Travel Nutrition

June 22, 2011 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

New York City is rightly considered one of the culinary capitals of the world. Top chefs from every conceivable background set up shop in NYC to show off their most creative and revolutionary gastronomic concepts. This is great news for visiting epicureans, but a potential disaster for anyone trying to adhere to a healthy diet. I fall squarely into both camps. I’m an admitted foodie that insists upon nutrient density. What to do?

Last week, I took a trip to New York with my family. I was surrounded by culinary temptations of every ilk – buttermilk pancakes topped with maple syrup, freshly made bagels and potato chips, homemade ice cream, 7 layer chocolate cake and more. On two occasions in particular, I could have easily crumbled under the pressure. Here’s what I did instead:

One of the special stops on our trip was to a famous steak house to celebrate my father-in-law’s birthday. The first items brought to the table were baskets of just baked bread and a combo of crispy shoestring French fries and onion strings. However, I didn’t feel drawn to them because I knew there was plenty on the menu I could enjoy equally as much, if not more. I started by sharing a bowl of lobster bisque with Mrs. Healthy Fellow. As a main course, I ordered a succulent rib eye steak. For side dishes, I enjoyed creamed spinach and grilled asparagus in a garlic-y olive oil. A glass of red wine rounded out the meal. It could not have been more nutritious or satisfying.

The day before heading back to Los Angeles, we attended a family party at a Chinese restaurant in New Jersey. Once again, the food selections started off in a difficult direction. The appetizers were an assortment of dumplings and dim sum. I didn’t partake, but did welcome a bowl of hot and sour soup. Much to my surprise, the rest of the meal was quite compatible with the low-carbohydrate, nutrient dense diet to which I’m accustomed. The next parade of dishes included poached fish with bok choy and mushrooms, and tofu in a vegetable broth. The main course featured strips of savory beef with broccoli and onions and crispy, roast duck. In all, a wonderfully delicious and satiating meal.

In my line of work I’m constantly reminded of the importance of choosing food wisely. The May 25th edition of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition solidifies my point of view that food can indeed be powerful medicine. In it, an 18 year follow-up analysis of 7,319 adults determined that healthy food choices, as assessed by data collected using the “Alternative Healthy Eating Index (AHEI)”, are capable of reducing the risk of all cause mortality by 25%. What’s more, foods including colorful fruits and vegetables, nuts, seafood and wine have all been linked to a lower incidence of cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis and poor blood sugar control in current medical journals. (1,2,3,4)

Nutrient-Dense Diets Are Associated w/ a Lower Risk of All Cause Mortality

Source: Am J Clin Nutr. 2011 May 25. (link)

My carefully selected list of foods in NYC was certainly rich in nutrients. The vegetables alone are excellent sources of folic acid and Vitamin K (asparagus); Vitamins A and C (bok choy); magnesium and potassium (spinach). But that’s only a small part of the overall picture. These same side dishes are abundant reservoirs of non-nutritive substances, including dietary fiber and phytochemicals. Antioxidants and fiber found in fresh fruits and vegetables are continually singled out in scientific publications as protective agents against various diseases including cancer, dementia and obesity. There is no RDA (recommended daily allowance) for phytochemicals, but that doesn’t mean they’re any less important than essential fatty acids, minerals and vitamins. (5,6,7,8,9,10,11)

My purpose for describing my experiences on the road is not to boast. I’m not especially proud of my ability to avoid unhealthy foods. However, I know that in the past I believed that such avoidance of temptation was practically impossible. Now, I know otherwise and I prove it to myself and others no matter where I travel – Argentina, Costa Rica, France, etc. And if I can do it, so can you. But if, on occasion, you do decide to partake in some “forbidden” foods, just try to increase your activity level and get back onto a healthy program as soon as possible. Remember that we do not acquire good health or poor health by eating healthfully or unhealthy on occasion. It’s what what we do the majority of the time that matters most.

Be well!


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Posted in Diet and Weight Loss, Food and Drink, Nutrition

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