Travel is one of the most spectacular things we do. It introduces us to new people, new places and a whole new experience in culinary delights. Travel affords us the opportunity to sample everything from crisped insects in Indonesia to bulls testicles in Denver. Everywhere we go, we get the opportunity to try new and exciting things, but as fantastic as this sounds, it can also lead to overeating, unhealthy choices, and inevitably bringing home an unwanted souvenir of a few extra pounds around our middle. How does one manage this and still enjoy their trip? Is it possible to feel pleasure with the culinary aspects of a trip without sacrificing the pure joy of eating good food? Of course there is a way, it just takes a closer look at your choices and creating more balance with them.
Airport Food Choices- First and foremost don’t waste calories on airport food before you board. Either pack a healthy snack or if necessary get a light salad. Don’t get me wrong, I have had fantastic food in the airport and I do love eating and drinking during a layover, however the food in airports tends to be expensive, is not necessarily cooked for health and can be overly salted to enhance the flavor. If you need/want to eat before the flight and have access to Delta SkyClub or some other club status I highly recommend you take advantage of this. They usually offer some healthier choices and most often have vegan options as well. They are buffet style so you only take what you want, and they include a place to comfortably relax between flights. You can also fill your water bottle, have a small glass of wine and chill before take off. However, do not take the “all you can eat” as an excuse to eat more. Whenever I eat at a buffet I try to imagine that I am paying for each dish and each glass of wine. This can help keep it into perspective. Resist that urge to “Get the most for your money”- you are in sky lounge, act like VIP and pretend like it doesn’t matter if the food is free.
If sky club is not an option for you, then try to eat before your flight and pack a light snack for in flight to carry through security. Remember to make sure you follow TSA rules on what you bring through.
Prefer to eat at the airport still? Then find a restaurant or café near your gate to have something light, lower in carbs (since you will be sitting you do not need the extra energy from added carbohydrates) and a good source of protein and vegetables (the first will help you feel full and the latter will give you fiber to help manage travelers constipation).
Inflight meals- If you are preparing for a long flight and meal service is part of your passage, then order the vegetarian option. This usually means you will be served more vegetables which many times correlates to “healthier”. Sometimes these choices are a bit fresher as well.
If you are not seated in a cabin that has meal service, then it is a good idea to purchase something to bring on board rather than settling for the inflight options. Airports have come a long way from plastic wrapped sandwiches in a stand-up cooler. Depending on where you are leaving from you can get anything from sushi to a gourmet salad in an eco friendly compostable container. Make sure you are mindful of the smell of your food and its always wise to avoid bring peanuts on board as you may not know of potential peanut allergies in flight. Also make sure you drink plenty of water the days leading up to your travel so that you are well hydrated for your flight and for when you arrive in your location. It is inconvenient to have to go to the bathroom in flight, but it is also very important to stay hydrated while flying as this is important for feeling your best when you land.
Drink plenty of water while in the air and even ask for a hot tea while in flight to help keep your fluids moving through your system. If you brought food with you, time your meal when it is most in line with what a normal eating time would be. It’s always important to keep as normal of hours as possible while traveling, this includes meal timing.
Once you land - Make sure you drink plenty of water, again (notice a trend here??). Depending on the time that you land and the type of travel you are doing will determine when, what and if you should eat a meal right away, or fast until the next day. If you have a long vacation planned, are traveling solo and/or arrive at your destination later in the day it may be a good idea to just settle into your dwelling, drink some more water (J ) and get an early night’s rest. This will give your system an opportunity to refresh and restore before your vacation begins. If you have a very short trip where every moment counts, and/or if you arrive early in the morning to your destination, then settle into your routine and eat at the next appropriate meal time.
Eating while on the trip-
Once you have settled in and woken up fresh in your destination it is time to enjoy yourself -NOT to stress about food choices. However, pick which meals you plan to indulge and which meals you can be more mindful at. Perhaps alternating this over the course of each day is a good way to have opportunity to explore different options at different meals. Sometimes it is so decadent to sit down to the richest most decadent breakfast you can think of, or maybe you are traveling where there is a world-renowned donut shop. Why WOULDN’T you have one?? Balance would mean that this is not the day to also have that triple chocolate cake you eyed up at one of the restaurants on your list.
