July 2013

What to Eat When You Travel

Swiss Air Lines A330-200 It’s summer and the living is easy on the road. Any break in the normal routine can be disastrous for your best intentions to eat well, unless you have a plan. The number one rule for staying healthy when traveling is to bring food with you. You wouldn’t dream of forgetting your toothbrush or clean underwear. Well, don’t forget your travel-K rations. Pack your briefcase, roll-on, backpack, purse, or even a paper bag with:

  • Unsalted nuts, fresh fruit, cut up veggies, string cheese, and/or boxed juice.
  • Even a KIND bar is a better bet than a roadside muffin, saving you lots of empty calories.
  • Freeze-dried vegetable soups come in handy (you can find hot water in any airport or roadside grocery that serves coffee).
  • A lunch kit that comes with tuna, crackers, and it’s own dish is also an option; just go light on the mayo and compliment the snack with an apple or grapes.
  • Toss berries, low-fat cottage cheese, and nuts into a washed yogurt container.
  • Lettuce makes a great wrap for leftover chicken, beans, and other goodies.

While in a few isolated instances you can get real food at an airport, say Rubio’s fish tacos in San Diego or Macheezmo Mouse low-fat Mexican food at Portland International. But those are exceptions, not the rule. Some airports you’ll be hard-pressed to find a water fountain, let alone a decent meal. So, focus on the “5 Airport Food Groups”: 1. Fruit, 2, lettuce, 3, bread (whole wheat when possible), 4. chicken, and 5. water. Keep in mind that any of the following can serve as a take-out meal for the airplane! Here’s some tips:

  • You always can find a fruit basket with apples, oranges, or bananas.
  • Think only grilled or baked, from grilled chicken sandwiches and salads to a plain baked potato.
  • Make an open-faced sandwich (and save up to 150 calories) by throwing out the top piece of bread.
  • Go for a fast-food salad. Toss out the croutons, thick dressing, and cheese, and compliment the meal with a glass of OJ or low-fat milk.
  • Be vocal. Ask for the burrito without cheese and sour cream. Send it back if they ignore your request.
  • Go easy on salty foods that compound dehydration and traveler’s fatigue.

I’ve found you can eat well anywhere, even in an airport, on an airplane, in a hotel room, and at a train station. Of course, no one is saying it’s easy. The healthy choices are there; it’s making them that is the challenge. So, while you pack your bags for a vacation or business trip, also muster your self-discipline, vigilance, and nerve. It’s a food war zone out there, so be prepared. Of course, if you do slip from your diet plans, remember to get back on track as soon as you arrive home.

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Just Do This Today

1. Craving ice cream? Drink a glass of cold water and wait 15 minutes. The craving just might go away.

2. Flavor your foods with spices today instead of sugar or salt, such as cinnamon on the oatmeal and salsa on your chicken.

3. Go through your kitchen cupboards and toss a few of those junk foods, like the chips, PopTarts, processed cheese, and/or soft drinks.

4. Add one extra colorful fruit or vegetable to today’s menu.

5. Take the stairs instead of the elevator or walk up the escalator instead of riding it.

Hot Off the Diet Press

1. Women’s Diets Lacking in Nutrients: Many young women are not getting the nutrients they need, including the omega-3s, B vitamins, and zinc, according to a study from the University of Sydney, Australia. Dietary intakes were assessed in a group of 256 young, healthy women. Analysis of the diets showed that the majority of the women did not meet basic dietary recommendations for whole grains, vegetables, meat, fish and other foods. Almost one in every four women avoided animal products, which resulted in lower intakes of the omega-3 fats, vitamin B12, iron, selenium, and zinc. While anyone worth their weight in nutrition credentials will tell you to go to food first for your nutrients, this study is one in many that repeatedly show that most people don’t eat perfectly and should supplement responsibly to fill in the gaps.

Fayet F, Flood V, Petocz P, et al: Avoidance of meat and poultry decreases intakes of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B12, selenium, and zinc in young women. Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics 2013;March 18th.

