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Tis The Season for Travel - Travel Food Tips

With the busiest long-distance travel period upon us, and my own upcoming 29 hour flight itinerary, I thought it would be an appropriate time of year to present my two favorite topics as one: travel foods!
Whether you are boarding an airplane or cramming into the car, providing the right fuel for your body can support an enjoyable travel experience and deliver you at your destination feeling energized and (physically) prepared for your visit.

Traveling by air

Nearly 90 million Americans already have digestive issues, so 35,000 feet up is not the time to exacerbate existing disorders or experiment to see if you can contribute to this statistic. Here are some general flight food tips to keep your tummy travelling well.

  • Carbonated drinks. Stomach gases already expand by approximately 30% when you reach flying altitude, hence why downing bubbly beverages can make you feeling like Mr. Clause by the time you are deboarding.
  • Alcohol and caffeine. Sure that Jack and Coke takes the edge off turbulence, but alcohol and caffeinated beverages contribute to dehydration. Besides irritated skin and eyes, this can also put you at greater risk for respiratory infections and DVT (deep vein thrombosis). After clearing security, fill or purchase a water bottle and bring onboard, sipping 8fl oz every hour onboard.
  • Avoid fried, fatty foods before flight. These foods are already taxing on the GI system (fatty foods take longer to digest), but when traveling at even higher altitudes can cause exaggerated complaints of heartburn and acid reflux.
  • Cruciferous vegetables. Wait, did the dietitian just say I don’t need to eat broccoli? These cruciferous vegetables (Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage) contain a complex sugar, raffinose, which results in excess gas production in the intestines. Pre-flight is the only time you’ll catch me advising you to stay away from these nutritional powerhouses, as the decrease in cabin pressure results in expansion of stomach gases and a not-so-comfortable traveler. They get the thumbs up the other 360 something other days of the year.
  • Legumes. Skip the chili before you board. Beans have a high raffinose content, and are loaded with difficult to digest soluble fiber.
  • Dairy. Milk and dairy contain lactose, and many of us have a threshold as to how much we can tolerate as we need an adequate amount of the enzyme lactase to breakdown lactose before running into trouble.

Suggestions for in-flight meals:

Traveling by ground

Although you may have the option of stopping during your car trip, it may be smarter to pack your own foods to ensure your tummy remains a happy traveler. For the sake of your car-mates, I would advise avoiding most of the aforementioned flight foods above if you already struggle with these on the ground. I would also emphasize simple, ‘no-assembly required’ foods for car travel. You also have the option of packing a cooler to keep foods safe while en route.

Suggestions for car-trip snacks and meals:

  • Bars (Larabars, Odwalla): Select a bar with at least 3g dietary fiber and 5g protein.
  • Fresh fruit (wash before packing in the car): Avoid those with pits (cherries). Try single serve applesauce.
  • Easy-to-eat veggies: Pre-washed cherry tomatoes, baby carrots, broccoli florets served alongside a thick (no-drip) dip.
  • Yogurt and berry parfait: layer yogurt, fresh berries in traveling cup and seal with a lid).
  • Simple sandwiches: toast bread before adding spread to avoid soggy sandwiches.
  • Wraps: layer hummus, lettuce, veggies and seal in foil or saran wrap.
  • Homemade trail mix: chex mix (or low sugar cereal), toasted nuts, air popped popcorn, dried fruit packed in ziplock.
  • Instead of soda: Water, 100% vegetable or fruit juice (can be cut with seltzer water).

Whether traveling by air or ground, make sure you consider the foods pre-trip to ensure you are as comfortable as possible while traveling this season!

Healthy holiday eating and drinking tips

Happy (healthy) holidays! Here's a roundup of great tips, recipes, and videos to help you make decisions about what to eat or what to make & bring to holiday gatherings:

Busy Morning Breakfasts

Breakfast = Break the fast. As long as you aren’t participating in ‘FourthMeal’ (I’m hoping you don’t even know what this is), breakfast should be the first opportunity of the day for a healthy meal. Breakfast can be quick, easy, and good for you. You’ve heard before it’s the most important meal of the day (studies have shown improved cognitive function and maintenance of a healthy body weight), so here are some ideas to help you get off to a great start!

If you don’t have time in the morning…

Quinoa Cereal

 Ingredients:

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8-1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • ½ cup berries (blueberry, raspberry, blackberry or strawberry)
  • 1 tablespoon hempseeds

Directions:
Place water, quinoa and spices in saucepan and stir gently. Turn heat to high until just bubbling, then cover and reduce to simmer for approximately 15 minutes. After cooking time is complete and water has been absorbed, remove lid and fluff lightly with a fork. Add honey, berries and hempseeds and stir gently to combine. May be enjoyed warm or cold. Serve over yogurt if desired.

Preparation Time: 25 minutes total
Yield: 4, 1 ¼ cup servings.

Original recipe by Tarynne L. Mingione, 2012.

Get Your Plate in Shape!

Did you know that MyPyramid is out and MyPlate is in? I love this new graphic that was adopted by the USDA last June. Dietitians have been advocating this way of eating for a long time and consumers tend to find it easier to understand. I mean, we typically eat off of plates not pyramids, right?

The Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association) is on board with MyPlate as well. This March, in honor of National Nutrition Month, the Academy’s theme is “Get Your Plate in Shape”.

Here are a few tips for shaping up your plate:

  • First of all, the size of your plate does matter and this is one instance where bigger is not necessarily better. Think “plate” not “platter” and aim for a 9” diameter.
  • Make half of your plate colorful fruits and/or vegetables. Plan to vary your fruits and vegetables so that you get a rainbow of color over your week or month, which then provides you with a range of different phytochemicals (beneficial plant chemicals).
  • Sometimes it is not practical to have all 5 food groups in one meal and it certainly is not recommended to overconsume just to get in all 5 groups. Instead, aim for at least 3 food groups per meal while maintaining appropriate portion control ...

St. Patrick's Day - Can green foods reduce your cancer risk?

Dr. Dan Labriola, naturopathic doctor for the Swedish Cancer Institute, shares his insights about certain green foods that have the ability to combat cancer.

Focus on the Positive

This February for Heart Health Month, let's focus on the positive.

Too often when discussing eating for heart health we focus on the things we should be decreasing (sodium, saturated fat, trans fat, added sugar) rather than focusing on the many positive things we could be adding to our diets.

So what can you add to your food intake for heart health?

We know from national surveys that the majority of Americans are not consuming recommended amounts of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, diary, seafood, and heart healthy oils. This translates to a lack of important nutrients, such as Vitamin D, potassium, calcium, and fiber.

Think of one healthful item from each category above that you could add into your diet over the month of February. Here is a list of one of my favorite foods from each category to give you some ideas.

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