Guest Post: Healthy Traveling — It Can Be Done!

One of my New Year’s Resolutions for this blog (besides the chocolate mousse quest) was to make the blog more interactive by having six guest posts.  I had one guest earlier and it is now time for another, Cole Millen!

Cole Millen
Cole Millen

He introduced himself and offered me a post on eating well while traveling. Perfect for vacationers or business travelers!  Cole describes himself as an avid traveler and foodie who never forgets that life’s best memories are made through real life apprehension of legitimate “experiences.” Follow his blog at Cole’s Mill.

Thank you, Cole, for your contribution!

HEALTHY TRAVELING — IT CAN BE DONE!

The horizon is looking sunnier for the health-conscious traveler. Hotels and resorts are always looking for revenue-boosting schemes, especially as the traveling dollar of the average tourist becomes harder to get. They are designing more nutritious business banquets, restaurant fare, room service menus and min-bar options. The popularity of special diets is pushing much of this change as more people go paleo, gluten free and vegetarian. Smaller portions are becoming the norm on more hotel menus, and some hotel chains brand themselves around using locally sourced or organic foods.

When Flying

Flying has always been tricky for travelers watching their weight. The food options in airport terminals relied on coffee, pastries and chain burgers. Flyers trapped in the terminal faced few good options. Experienced travelers learned to eat a healthy meal prior to going to the airport, and packed their own healthy snacks for when they get a craving. Airports are doing a better job at offering healthy food options but it is still important to find the grilled chicken and salads whenever possible. Travelers intent on maintaining their weight and health should stay active during delays and layovers. Walk in the terminal, do some stair climbing or otherwise burn some calories. Avoiding alcohol in-flight is a good way to avoid calories. Drink water throughout the flight rather than soda or juices to curb hunger and dehydration. Skip the in-flight meal and pack a healthy meal of a sandwich, fresh veggies and a bottle of water instead.

Finding a healthy Hotel

Stay at a health friendly hotel if possible. A little online research during the trip planning stage saves calories and pounds. Read the hotel description on-line before booking a room. Usually the restaurant menus and other items are available on the website. Some also list nearby restaurants, so research the dining options that will be available. Often time’s hotels are misleading in their services and offerings. I recently found a great and informative site that made finding the right hotel easy. I was looking for hotels and found a great site that listed reviews for Las Vegas hotels called Gogobot. The site listed reviews regarding not only the hotels amenities and services, but also regarding the restaurants in the surrounding area as well as things to do. This made is so simple to not only find the right hotel but also to plan out the restaurants and things we could do and maintain our healthy lifestyle while away.

At your Hotel

Once at the hotel, travelers have the option of refusing the mini-bar key. This will help prevent those late night raids that are costly to the wallet and the waistline. Bring along packages of instant soup or oatmeal and plastic spoons. These meals can be made by heating water in the coffee maker and mixing the meal in a coffee cup.

If ordering room service, specify low fat or healthy cooking methods, and order the healthiest meal available on the menu. Select fruit, yogurt and whole grain cereal or toast at breakfast rather than a raspberry cheese Danish. Stay away from vending machines, unless they contain healthy food choices. Most hotels are surrounded by restaurants ranging from fast food to gourmet fare. Avoid the all-you-can-eat buffet and the fast food places. Pick somewhere with a varied menu to get a healthy meal. Utilize the hotel’s booklet of nearby restaurants and peruse the menus before leaving the room. Have healthy snacks such as fruit in the hotel room to take the edge off pre-meal hunger.

Finally, use the exercise room provided at the hotel. Take the stairs if it is reasonable to do so. Swim some laps in the hotel pool before taking a dip in the hot tub. Find the in-room yoga channel and complete a routine between the business meetings and the banquet meal. Take advantage of the exercise opportunities offered rather than using business or vacation travel as an excuse to leave the diet and exercise regimen behind.

Eating Out

At a restaurant, look for healthy words such as baked, boiled, broiled, fat free, fresh, grilled, high fiber, light, marinated, multi grain, roasted, steamed, stir fried, vegetarian, vinaigrette, and whole wheat in the menu descriptions. Avoid any food listed as stuffed, smothered, loaded, breaded or fried. Choose leaner cuts of meat and eat vegetables instead of simple carbohydrate side dishes. Use basic dieting and weight management knowledge at a restaurant and at home.