2. Omega-3s Help You Live Longer: Researchers at Harvard School of Public Health report that people with the highest blood levels of the omega-3s, DHA and EPA, are least likely to die from a range of causes compared to people with lower levels of these important fats. Blood samples were analyzed from 2,692 healthy adults aged 69- to 79-years-old. During the following 16 years, 1,625 people died, including 570 from cardiovascular causes. Results showed that the higher the initial blood levels of omega-3s, the lower the risk of dying from any cause during that follow-up period. Death from heart disease was cut in half. People with the highest levels of EPA and DHA lived on average 2.22 years longer after age 65 years than did those who had low omega-3 levels.  It is important to note that the omega-3s used in these studies can be obtained only from seafood or foods fortified with a sustainable, algal-based DHA, not from flax, walnuts, or soy.

Mozaffarian D, Lemaitre R, King I, et al: Plasma phospholipid long-chain omega-3 acids and total and cause-specific mortality in older adults. Annals of Internal Medicine 2013;158:515-525.

eye3. Supplements Protect Eyes From Vision Loss: A supplement of the carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin, plus the omega-3s DHA and EPA, helped lower risk for macular degeneration in a study from the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (ARED2). This is the largest trial to date testing the effectiveness of these nutrients in adults with macular degeneration. More than 4,200 patients, aged 50- to 85-years-old who were at risk for progression to advanced macular degeneration were randomized to receive either lutein (10 milligrams) and zeaxanthin (2 milligrams), DHA (350 milligrams) and EPA (650 milligrams), all four compounds, or placebos. All participants were asked to supplement with vitamins C and E, beta carotene, and zinc, or variations of these nutrients including eliminating beta carotene. At the end of five years, results showed a decrease in progression rates in subjects who supplemented with lutein and zeaxanthin and a slight benefit from the addition of the omega-3s. While more lung cancer was noted in former smokers who supplemented with beta carotene, no adverse side effects were observed with the other supplements. Age-related macular degeneration is one of the leading causes of blindness. Supplementing with these nutrients and phytochemicals could have a significant benefit in reducing this disease.

The Age-Related Eye Disease Study 2 Research Group: Lutein + zeaxanthin and omega-3 fatty acids for age-related macular degeneration. Journal of the American Medical Association 2013;309:2005-2015.

Arnold C, Winter L, Frohlich K, et al: Macular xanthophylls and omega-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids in age-related macular degeneration. Journal of the American Medical Association: Ophthalmology 2013;March 21:1-9.

Aslam T, Delcourt C, Silva R, et al: Micronutrients in age-related macular degeneration. Ophthalmologica 2013;229:75-79.


Food & Mood Tip – Coffee and Your Mood

Within half an hour of drinking a cup of coffee, you’ll notice a boost in thinking. That’s because the caffeine in coffee (or tea, cola, and chocolate) halts the depressant effects of adenosine, a neurotransmitter that calms the brain; thus, the nervous system stays revved. Consequently, you think more clearly, are more alert, have a faster reaction time, and can concentrate better after a cup of coffee. You also perform tasks, such as typing, faster and more accurately. But hold on all of you die-hard coffee addicts. Just because some caffeine boosts thought processes, does not mean more makes you smarter. For one thing, the stimulating effects of caffeine lingers in the system for 4 to 12 hours. A cup of coffee or cola mid-afternoon could disrupt sleep at 10pm, resulting in mental fatigue and poor judgement the next day. Second, caffeine is effective only up to your “jitter threshold;” adding more coffee after this and you’re too buzzed to think clearly. Finally, coffee and tea contain compounds called tannins that reduce other brain-boosting nutrients, such as iron, by up to 75%. So, gradually cut back on coffee, drink your coffee or tea between meals, and keep your intake to no more than three servings a day.

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Eat Your Way to Sexy This Week  – You Were Not Designed to be Grumpy

Today, depression is a leading cause of disability, second only to high blood pressure. Most people turn to medication first to solve the problem. Anti-depressants like Prozac are prescribed more often than any other pill besides the birth control pill. I am not saying there isn’t a place for medication when trying to “fix” depression, but drugs are not the holy grail of treatment either. For one thing, up to 40% of people don’t respond to these medications,  and even those who do, report the drugs don’t erase the problem. Meds might make some people feel closer to normal or at least help them blunt the pain, but those drugs also can destroy sex drive, cloud thinking, and kick self-confidence in the butt, which then undermines mood, leading to an even lower sex drive. Medication also comes with a few other nasty side effects, including fatigue, weight gain (up to 9 pounds a month!), and impotence. I’m not sure what is worse – the bad mood or the side effects from the drugs to treat it!

