June 1, 2012

Stick to Healthy Eating During Summer Travel

Eating healthfully when on the road might sound as easy as walking on water, but it actually isn’t that difficult to eat well, maintain your waistline, and enjoy food when vacationing. What you need is to exercise some forethought and do a bit of prioritizing. Here are a few guidelines:

Pick Your Poison Plan ahead. Otherwise, you’ll be caught short with nothing to choose but another roadside greasy spoon or that typical high-fat airline and airport meal. Bring healthy snacks with you, call the airline ahead of time and request low-fat meals, eat a light meal before boarding an airline, and/or bring a cooler (packed with low-fat yogurt, fresh fruit, whole wheat crackers, string cheese, and baby carrots) on road and train trips.

Prioritize. Skip the foods you can eat any time, such as french fries and soda. Focus on the foods that make your vacation special, such as the frozen chocolate-covered banana at Disneyland, the chicken gumbo in New Orleans, the fish and chips in London, or the pasta dish in Sicily.

Follow the 75% rule. Not every meal or snack has to be perfect. Try to eat at least two healthful meals every day that include two fruits and/or vegetables, a whole grain, a serving of nonfat milk, and a protein-rich serving of meat or beans. Take a moderate-dose multiple vitamin and mineral supplement to fill in the gaps on the days you don’t eat perfectly.

Crunch! Beware temptations. Vow not to open the refrigerator in your hotel room (there’s nothing in there worth eating anyway!). Just say “no” to the peanuts and pretzels on the airline or a friend’s pleading to have one more serving of potato salad.

Skip the alcohol. Even one drink can undermine your best resolve to eat less or eat healthy. We also don’t compensate for alcohol by eating fewer calories elsewhere, so these calories are in addition to, not instead of, your meal.

Skip the menu. In a restaurant or with room service, rather than feel limited by the menu, decide what you want and see if they can accommodate. Even fast food restaurants offer low-fat fare and can make the grilled chicken sandwich without mayonnaise.

Ask yourself if you’re hungry? Are you eating because you’re jet lagged, tired, or irritable or because you are really hungry? If you don’t have hunger pangs, find some other way to sooth your emotions without food.

Drink water. Air and road travel dehydrate you, leaving you tired, cranky, and vulnerable to snack attacks. Drink at least 8 eight-ounce glasses of water every day; even more if you’re traveling in hot climates.

Enjoy yourself, then exercise. Make daily exercise part of your travel routine. Stretch on the airplane, pull over and walk at rest stops along the highway, organize a volleyball game rather than watch TV at a relative’s house, and find every opportunity to burn off those extra calories.

Just Do This Today

Here are 30 delicious and simple ways to increase your servings of fruit and vegetables every day:

1. Open a bag of pre-shredded cabbage. Mix with a little light cole slaw dressing (chopped apples or canned pineapple chunks are optional).

2. Add grated carrots or zucchini to spaghetti sauce.

3. Mash green peas into guacamole. It reduces fat without changing taste or texture (really!).

4. Add chopped fresh tomatoes and cilantro to bottled salsa as a quick dip for chips, baby carrots, or pita bread, or pile it on as dressing for salads, tacos, burritos.

5. Make pumpkin pie with fat-free canned milk and low-fat crust.

6. Add lots of leaf lettuce, red onion, and thick tomato slices to a turkey sandwich.

7. Pop frozen blueberries or grapes into your mouth for a sorbet-like treat.

8. Top your morning cereal with dried plums or cranberries or a handful of fresh berries.

9. Drink a travel-size box of OJ on the way to work.

10. Stir fresh peaches or berries into frozen yogurt.

11. Add canned mandarin oranges to your spinach salad.

12. Skewer more vegetables (cherry tomatoes, carrot slices, mushrooms, eggplant, onion, squash, sweet potato, etc.) than meat on your shish kabobs.

13. Add frozen green peas to canned chicken noodle soup.

14. Never, and I mean never, leave the house without a snack stash (i.e., banana, orange, apple, baby carrots, raisins, grapes, and/or jicama).

15. Puree fresh fruit, sweeten with concentrated apple juice and freeze into ice cubes or pops. Add cubes to club soda for a refreshing drink.

16. Add fruit to your milkshake.

17. Make fruit or vegetable salsa and sauces with mango, papaya, peaches, or pineapple and use in place of creamed sauces on meats, fish, and chicken.