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Looking Back, Looking Forward

Beautifully restored 1950's kitchen in the L. Ron Hubbard house in Phoenix, Arizona

Beautifully restored 1950’s kitchen in the L. Ron Hubbard house in Phoenix, Arizona

Most of the time, I am looking forward. I’m looking at what future I will create and how I will create it. I’m looking at what I will do to improve conditions in my own life and in the lives of others. I am looking at what is needed in order to make things better on this planet. I am helped and inspired by the man whose home I had the opportunity to visit in Phoenix, Arizona—L. Ron Hubbard, founder of the Scientology religion. Mr. Hubbard lived in Phoenix in the 50’s and his home is meticulously restored down to every last detail.

I didn’t visit there just to see the kitchen, but when I did see it, I wanted to take a picture of it! My husband teased, “I see a blog post coming!” Does he know me or what?  How often would I see perfectly restored fifties kitchen stove, refrigerator and kitchen cabinetry? Imagine a 64 year-old stove with not one scratch, stain or stubborn burned spot on it! (The entire house was fantastic and I recommend you see it.)

Looking at this picture I began thinking about the food/cooking/health scene in that period of time. It was post WWII, so farmers were already being sold on the idea that chemicals left over from making bombs could be put into the soil to produce bumper crops. We won’t go down this road in detail right now. Let’s just say this led to weakened soil, the necessity for more chemicals, problems with livestock which then required antibiotics and hormones, more weakened soil attacked by more pests, more chemicals . . . .and look where we’re at now. Genetically modified foods created so they won’t die when huge amounts of pesticides–more toxic than ever before–are applied to them.

In decades past, you could not buy foods from across the globe so readily because shipping was slower and much less efficient. It was easier to maintain a diet that followed the seasons of the year and it encouraged us to eat the foods that were indigenous to our own climate—at least somewhat. Why would we want to do that? It promotes natural balance and harmony with our environment.

For some time now, we’ve been able to get just about any food from anywhere. Many of the so-called “miracle foods” come from environments far outside of my own, such as coconut products that are so popular now.

What were some of the new health and diet developments in the fifties?

Jack LaLanne

Jack LaLanne (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • The four food groups including dairy food were promoted in the early fifties (an idea forwarded by, you guessed it, the dairy industry!)
  • TV dinners and a myriad of other frozen foods were touted as convenient
  • White Castle and A&W fast food had already existed for decades, but in the fifties “Insta-Burger King” later to be renamed as Burger King showed up.
  • Nutritionist and author Adelle Davis was becoming popular. She was known as much for her anti-processing stand on foods and her criticizm of the food industry as much as she was for her ideas on vitamins and diet.
  • Jack LaLanne became America’s first fitness and exercise guru.
  • Microwave ovens—one of the worst, health-destroying inventions in my opinion—came out.

I grew up in the fifties and I well remember many of these things. I watched Jack La Lanne on television doing his isometrics. We ate TV dinners and just about any other new thing that came out. My mother was facinated by all the new food products. I learned the four food groups in school and I remember the first Burger King that opened in our town.

My own history regarding food is likely only interesting to just me so we can skip the details and list out: heavy meat and dairy as a child, learning about the problems being confronted by the United Farm Workers Union and joining the organization as a kid, getting totally hooked on “working out” at the gym coupled with a LOT of protein supplementation, taking a complete 180 and going all vegetarian. Staying vegetarian for thirty plus years and then temporarily going back to animal foods while still eating all the grains and veggies. Gaining a LOT of weight. Losing the weight with a very individualized diet. Realizing I paid a price health-wise while “dieting,” and now, coming to my own conclusions about what I need to eat and what I don’t want to consume any more which pretty much brought me back full circle to a whole foods, plant-based diet.

And cooking, cooking, cooking all the while!

I’ve learned so very much over the years!

  • You don’t need to eat meat, eggs and dairy food in order to have protein.
  • Children can thrive wonderfully well on a vegetarian diet as long as it is balanced.
  • You cannot leave out an entire category of foods, such as “carbohydrates,” for very long and stay healthy.
  • You gain weight by indulging in too many refined foods, whether they are vegetarian or not, and eating more food than you can easily use.
  • The body requires daily exercise.
  • You do not need to focus on individual vitamins or nutrients if you are eating organic, mineral-rich food.
  • By the same token, even the best organic-quality food today is weakened and you can assist yourself without “losing balance” with something like wild-harvested whole  micoalgae such as Super Blue Green Algae.