Another tip is to alternate your more indulgent meals with added activity. Take a walk in the early morning, go to the gym at your hotel, plan some hikes if you are in a spot to do so, or go for a swim in the pool or ocean. Activity doesn’t negate unhealthy food choices, but it does allow your body to use the energy from those foods in a better way.
Try to avoid snacks while traveling, unless of course it suits the time and place, in which case make sure that you balance those snacks with a lighter dinner. When choosing meals at your destination make sure that you try to choose foods that are local and special to the area. Supplement with nutrient rich accompaniments, these accompaniments are usually the diamonds in the rough. Traveling to the southern part of Portugal is not necessarily where you want to eat a burger with fries. This is where you want to try some octopus with a side of roasted olives. The burger and fries IS totally appropriate though for a trip to the American Midwest, especially if those fries and burger are sourced from a local farm. Try to avoid eating from chain foods while traveling and try to avoid all inclusive if at all possible. Travel should support the local economy of your destination, not hurt it. Research locally owned restaurants and visit these. Not only will you feel good about doing so but chances are the food will be far superior to anywhere else.
Drinking while on vacay- This is the area where most people slip up. Vacation equals relaxation and where I come from relaxation also correlates with having a drink. Now an argument could definitely be made that the area of change needs to be made in that association, but that is for a different discussion. Instead figure out what is the best way to balance alcohol intake in your style of travel. If you are traveling to watch a baseball game at Yankees stadium its completely appropriate and expected to indulge in some beers with your hotdog and popcorn. Same to say if you are traveling to the Valencian region in eastern Spain. A gorgeous glass of sparkling Cava would be wonderfully appropriate while you enjoy the setting sunset on your garden terrace and wait patiently for your traditional paella. The point is that this is the time to step out of your box. Sample Scotch while in Scotland, sip on Saki in Japan and toast a glass of whisky while in Tennessee. Ask for suggestions from the locals or your waitstaff.
Desserts while on vacation- I saved the best for last and appropriately so as dessert typically comes at the end of the meal. The best suggestion I can say (and this comes from an honest to goodness dessert fiend) is to do your research here. Sometimes you can go to a restaurant that has the most amazing steak in the world with Brussels sprouts grown in gardens on the roof, but their desserts are frozen and plopped onto a plate before serving. Around the corner from that same restaurant might be a 24/7 diner with handmade pies. Logical option: enjoy the meal, pass on dessert and go find your pie.
Look at the menu before you order. Maybe you won’t know how things are prepared but you can always ask or look for key words in the description. Find out if things are baked in house and if they are baked the day of. Aside from talking to your server, read reviews beforehand if available. Notice if desserts are seasonal and ask the server if they change. What does the description say on the menu? Are there ingredients used to enhance the flavor, things like spices? Maybe you don’t have dessert everyday and especially not every meal. Perhaps pick your best times and locations to enjoy your dessert and then don’t worry about what the menu says, ask the waitstaff for their favorite.
Always split dessert if it’s an option. Depending on the style of restaurant you are dining at, desserts tend to be much too big and way too much for just one person. Everyone will feel better for sharing. Flying solo? Bring it back to your room to enjoy after an evening stroll with a glass of wine off of your private terrace.
Now that you have a plan in place, I want to share the most important tip of all.
Enjoy each and every eating adventure you embark on. Savor each spoonful and truly bask in the beauty of a well-crafted meal. Any potential guilt felt overindulgence will only bring negative energy to your trip. Eat it, enjoy it and move on.
How many times do you stop to think about your own personal impact on the environment? Do you feel like what you do doesn't make a difference? We often think about how "we" as humans impact the planet, but its so often a collective thought like, "we" should drive less, "we" should get rid of all plastic straws, "we" should be using reusable containers, "we" should be using solar energy, "we" should be buying less clothes... there are a lot of things we think and tell ourselves that "we" should be doing. But how often do you shift that focus to "I". What would happen if you actually drove less? What does that even look like? Maybe its not as drastic as moving to a more bike friendly state, perhaps it is just that you don't drive on one of your days off. You stay home for the whole day, never leaving the house. Or how many times have you driven back into town because you forgot floss for the 500th time at the store? (this happens to me a lot...) Maybe don't drive back to town. Maybe twice a week eat in at your office instead of driving home for lunch, OR maybe you work close enough to walk somewhere for lunch. Simple ways to make a difference. What does it look like not to use plastic straws? Could you say no thank you at restaurants? Could you stop buying cute candy cane straws for your daughters birthday party? How about using reusable containers? You do not have to go spend money on these items. Simply wash and reuse jars and containers from other food items you have purchased. This not only saves money, but it also supports the environment in reducing waste. What about solar energy? This feels like a big expensive change. But have you actually looked into what this would cost? Some people find that in the end they save money because of energy credits you can earn from the electric company. Last on the short list above... buying less clothes. Simple! (Unless of course you have teenage girls, this is a hard sell for them...) Solution- buy second hand. When I was a kid second hand clothes were not very cool, today- super cool! In fact if you can't find what you want in your local thrift shops check out www.thredup.com. This site allows you to even return items! Some of these clothes are brand new with tags still attached.
