Thursday, March 24, 2011

Health Away From Home – staying well on business or leisure travel

This article will also be available on Healthy Eating Active Living and/or their Facebook page

Health Away From Home – staying well on business or leisure travel                                   
Sarah Reid, RHNC

Even in the world of telecommunication, Twitter and video meetings, nothing compares to the level of connection that a face-to-face meeting offers a business. The amount of travel experienced by those in the corporate world has been reduced greatly, but most career paths still involve a few grand meet-ups every year, in any and all parts of the world. Whether it’s for two days or ten, situations filled with long days, airlines, hotels and catered meetings can give your health the pink slip. Leisure travel often involves breakfast, lunch and dinner in restaurants, long days and unfamiliar beds, and believe it or not a vacation can be as hard on your system as a weeklong company summit. A bit of planning, though, and a few simple tweaks to your routine, will have you coming home without any excess baggage.
One of the best tricks to staying healthy on any trip is as easy as turning on the faucet – water. When you’re on the road, waiting in the airport, on the pool deck or sitting in your hotel room burning the midnight oil, keep a 1-litre (32-oz) bottle with you and keep filling it up. Once your mind recognizes your body’s cries for the fluid, it becomes second nature to reach for the cold and clear stuff rather than a second (or third) cup of coffee. Speaking of coffee (and caffeine in general), most people consume too much – cap it at one serving a day. The “coffee break” void can be filled in with energizing, unsweetened herbal or green teas, and of course that unforgettable water. Limit your bar tab, too – especially in hotter climates. Alcohol (in particular cocktails and mixed drinks) not only is rife with calories and sugar, but it is dehydrating and inhibits the liver’s ability to detoxify the stress from travelling. With kids, limit the amount of sugary drinks and food they consume on vacation – including pop, fruit juices and the obvious candy and desserts – for the same reason, and have them drink more water instead. A good rule of thumb is for every alcoholic, caffeinated or sugary beverage you consume, drink two 8-oz glasses of water. It seems like a lot, but your body must replenish from the substances’ diuretic actions. The payoffs are better sleep, less jet lag effects, calmer kids and more stamina throughout the day.

When you’re packing your carry-on bag, why not toss in a few baggies of homemade trail mix? A quick breeze through the bulk foods store and five minutes of preparation is all it takes to give you a nutrient-dense, long-lasting treat for whenever you need to “munch”. The mixture can be as simple as a basic almond, Chex and raisin combo. On long trips, flight-heavy itineraries or those schedules that just seem too full to think, adding in sources of the major stress-busting nutrients of vitamin C, A, E and B as well as zinc, magnesium, and iron will give you stamina and prevent you from catching any colds from the recycled plane or building air. Tossing together unsalted almonds, pumpkin and sunflower seeds (great for minerals and vitamin E) with delicious roasted chickpeas (high iron and fibre) and any mix of unsweetened dried tropical and continental fruit (tropical tidbits like papaya and mango are extremely high in vitamins A and C, figs and prunes are rich in calcium and potassium) will not only taste better than a storebought bag mix but will be free of any preservatives and oils too. To “bulk up” the mix or make it a little more decadent, a handful of Honey Nut Cheerios or broken pretzel sticks and a few dark chocolate chips never hurt anyone – and might just entice any kids to try a handful too! Bringing your own snacks is also a great way to keep both appetites and pocketbooks in check – airport and airline food is notoriously bad, expensive, and unreliable, and children may be more comfortable with something from home than a mystery meal. When at your destination, snacks help fill the gaps between meals and prevent any blood-sugar crashes, not to mention keep boredom at bay if you’re caught waiting. My own balanced, high-protein high-fibre snack mix recipe will be available as part of my upcoming recipe booklets Kids Can Cook and Hungry For Health (to be released late August 2011).

When eating out, make lunch your heaviest meal, especially when you’re active in the afternoon (such as at a theme park or sports meet), eat a well balanced, not too fatty protein and fibre – filled breakfast (like an omelette and whole wheat toast, not sausage and a Danish!) and stick to lighter options like fish or vegetarian meals for dinner. The “rules” to eating out on a trip are the same as when having restaurant meals at home – make the wisest decisions you can, and if it’s a special occasion, plan the rest of your meals around the splurge and have that triple-fudge cake!

Activity, even when “relaxing” or stuck in an office, boosts your immune system, stress and energy levels, not to mention helps you to think clearly and get to sleep at night. If you’re in all-day meetings, take the stairs to the boardroom instead of the elevator, and when there’s a break have a power walk instead of a latte. If your office, hotel or cruise ship has a fitness centre, hit the treadmill or the stationary bike for a half hour (preferably before dinner). You’ll burn off last night’s restaurant meal and that day’s stress.

Though the beds are unfamiliar in hotels, you can improve your sleep quality while away. Try to keep as close a sleep / wake routine as possible to the one you have at home, limit heavy dinners and rich desserts and turn the thermostat in the room to about 20°C (68°F). Earplugs and eye masks will also prove useful, especially in busy hotels or those in city cores. Of course, if you or your child has a favourite pillow and just can’t sleep on anything else, reserve room in your luggage and bring it along. A good night – and better morning – are worth it.

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About Me

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I started my "working life" as a holistic and allopathic nutritional consultant with a love of cooking. Teaching the value of wholesome meal choices to families became close to my heart after I battled a long history of struggles with weight and health, and the passion for teaching led me into where I am now. My blog, which focuses on "bringing good taste to healthier food" through creative use of whole grains, fresh produce and acknowledging the importance of the occasional treat, also features a wealth of "specialty diet" friendly recipes for gluten-, egg-, dairy- and sugar- tree nut-free items that everyone can enjoy without alienating those who need them.

Overall, I want to bring back the desire for good quality, homemade, (mostly) healthy food into the hearts and kitchens of families so that the next generation will be less box-reliant than mine. I firmly believe that any “homemade” food, even when labelled as "naughty", is a more wholesome treat than pre-packaged, cookie-cutter junk. With the knowledge of good food (and how to cook good food) as a base, a healthy lifestyle can follow, and then anything is possible!