And here’s the most important point, which is difficult to totally define but vital for each of us to strive to understand:

  • The way I have learned what “balanced diet” means, is by studying the effects of various foods, observing these effects, and getting into and maintaining a dietary balance for a long period of time. I used the eastern viewpoint of balance (yin and yang) to understand this. Now, no matter how far and wide I’ve gone food-wise, I definitely know when I’ve lost my balance and I know how to regain it quickly. Further, we can be very much at cause over our environment food-wise by how we choose to eat. Cooking is a beautiful example of that because there is a myriad of food preparations and techniques with which we can change our foods into what we want and need. 

Where does this all lead? It leads to my own phraseology, “Free Eating.” It means that when one has a basic understanding of foods and their effects, of how to prepare foods in order to change them and create the effects you want, you have less rules, not more. Less intense focus on diet and food, not more. Less living to eat and much much more eating to live!

My own approach is that I want to eat real food, not fake, chemicalized food. Naturally occuring food is what I want. Whole food is what I want. And I want my food to be colorful, beautiful and the most delicious in the world.

Where have you been and what have you learned? Where are you headed and what do you want?

Scary Ingredients You Should Know About

A friend recently posted her comments on Facebook to this article she found and I think it’s very important information for all of us to have. This is about some commonly found ingredients that are put into prepared food which includes restaurant food, fast food, packaged and processed food. And it is a good follow up to my post, “Your Right to the Health You Created.”

So unless you don’t mind having beaver anal gland juice in your food, please read this article called, “The 11 Scariest Things in Your Food.”

I know. Eeeeew.

i have no idea

I had no idea! (Photo credit: jamelah)

Got Sugar?

Macro photograph of a pile of sugar (saccharose)

Macro photograph of a pile of sugar (saccharose) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My oh my!  This sugar topic is certainly a hot one!  I have gotten more responses, “likes,” and comments about my sugar posts than anything else I’ve done. Thanks to all for stopping by to read these and taking the time to comment.

And I plan to stir the pot further about sugar right now.

Since I’ve been writing about the evils of sugar, I was curious to see how many items in my natural food store had sugar in them that I would not have suspected.  I don’t know the exact number as there are so many, but here are some that are pretty obvious and some that are not so obvious. [When I say “obvious,” I mean that you probably already know or heard that it’s got sugar in it.]

Obvious:  Most fruit-flavored yogurts and vanilla yogurt have sugar in them.

Not-so-obvious:  “Made from real almonds non-dairy frozen dessert [I almost bought this today until I decided to check the ingredients.  Probably it was wishful thinking!]

Obvious:  Chocolate or vanilla soy milk.

Not-so-obvious:  Original, organic, plain soy milk found in cartons in the refrigerated section of the store.  This one truly surprised me.

Obvious:  Ketchup and cocktail sauce.

Not-so-obvious:  Organic low-fat mayonnaise.

Obvious:  Canned soups.

Not-so-obvious:  Most brands of organic and/or kosher chicken broth, beef broth and vegetable broth in the aseptic boxes list cane juice.

Not-so-obvious-and-just-plain sinful:  Organic miso soup in an aseptic box.  I was offended!

Kudos to IMAGINE FOODS brand of soup broths.  They do NOT have sugar!

Obvious:  Most barbecue sauces.

Not-so-obvious:  Organic lemon herb rub (for fish) with thyme. And sugar.

Obvious:  Many breads and flour products.

Not-so-obvious:  Organic, whole wheat panko bread crumbs.

Not obvious but for a different reason:  Salad dressings.  Some of the natural and/or organic brands have sugar in them and some don’t.  It’s about 50/50 so just check the labels because it’s a TOSS UP!  (Okay, okay. Bad pun.)

All I can really say is read every label no matter what store you are in.  I asked an employee at my natural food store what items had sugar in them that surprised her and she said, “Nothing surprises me here.  This isn’t a health food store.  Have you seen the bakery department?”

