Changing eating habits post-retreat

Changing eating habits post-retreat

What to do when family members want to eat differently!

The start of a new school term or year can bring about many changes, for individuals and for the whole family. So too can a visit to a yoga retreat or health and wellbeing retreat like La Crisalida.

Over the years we have seen many guests arrive feeling tired and jaded, and a little worried about whether they are going to like the food (and some secretly plan coffee and icecream “treats” in the local town!). The vast majority of people are delightfully surprised at the vegan, plant-based food on offer at the retreat; this includes meat eaters and veggie haters alike! After talking to other guests or the mentors, watching some of the DVDs that we offer, or reading some of the books, as well as noticing how healthy they feel by eating this plant-based diet, one of the most common questions we hear is “how can I continue to eat like this at home?” Following our theme “Back to School” in this article we give you some ideas about how to make changes to your meal times at home.

Changing your eating is about learning new skills and habits, or maybe enhancing existing skills.


When you first start to make changes to your way of eating, you need to get organised. Think about what eating habits you want to adopt. Having a healthy, relaxed breakfast is a great start to every day. See if you can arrange your activities to make time to sit down and eat each morning, maybe with your family. You can make your own breakfast muesli, like we do here, make a juice or sit down to a warming bowl of porridge (porridge oats are a great source of long lasting energy for the whole family).

Moving to a plant-based diet takes some planning, particularly if you are changing from a diet based on processed foods (pre-prepared meals or frozen meals). Maybe for the first few weeks, find a cookbook and follow their meal ideas. You can purchase La Crisalida Retreats e-cookbook in our online shop. Create a plan for the week, for each meal and write down your shopping list before you head to the supermarket (this helps to focus on finding what you want, rather than running down random aisles picking up packaged foods). A friend once said, he only goes around the outside of the supermarket – to the place where all the fresh items are placed. If you always use one supermarket, maybe try a different supermarket to break your regular habit of visiting all of the aisles.

One guest, a mum of three teenage children, shared her food preparation habits with us. She explained that she prepared food twice or three times per week. One night she would cook three meals: one for that evening and two for the next two nights. The meals for the next two nights were stored in the fridge, with a label and a date, so that anyone could find them and reheat. That way she knew her family ate healthy home cooked meals every night. You might want to add to each meal a fresh bowl of salad, or some veggies cooked fresh that evening.

Go to foods

What items can you have at hand, for those times when you feel hungry or need something really quick? Hummus is always a great snack to have in your fridge (and if you make it yourself you can leave out the garlic!). A mix of nuts, seeds and dried fruits are filling and can keep hunger at bay for a few hours – maybe try our energy ball recipe if you want something sweet. Fruit is also great to keep in a bowl or in the fridge.

Thinking and planning ahead will also help prevent any night time snacking on crisps or chocolate that occurs!

Quick and easy meal ideas

If you live with someone who absolutely does not want to change their eating habits, think about how feasible it is for you to prepare or cook two meals, one for you and one for the other person (or people)? It maybe that you cook large enough portions to do two nights – or more – (our motto: cook once, eat twice) – one night cook for you (two or more portions) and the next night cook for the other person (two portions, maybe with meat, and reheat the second portion that you made for yourself the previous night).

Soup is always a good meal for the whole family and no one will really notice if there is no meat in there, or if you miss out cream or dairy. You can serve bread for everyone else if you want, but maybe you choose not to eat it. Rice crackers can work as an alternative, or ryvita type things (vegetable and seed crackers are great) as alternatives.

Common meals can be tweaked – for example you can make spaghetti bolognaise… you can either make a vegetarian version for everyone (swap out mince and use brown lentils instead). Or maybe you make two versions: Cook the mince in one pan and cook the sauce in another pan. Just before serving, take one portion without mince for you and then mix in the mince to serve for everyone else. Maybe try quorn mince for a vegetarian meat-free alternative? Maybe try our lentil Shepherds pie for a hearty evening meal.

One pot dishes are great for saving time. Like our brown rice salad, which you can also serve hot, like a biryani.

The freezer is your friend and can help you to maintain your healthy eating habits, post retreat. We know how busy life can get, so go to the local pound shop, pick up some freezer proof pots with lids (plastic cartons are ideal) and next time you cook, chop a few more veggies and make a larger portion. Freeze it. Remember, before going to work, take your dinner out of the freezer and place in the fridge to allow it to defrost.

Change your shopping habits

Browse the aisles in the supermarket. You could swap yoghurt for a soya alternative. Rice milk is a nice alternative to dairy milk, particularly if you do not like soya milk. Maybe start with yourself first and when everyone else sees how great you look and the extra energy they will want to try it too!

There are some great alternatives to pasta now available if you want to reduce the amount of wheat you eat – veggie pasta comes in most of the normal pasta shapes and feels much lighter in your tummy than full wheat pasta. Pick up some alternative vegetables or fruit. Swap potatoes – try sweet potato instead. Sweet potatoes are a better source of energy than standard potatoes. This month we include our recipe for Moroccan Sweet Potato Salad.

Tofu can be really tasty and is a great addition to any plant-based (vegan) diet. Maybe one night you can leave out chicken and replace with tofu? The key to tasty tofu is the marinade – see our recipe for teriyaki tofu here.

Venture in to a health food store and look around. Some of the products may seem really strange at first, some you will recognize from the retreat.

Build your own support group

Your support group could be in person or electronic (through Facebook or email). Many guests keep in contact with friends that they make whilst they are here at La Crisalida, who can provide support as you make changes.

Stay in touch

Let us know how you get on. You can share your tips for changing your eating habits (and those of your family!) or what you have done, on our Facebook page.

Keep learning

Explore the books in your local library or on Amazon. You can also read other related articles on our blog page by clicking below:
Read Johns article on Seven steps to setting new habits part 1 and part 2
Healthy Eating is cheap fun and delicious
Tips for creating quick and easy healthy meals
More recipes can be found on our health and wellbeing blog or in our online shop.

Have fun learning!

About the author

Lisa is one of the founders of La Crisalida Retreats. She is an Epidemiologist, therapeutic hatha and yin yoga teacher and also teaches mindfulness meditation. Lisa has studied NLP and hypnosis, as well as nutrition (she designs the menus).