18. Purchase nonfat, plain yogurt and sweeten with fruit.

19. After dinner, place a platter of cut up fruit on dinner table for snacking in evening.

20. At the restaurant, order entrees that feature vegetables (grilled vegetable sandwich, salad, vegetable soup)

21. Ask your waiter to hold the potato and instead bring two side orders of vegetables (steamed) with your order.

22. Add grapes, mandarin oranges, or cubed apples to chicken salad.

23. Skip syrup, and top pancakes, waffles, or French toast with fresh fruit.

24. Puree vegetables, such as cauliflower, carrots, or broccoli, and add to soup stock and sauces.

25. Add dried fruit to stuffings and rice dishes.

26. Double your normal portion of any vegetable (except French fries or iceberg lettuce!)

27. Cut sweet potatoes into ½ inch strips and roast for a tasty alternative to french fries.

28. Stuff an almond into each of 5 pitted dried plums for a sweet, chewy, crunchy snack.

29. Plan your dinner around the theme of “meat and 3 veggies.”

30. Toss a bag of frozen stew vegetables (large hunks of carrots, potato, celery and onion) with a tablespoon of olive oil, dash of salt and pepper, and a few sprigs of fresh rosemary. Roast at 425 degrees for 30 minutes.

Hot Off the Diet Press

 1. Sweet Memory Loss: Supplementation with the omega-3 fats can boost brain power, but sugar leads to memory loss, according to a study from the University of California, Los Angeles. For six weeks, the researchers replaced water with fructose in the diets of rats and exposed them to a maze. High sugar consumption impaired cognitive abilities and disrupted insulin signaling, thus damaging synapses, the connections between brain cells that enable learning. The result? The animals forgot how to navigate the maze. Animals supplemented with the omega-3 fat DHA navigated the maze much faster. Animals not supplemented with DHA, but were fed water instead of fructose, also did better in managing the maze.


 2. Galvanize Against the Common Cold: Researchers at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto reviewed the research and conclude that zinc supplements really do work for treating the common cold. This meta-analysis reviewed findings from 17 trials and found that adults who supplemented with zinc had shorter durations of cold symptoms, by about two and a half days, compared to people who took placebos. People’s cold symptoms cleared up faster if they took a higher dose of zinc compared to those who took small amounts. No benefits were noted in children. A few side effects, such as a metallic taste in the mouth and nausea, were reported.


3. Eat Fast Food Elsewhere: Fast food in the U.S. is drenched in sodium compared to other countries, says researchers at the University of Calgary, who examined the salt content of more than 2,100 food items at restaurants such as Kentucky Fried Chicken, domino’s Pizza, and Subway. For example, McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets contains 2.5 times the sodium compared to those in the U.K. Apparently, it is possible to make tasty junk food without all that blood pressure-elevating sodium!


 Food & Mood Tip

The more colorful fruits and vegetables people eat, the happier, healthier, smarter, and leaner they are. Before you kick your determination to eat more produce into gear, you need to know how many fruits and vegetables to shoot for. The Dietary Guidelines suggest each of us consume daily up to five servings of vegetables and four servings of fruit; that’s nine servings a day from a very conservative recommendation. But is nine optimal? Actually, we don’t know what an optimal dose is, but we do know that the more phytochemical-rich fruits and vegetables you eat, the more you boost your body’s defenses against disease. Scratch the five-a day; eight to ten servings a day is gaining popularity as a healthier goal.

At first glance, that might seem like a lot, when you consider that it’s two to three times what most American’s eat. But it’s really not a monumental goal when you consider that a serving is only:

  • one small piece (one small apple or carrot).
  • a cup raw.
  • half cup cooked.
  • 6 ounces juice.

Eat Your Way to Sexy This Week

Want to feel sexy all day long? The best way to keep energy flowing is to stop and refuel on a regular basis (SExY Diet guideline #3 in my book, Eat Your Way to Sexy). That means a mid-morning snack about three to four hours after breakfast. Three mini-meals and a few snacks throughout the day keep your appetite under control, rather than it controlling you. Eat when you are comfortably hungry and you’ll choose the right fatigue-fighting foods. Wait until you are ravenous and you’ll eat too much of all the wrong stuff. There is nothing in a vending machine that will fight fatigue, so carry Quickie snacks that mix quality carbs with protein: Carbs provide brain fuel, while protein fills you up and maintains blood sugar. Keep it low-fat and about 200 calories.

Mood-Boosting Recipe of the Week

Crab and Veggie Cakes with Garlic Chili Cream (From the Food & Mood Cookbook by Elizabeth Somer and Jeanette Williams)

This traditional dish has an added boost by including lots of colorful, antioxidant-rich peppers and vegetables. Make the sauce and cake batter ahead of time, then fry cakes for a quick 10-minute meal. Serve with a tossed salad and French bread.


Garlic Chili Cream:
1 /2 cup fat-free mayonnaise
1 clove garlic, minced
3 teaspoons chili sauce
4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Cooking spray
1/3 cup red pepper, diced
1/4 cup celery, diced
1/4 cup red onion, diced
5 teaspoons canned chilies, diced
1/2 pound crab meat, shredded
1 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup liquid egg substitute (equivalent of 2 whole eggs)
salt and pepper
1 cup bread crumbs
Fresh parsley, chopped (optional)

Chili-Garlic Cream: Mix ingredients for cream sauce, cover, and refrigerate for an hour to overnight.