We can gripe about the natural food stores and what they decide to sell or not sell all we want.  They are there to make a profit and they have so much shelf space to designate for a product line.  What makes the most difference is what we decide to purchase.  They provide what we will purchase.  It’s as simple as that.

You can find some alternative suggestions below and I’m going to add one more treat to this list–it’s something I just discovered.  Suzanne’s Specialties Brown Rice Syrup products “Just Like Honey” and  “Ricemellow Creme” for a special treat.

Food Adjectives

I have a very fortunate shopping ability when I buy clothing–I can walk in the store, look around a few minutes, pick something up that I like and as long as they have it in my size, I am ready to buy.  It’s fast and painless!

I could do that when it comes to food shopping too, especially if I go in there hungry.  It is so easy to breeze through, load up the cart (start to eat some of the purchase before reaching the checkout), and voila–food for the week!

But I don’t.  In the food store (grocery, health food or otherwise) I am a label reader and I bet you are too.  If you’ve been reading my recent posts you know how important it is to check on the quality of your ingredients before you buy them no matter what store you’re in.  (See https://mycookinglife.com/2012/03/18/the-whole-food-and-nothing-but-the-food/ and https://mycookinglife.com/2012/01/23/whats-good-enough-to-eat/ and https://mycookinglife.com/2012/01/24/a-bandwagon-worth-jumping-on/)

A row of shopping carts.

A row of shopping carts. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Not only is it important to know the basic ingredients and make sure those are all actually real food, but you have to know the food adjectives.  These are the ones on the front of the packaging and in the ingredient list such as “healthy,”  “whole grain,”  “low fat,” and here’s a real doozie, “smart.”

To help you with more pieces to this puzzle, here’s an article I thought you would like to see:  Health – philly.com.

And P.S. I am all for going food shopping while hungry.  Some of my most inspired menus result from that!

The Whole Food and Nothing But the Food

Today the term “whole food” is tossed around quite a bit and it sounds very healthy and much better than just “natural food.”  There’s even a huge chain of stores with that name.  But what does it mean, really?

Whole foods are foods that are unprocessed and unrefined, or processed and refined as little as possible, before being consumed. Whole foods typically do not contain added ingredients, such as salt, carbohydrates, or fat. Examples of whole foods include unpolished grains, beans, fruits and vegetables.

The term “whole food” came into use around 1970, which makes a lot of sense to me in the broad scheme of things.  I have a friend who grew up on a farm in the ’50’s.  She would tell me about all the vegetables and fruits they raised and all about the chickens, pigs and cows.  They provided the eggs, the meat and the milk.  Virtually all the food they ate came from these “whole food” sources and processing them was minimal and done right at home on the farm.

It was truly whole food!  My friend’s family did not slaughter an animal and then eat only a two-pound package of some of the parts.  They used all the parts and they used methods for storing such as drying, smoking, pickling and freezing.  When they milked the cows they did not homogenize it and drink only a two-percent version of the milk.  They used the whole thing and made their milk, cream, butter, buttermilk, etc from that whole food source.

English: Young cattle – the milk cows at the o...
Image via Wikipedia  Really?  You’re going to drink the milk and eat the whole cow too? Wholly Cow!

The twentieth century had brought us all kinds of prepared, packaged, processed food products that we could just buy in our grocery store instead of growing and raising and preparing them ourselves.  These were not, and are not today, “whole foods”– no matter what the name of the store is where you bought them!

By the sixties and seventies we came full circle once again, looking for a healthier, more natural way to eat.  Terms like “natural,” “whole food” and “organic” began cropping up.

(I’m skipping over a LOT of food history here, and perhaps I will write more about that later.  You might want to check out Dr. Neal Barnard’s books for some of this. I’m also not promoting drinking milk.  That’s another story involving the U.S.D.A, the U.S. Dairy Industry and billions of dollars.)

No, not everyone is to going to go back to farming and raising all their own food and that’s okay.  However, if we are going to buy whole and organic foods from our “natural health food stores” we need to know some definitions.

I did not find a legal definition for “whole food” and there definitely isn’t one for the word “natural” or “natural food.”  Natural food means to me, whole and organic food.  It is in its natural state and wasn’t raised with pesticides and other unnatural chemicals and it is not highly processed.  That’s probably what you think, too.  But in the world of advertising and marketing, “natural” doesn’t necessarily mean that.  So beware.

