heart palpitations. Don’t even get me started on how expensive even basic liquor is in Canada. We’re practically on the wagon it’s so pricey.

Seven Dollar Pineapple in Watson Creek, BC
We can’t wait to see what tropical fruit costs in Alaska!

Pineapples have gotten more and more expensive the further north we travel. As they should. And dairy products are especially pricey, which doesn’t surprise me. Good thing we aren’t cheese-o-holics like we used to be. 

American or Canadian, seems like both countries’ middle-of-the-road eaters prefer to keep things packaged, process and easy to make. As lacto-ovo vegetarians Jim and I are doing OK finding enough basics like simple produce and grains. But as a no-salt kind of gal, getting low-sodium food is especially hit or miss (usually miss). If you’re gluten free, you’ll have an exceptionally hard time up here.

I won the lotto when I found these low-sodium chips!

There’s one aspect of grocery shopping in Canada that has me a little homesick: the lack of quality Mexican food ingredients. I dare you to find any kind of tasty tortillas, real salsas, chipotle or Abuelita chocolate. They just don’t exist here. “Well you are in another country,” Jim reminds me whenever I whine about it.

Canada has a large Mexican migrant worker population for eight months each year, but the only “tortillas” we’ve found are called “Wraps” and they are as far from authentic as you can get. Interestingly enough, small town groceries often have tons of Asian food cooking ingredients, which came as a surprise. We eat a lot of Thai, Chinese and Japanese food already, so we’ll survive.

White Wraps, found in Tumbler Ridge, BC
My grandma is rolling in her grave over these.

Other than the English-French labels on everything, small town Canadian markets mirror their American counterparts. The shelves are stocked with basic necessities for a good meal, but if you have dietary restrictions you’re going to be hosed whether you make it yourself or eat out. Sometimes you just have to throw caution to the wind and follow that old bit of advice, “When in Rome . . .

Poutine - Cheese Curds and Gravy, Tumbler Ridge Golf Course
Poutine is a Quebec specialty with fries, gravy and cheese curds.

We won’t starve up here, but we can’t live on tasty poutine and Tim Horton’s all summer. It will be interesting to see how our Alaska Highway eating healthy challenge looks once we actually get into Alaska.

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