Let’s get this straight right now. This is important, so listen up. You were not designed to be tired, depressed, or overweight. It is not one of our basic survival skills. None of those modern-day problems would have fared well for our ancient ancestors on the Savannah a million years ago. Our species survived because our ancestors were mentally and physically strong. A tired, grumpy, fat caveman would not have out run a sabertooth tiger, or would have been left behind when the tribe moved on. (Who’s got time to give Ukluk a pep talk when the Ice Age is coming?)  Depression and obesity are results of civilization, not genes. They are not “normal.” They are not instinct, destiny, or inevitable.

You also were not designed to eat PopTarts, Cheez Whiz, white bread, potato chips, or soft drinks. In fact, most of the more than 30,000 items at your local grocery store never graced the lips of any of our ancient ancestors, dating back millions of years. The Pilgrims would not recognize our modern excuse for food.  Even a Civil War soldier would be amazed at what we are putting in our mouths. In short, our eating habits have changed astronomically in the past 100 years, yet, we are genetically identical to our ancient ancestors who evolved and thrived for eons on diets comprised of fruits, vegetables, root plants, wild grass seed, wild game, seafood, nuts, and a bit of honey.

Just as cars are built on assembly lines with engines designed to run on gasoline, our bodies were built on an evolutionary assembly line designed to run on anything that could be hunted or gathered. Put sawdust into that gas tank and your car sputters, backfires, and comes to a halt. Then it costs a zillion dollars for a mechanic to fix the problem. Same goes for your body. Put the nutritional equivalent of sawdust into your body and guess what? You get fat, tired, obstinate, depressed, forgetful, and cranky. And, you end up with a team of physicians doing damage control.

 It really is simple. People who eat right are the happiest. People who eat junk are more prone to sadness, and have the highest rates of depression. The worse the food choices, the worse they feel. As soon as they make changes in their diets, they start feeling better. The more changes they make, the better they feel. They also lose weight, lower their risk for all age-related diseases such as heart disease, and even report improvements in their sex lives! No matter who you are – men, women, young, old, black, brown, yellow, white or purple, and in every country – you will experience the same benefits.

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Mood-Boosting Recipe of the Week

Sauced and Bedded Egg Florentine
(from Eat Your Way to Sexy by Elizabeth Somer)

1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 egg yolk
2/3 cup fat-free evaporated milk
2 teaspoons unbleached flour
1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Tabasco sauce
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 100% whole-grain English muffins, split
2 cups baby spinach
4 whole eggs

1. Fill a large skillet with 2 to 3 inches of water. Add vinegar and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.

2. While water is coming to a boil, make hollandaise sauce: Combine egg yolk, milk, flour, mustard, Tabasco, salt and pepper in a small saucepan. Whisk until thoroughly blended. Heat over medium heat until sauce simmers and thickens slightly. Remove from heat and add lemon juice. Set aside.

3. While water is coming to a boil, toast English muffins. Set aside. And, place spinach in a bowl, cover,  and microwave for 1 minute or until leaves are wilted. Drain extra fluid.

4. Gently crack eggs one at a time into small bowls or ramekins. Gently slide each egg, one at a time, into simmering water. Simmer for 4 to 5 minutes or until whites are cooked and yolk is the desired consistency. Use a slotted spoon to remove each egg.

5. Divide spinach evenly between the 4 toasted muffin halves, place an egg on top of spinach, and spoon sauce over top. Makes 4 servings.

Nutrition Analysis per serving: 191 Calories, 32 % fat (6.8 g,2 g saturated), 40 % carbs (19 g),  28 % protein (13.4 g), 2.6 g fiber, 310 mg sodium.