The United States Food and Drug Administration defines whole grains as cereal grains containing the bran, endosperm and germ of the original grain.  That’s a mouthful!  These are the layers that are inside the grain.  It would be better to think of some examples:

Brown rice is hulled and the rest of the grain is left intact whereas white rice is hulled and has the underneath layers–the bran and the germ–also removed and you get the white part left (which is, by the way, called the endosperm.)  The brown rice is whole, the white rice is not.

Brown rice.
Image via Wikipedia  Some good-looking brown rice here.

Organic unbleached white flour is not a whole food.  Organic whole wheat flour is not a whole food, but is much less processed.  100% whole wheat flour is often stone-ground and still has the bran and the germ in it.  Whole wheat–the actual grain–is whole food.  So when you’re buying your “whole wheat” bread in the health food store, what does the label actually say?  Is the ingredient “wheat flour?”  That’s not necessarily “whole” wheat!  It has to actually say, “whole wheat” to be closer to whole food.

What about that bottle of sweet, organic, unfiltered apple juice?  Not whole.  But the apples it came from, definitely whole!

Let’s look at this very simple example:  You’re going to buy yourself a bunch of organic carrots.  Great!  The display is beautiful and the carrots are piled up all nicely arranged and they’ve even gone to the trouble of taking off the end where the green part was attached to the orange part . . . Wait.  What?

Manageable or Maimed?
Whole Carrots

Go for the whole carrot, I always say!  You can saute those carrot slices up in a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper, and you can wash and mince up those greens and toss them in for the last couple of minutes and you’ve got yourself a very colorful, delicious whole food dish.

In my universe, “organic food” falls under the category of “whole food.”  Organic food production is a heavily regulated Industry in the United States and in several other countries.  Organic farmers have to comply with strict guidelines to be able to claim their food or livestock is organic.  Generally, organic food is food raised without the use of synthetic pesticides and chemical fertilizers.  Organic food is not supposed to contain genetically modified organisms, industrial solvents, or chemical additives and it is not supposed to be irradiated.  Organic farmers are also required to use farming practices which foster recycling of resources and promote ecological balance and conserve biodiversity.

My first-hand experience with using organic whole food is that it is very economical and it provides much better nutrition than non-organic foods.  I fed three growing boys with almost all organic food and I can attest that on the few occasions when I didn’t have organic food and had to cook with non-organic, they ate twice as much, snacked all the time and never seemed as satisfied as they did (and we all did) when eating organic.

I think you can take it from here.  I’m not saying “NEVER” eat anything that is not 100% whole and unprocessed. But I am saying it is a good thing to start looking for more truly whole foods and use them to move toward a much more balanced, satisfying and healthy cuisine.

We Have a Right to Know

GENETICALLY MODIFIED ORGANISM

GENETICALLY MODIFIED ORGANISM (Photo credit: live w mcs)

More About Genetically Engineered (or Genetically Modified) Food

A follower recently asked me what was actually bad about GMO’s besides the fact that they’re unnatural.  It was a good question! I wrote about this subject January 23rd and 24th. https://mycookinglife.com/2012/01/24/a-bandwagon-worth-jumping-on/ and  https://mycookinglife.com/2012/01/23/whats-good-enough-to-eat/  I’ve continued reading about this subject and have come to understand that it is not just a problem of having a fruit, vegetable or animal’s genes modified in order to develop some quality or characteristic that it wouldn’t normally have.  (Though for me, this is unnatural enough and reason enough for me to not want GMO food.) The problem is also the reason that foods are being GMO’d.

One reason is that food is modified so it can withstand harsher pesticides.  When this is done, then the harsher pesticide can be used without killing off the plant but then what does that do to our environment now that we’re using harsher pesticides? Another problem is that the pesticides themselves are being GMO’d.  What is that doing to them and how does that worsen their affect on our environment?  Do we really want to mess with Mother Nature that way? Look at this picture of a guy pouring Monsanto pesticide (Monsanta is very BIG in the GMO business) to be sprayed on food crops.  What do the mask, jumpsuit and heavy rubber gloves say to you about the safety of having that in and on our food?