So many ways that YOU can make a difference. You don't need to be part of a group effort. The burden doesn't lie on the masses. It only takes one stone to ripple the entire pond. Be that stone, start that motion. Get things moving. Make a change today.
Imagine walking into your local yoga studio. What do you expect to see?
You might expect to see Jen, the perky 20 something wearing the trendiest leggings, a snug racer back tank and stretching out in the back, showing off her flexibility. This is what most of us imagine when we think of yoga. Skinny middle -class women doing headstands and impossible balancing acts.
Would you be surprised then that next to her is Sue, an overweight 57-year-old grandma who recently cut back to part time and signed up for this class through community ed? She’s wearing some old sweatpants and a baggy t-shirt she picked up in Jamaica 15 years ago. No tight spandex for her. It might surprise you even more to notice that her and Jen are talking in that familiar way about what they did over the weekend. What could these women possibly have in common? Are they friends?
Would you be equally taken aback to see that next to Sue, stretching his back in a forward fold, is Steve. Steve is a 34-year-old former marine sergeant who started yoga per recommendation from his counselor to help manage his PTSD.
To the front of him are Karen and Don who always lay their mats together and bicker over who made the other late that day. Would you expect that they are in their late 70’s and they just started yoga the year before last?
Is this how you imagine the practitioners of yoga to be?
Are these the next great yogis of our time?
Or are they simply a representation of yoga today?
Yoga is many things, but what it is not is exclusive. Yoga is for everybody. Every age. Every ability. Every person can practice some form of yoga. Yoga brings people together from all walks of life. The young, the old, the able bodied, the hurt. Yoga is not a religion. It is not a sport. It is a practice that connects the body, mind and spirit through the breath. You can find classes in a studio, in a park, in a church basement, on the beach, even online. Yoga is everywhere. As you sit in your car pulled up to the stop light, you notice the young woman next to you close her eyes for a moment and breath deeply through her nose. Is she practicing yoga? Of course she is! She’s practicing pranayama- breath work. Maybe she doesn’t know she’s practicing yoga but she is. At your next work meeting you notice the presenter do something funny with his hands, he holds them in a sort of steeple with the finger tips touching and the fingers widened apart. Is that yoga? Yes it is! That’s what yogis call a mudra- a way of working with your bodies energy systems. Perhaps he learned that trick at a leadership conference and never knew he was beginning a journey into such a powerful practice. At lunch your co-worker tells you about some exercises from her physical therapy. They kind of sound like yoga. Are they? They might be. Again- Yoga is all around us.
Some people say that America has ruined yoga. They say that we have ripped away the tradition and importance of the practice. I say that America is young and eager. We see the benefits and we know deep down that we need those benefits for ourself. But the underlying thread and importance of yoga can never be altered. None of us are living the life of traditional yogis. So how can we take a traditional practice and expect it to work today. The truth is we can’t without completely changing everything about what makes our lives run the way they do. Now that’s not saying there isn’t room to change but yoga brings that change in its own way. You don’t have to change yourself to do yoga because yoga will bring about the change for you. Yoga forces you to confront your ego and it humbles you. Not in a degrading sort of way, but in the way that reminds you of what’s truly important in life. Yoga not only allows you to live in the moment and to just be, but it also works on a physical level to strengthen and bring balance to your body systems, no matter what style of yoga you practice.
So next time you have insecurity or trepidation about attending a yoga class, take a moment and remember Sue, Steve, Don and Karen. Even think of Jen because she is part of this yoga conglomerate. The names have been changed but they represent real individuals. These are the people of modern yoga. Not the contortionists we imagine in our mind, but our neighbors, our coworkers, our family and our friends. This is what yoga looks like today and I am proud to be part of it.