Answers to “Do You Know?” From Last Issue:

Crusty Bread Is it true that you should eat the crust because it is the most nutritious part of the bread?
Sort of true. Baking increases a compound in the crust, called pronyl-lysine, which is a potent antioxidant that might lower cancer risk. But, that doesn’t turn white bread into a health food! You get the biggest health benefits if that crusty bread is 100% whole grain and contains lots of chew, rather than fluff. Chewy whole grain bread keeps blood sugar levels lower, so you are at lower risk for heart disease, diabetes, and even weight gain. They also are much higher in vitamins, minerals, and fiber compared to that spongy white bread!

yogurt! Is it true that yogurt can cure a yeast infection?
This old wives’ tale is both true and false. It is true that yogurt contains friendly bacteria known as probiotics, which have been used by complementary health practitioners both orally and vaginally to treat yeast infections. So in that sense, yes, yogurt can be a cure. However, yogurts vary considerably in the type and percentages of probiotics they contain. Skip the fruited and “designer” yogurts and go for plain, low- or nonfat yogurt that contains a mix of L acidophilus and other bacteria, and eat a cup every day.

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Do You Know?

What exactly is a calorie?

What is the lowest, yet still safe, calorie level to lose weight?

Check next week for the answers….

Food Finds/Food Fails

This is a new section to my newsletter. Each issue I’ll give you two healthy food finds at your grocery store and two food items you’d be better off avoiding.

Food Finds:
granola-chips1. Willamette Valley Granola Company’s Granola Chips: This tasty snack is a nice combination of a chip and a cookie. They come in four varieties: Wild Berry, Butter Pecan, Honey Nut, and Vanilla Bean. All are relatively low in sugar and fat, free of saturated fat, and an OK source of fiber. Better yet, you can satisfy a sweet tooth without sacrificing your waistline, since a serving is only 110 calories. [Christina, place picture with this one]

kashi-chips2. Kashi Hummus Crisps:
I am not a big potato chip advocate, since they are the #1 snack item and are typically a diet disaster or fat, salt, and calories. But, I fell in love with Kashi’s new Hummus Crisps. You will recognize the ingredients, they are reasonable in fat, a bit high in sodium, but also supply a good dose of fiber, protein, and iron. Keep to the recommended serving size and you won’t jeopardize your waistline and still can satisfy that craving for something flavorful and crispy.

Food Fails:

1. Select Cranberry Almond Crunch cereal: Many of those sophisticated cereals aimed at adults have as much or more sugar as the kid’s junk. This cereal has slightly more sugar, 13 grams, than Cocoa Puffs, which has 12 grams. Granted the Crunch has a bit more fiber, but it also has 80% more calories. Both are made with whole grains, but no one would venture to say a chocolate cereal is healthy for you. Well, guess what…many of those cereals aimed at adults are not much better.

2. Wheatsworth Stoneground Wheat Crackers: Seems like any cracker that say’s “wheat” twice and mentions that the wheat is stoneground must pack a hefty nutritional punch. However, the deceptive word here – wheat – just means it is made with refined wheat flour, the first ingredient listed. Five crackers pack almost a teaspoon of fat (3.5 grams), too. Throughout the grocery store and especially in the cracker aisle, watch out for brand deception and always read the label and assume nothing!

The Daily Menu

Put know how into practice with this simple, nutritious meal plan. Eliminate the snacks if you want to cut additional calories. And, with all the menus in my newsletter, feel free to tweak to your food preferences and choices.

1 serving Sauced and Bedded Egg Florentine (recipe above)
1 cup calcium- and vitamin D-fortified orange juice
2 slices whole wheat toast topped with 1 tablespoon jam
Tea or coffee (sweetened with artificial sweetener, if desired)

Mid-Morning Snack:
1 ounce nuts
2 tablespoons craisins
Sparkling water

1 Chicken-Salad sandwich made with:
2 ounces cubed chicken breast mixed with 2 tablespoons fat-free mayonnaise, 3 tablespoons diced celery, salt and pepper to taste
2 lettuce leaves
2 slices whole wheat bread
1 cup jicama, peeled and sliced
1 apple
1 glass low-fat milk

Mid-Afternoon Snack:
1 banana
2 tablespoons peanut butter
2 100% whole wheat crackers
Green tea

Dinner and Dessert:
3 ounces grilled salmon fillet
2/3 cup brown rice
Spinach salad made with:
2 cups baby spinach leaves
1/3 cup canned mandarin oranges, drained
2 tablespoons red onion, diced
2 tablespoons vinaigrette dressing

Hot Cocoa:
1 cup nonfat milk
1 packet sugar-free cocoa mix

Nutritional Analysis for the day: 2020 Calories; 30% fat (67 grams); 12 gram saturated fat; 21% protein; 49% carbohydrate; 35 grams fiber.