English: Monsanto pesticide to be sprayed on f...

Image via Wikipedia

And as far as I can see, no one has actually laid out exactly what the effect of GMO food is on our bodies, though the link below does mention GMO pesticides being found in the umbilical cord of pregnant women.  Well, you can find pesticides in lots of living things and this is never a good thing and I do my best to avoid exposure to pesticides altogether.

The GMO industry is money-driven, of course.  And the first step we need to take in order to change the direction of increasing alteration of natural food by genetically modifying them, is to be able to know if a food product is GMO or not.  In forty countries, GMO labeling is required.  It is not required in my country, the United States.  You should find out if it is required in yours.

If we can get laws passed to label GMO’d food products, then we have the ability to choose if we want to consume them or not.  And if enough of us get educated and decide not to consume GMO foods, then the problem will take care of itself. Here’s the link to some basic information about GMO foods from “Just Label It” http://justlabelit.org/about-ge-foods/ge-foods-at-a-glance/

With chopsticks, all food is finger food!

When you eat with chopsticks, it’s like eating with your fingers except the fingers have extensions.  The best ones are wooden chopsticks because a wooden utensil is easier to control and doesn’t interfere with the overall perceptions of the foods like a metal or plastic utensil.  Food clings to a wooden chopstick better.

English: Use of chopsticks (animation)

Practice makes perfect! (Image via Wikipedia)

Any bit of food can be picked up with a chopstick!  A grain of rice.  A bean.  A thin sliver of onion.  Chopsticks are not just for eating Asian cuisine, they are for all the time!  Even spaghetti is easier to eat with chopsticks if you know how.  They are so much better to eat with than the usual shovels and so much neater.  There’s no chasing around the last bite of dinner with chopsticks.  Chopsticks nail it!

Chopsticks are also great for cooking.  Stir fry with them, of course.  Also you can dip, flip, turn, fry, dredge, stir, pull things out of boiling water and serve the food–all with chopsticks.  Amazing!  The rule for cooking and eating with chopsticks is that the food can’t be too big.  It needs to be reasonably small enough to pick up.  You would not pick up an 8 oz steak with chopsticks, (well, you could but probably shouldn’t at the table) but you could pick up slices or bitesize pieces.

I’ve been eating almost everything with chopsticks for 35 years.  With chopsticks, all food is finger food!

Much love, Patty

P.S. Check it out:

http://foodimentary.com/2012/02/06/national-chopsicks-day/

http://josieliu.wordpress.com/2012/02/03/china-pictory-the-return-of-real-chopsticks/

http://9andthreequarters.wordpress.com/2012/01/30/chopsticks/

http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog/2008/03/30/how-to-use-chopsticks/

Show your L O V E

It’s Valentine’s Day and it’s also a Tuesday which is a big workday for me.  Not that I don’t take time to appreciate my special peeps and my very own special Valentine Hunny and make sure that they’ll all still “Be Mine” for a while longer . . . .

I’m sure we can find a little something to show our L O V E!

Typically people at least get Valentine’s Day cards for each other and so for you, my friends, I found these in the way of a Valentine’s Day greeting!  Hope you’ll be inspired to do a little something special in your kitchen to show your love (or at least find something fun to eat together!)

 

A Bandwagon Worth Jumping On

English: Adoption of Genetically Engineered Cr...

Image via Wikipedia

In case you don’t know, food producers are not required to tell us if our food has been genetically modified.

This past weekend, I went into my local health food store and asked about some tomatoes that looked awfully red and good for this time of year.  The produce manager didn’t know.  He said they have no way to be sure if something is GMO‘d.  Then he did his best to convince me that it “probably wasn’t GMO’d.”
This is wrong.  We have a right to know.  So thanks to Goldmine Natural Food Company, I was informed of this petition to the FDA:
“A petition has been filed with FDA calling for labels on food that have been genetically engineered. More than 500,000 Americans have already submitted comments in support of the petition, but we are not done yet! Let your voice be heard. Please take a moment to submit your support for the petition.”

justlabelit.org

Americans have the right to know what’s in their food. Tell the FDA to label GMO food. Also, if you haven’t seen it already, I recommend reading my post from January 23rd, “What’s Good Enough to Eat?” and watching the video linked at the end for a basic understanding of the subject.