1) Spray a non-stick medium skillet and heat over medium heat. Add bell pepper, celery, onion, and chilies. Stir until onion is tender, about 5 minutes.

2) In a large bowl, mix pepper mixture, crabmeat, lemon juice, eggs, salt and pepper, and 1/4 cup of garlic-chili cream. Add bread crumbs and toss until thoroughly mixed.

3) Form crab mixture into four 1 /2-inch-thick patties. (If you have the time, place on baking sheet, cover, and refrigerate for one hour or more.)

4) Spray large, non-stick skillet and heat over medium heat. Place cakes in skillet and cook until golden brown, about 8 minutes per side. Sprinkle with fresh parsley. Serve with remaining garlic-chili cream. Makes 4 servings.

Nutritional Analysis per serving: 220 Calories; 14% fat (3.4 grams);<1 gram saturated fat; 35% protein; 51% carbohydrate; 1.7 grams fiber.

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

1. You have a hankering for an Applebee’s Quesadilla Burger with fries. How many calories, grams of saturated fat, and milligrams of sodium will you get if you eat the whole thing?

Blend two popular dishes into one and you have Applebee’s Quesadilla Burger – a beef patty plus cheese, more cheese, bacon, sauce, and a touch of lettuce. With fries (440 calories), the meal comes to 1,820 calories and 46 grams of saturated fat. (“Add Chili and Cheese to your fries for $1.49,” says the menu….you can guess where the calories are going from there!) Oh, and did I mention this also maxes our two full days of your sodium limit.

What to do: Eat a third of this and feed the rest to the dog! Any dog.

2. Many of the entrees served at Cheesecake Factory top well over 1,000 calories. Can you guess the calorie content of a serving of Biscuits and Gravy at this national chain?

This meal of chicken breast served over mashed potatoes with shortcake biscuits, mushrooms, peas and carrots, covered in gravy has roughly 2,500 calories, or more than a person’s entire daily allotment, and then only if you have walked briskly for 5 miles that day. To put this in perspective, that is the calorie equivalent of an entire KFC 8-piece Original Recipe bucket plus five Home-Style Biscuits.

What to do: This meal would have to be split 5 ways and complimented with a few orders of steamed broccoli to even come close to a heart healthy choice. Eat it all even once a week and you will gain up to 37 pounds in a year!

Do You Know?

This was so much fun, let’s do it again:

1. Can you guess the calories, fat, and sodium in a Fajita Burrito at Chipotle Mexican Grill?

2. Can you guess the calories, fat, and sodium of a plate of Pasta Alfredo at Olive Garden?

Check the next issue for the answers….

Label Lingo

Whether you have high blood pressure or not, everyone would benefit by cutting back on their sodium intake. Many packaged foods are sodium land mines, supplying up to half or more of your entire day’s allotment for sodium, which is 2400 milligrams. Look for items that contain no more than 200 milligrams of sodium for every 100 calories. For example, a slice of pizza that supplies 300 calories should contain more than 600 milligrams sodium.

The Daily Menu

Put know how into practice with this simple, nutritious meal plan. Eliminate the snacks if you want to cut an additional 300 calories. And, with all the menus in my newsletter, feel free to tweak to your food preferences and choices.

Egg Mc-Pita: Scramble 1 large egg with 2 tablespoons canned chopped green chilies, 2 tablespoons chopped green onion, and salt and pepper to taste. Spoon eggs into a whole wheat pita. Cut in half, top with 1 small diced tomato, 1 tablespoon salsa and 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro.

1 cup orange juice

Mid-Morning Snack:
1 oatmeal-raisin cookie
1 cup 1% low-fat milk

Peanut Butter Candy Sandwich: Blend 2 tablespoons peanut butter, 2 tablespoons toasted wheat germ, and 1 tablespoon honey. Spread on 2 slices whole-grain bread.

1 cup sliced sweet red pepper
Dunked in: 3 tablespoons commercial hummus

1 cup nonfat milk, warmed and sprinkled with nutmeg

Mid-Afternoon Snack:
1 ounce almonds
3 graham crackers


1 Crab and Veggie Cake with Garlic Chili Cream (See recipe above)
1 cup steamed broccoli
2 cups tossed salad with 2 Tbsp. low-fat dressing
2 slices French bread

Sparkling water with lime juice

Late-Night Snack:
1 cup frozen blueberries

Nutritional Analysis: 1991 Calories; 29% calories from fat (64 grams, 14.5 saturated fat); 51% calories from carbohydrate (254 grams); 20% calories from protein (99.6 grams); 41 grams fiber.