Vacation Veg-ing

office workerEating healthy while traveling can be tricky. Good vegetables in particular are not readily available in airports, train stations, or at highway rest stops. It can be particularly important to consume nutrient- and water-rich foods while traveling because sitting for a long time prevents consistent blood and airflow to our muscles and joints. These systems can be further slowed down by complex foods, such as fatty and protein heavy foods, that take a lot for our body to process. In addition, the dehydrating affect of planes on our bodies can take its toll. How many of us end up eating foods we know do not support our health though when we travel? It can be easy to find excuses to not eat the way we eat at home but how much better do you feel when you eat well?

I was in a very resort-y area of Arizona recently for a beautiful, fun family wedding and found some great gems at the local supermarket: mini, colored peppers. These mini peppers are about the size of one of my fingers so they travel well and have very few seeds so they do not make a mess. They also are hearty enough to hang in your bag for a while and leftovers can fit neatly into a small hotel refrigerator. A bag of them costs about the same amount as a bag of chips and they are delicious! They are super sweet so our families’ little kids loved them and we adults couldn’t stop eating them.

The downside to these peppers– they are not organic. There is a chance that they have been sprayed with pesticides. Until rest stops and hotel mini bars and supermarkets in tourist areas have a better, affordable selection of pesticide-free produce however, what do we do? When given the choice between chips made with unhealthy oils or pretzels made with processed flour or mini peppers that may have been sprayed with pesticides, what do you do?

I know that chips start me on a cycle of cravings that do not serve me and flours do not work for my body and I do not otherwise eat a lot of foods that are not organic so I chose the peppers. What accommodations do you make while traveling in order to continue to eat as healthfully as possible and feel as good as possible?

From the Garden: Turnip Greens

Turnips on the tableWe’re approaching the end of the local winter crops here in the Northeast and *some of us* might be a little sick of the all too popular kale at this point. If you are looking to switch things up, consider turnip greens. They are packed with calcium (4 times more than broccoli, cabbage, and their relatives), folate and Vitamin K1 (good for the pregnant ones out there or those trying to get pregnant). Turnip greens might be a little harder to find than spinach or kale so check your local farmer’s market. Some might find turnip greens to be on the bitter side so I’d recommend that you give them a quick steam (5 minutes) and then toss with something rich or tangy, like browned pieces of local bacon sautéed with onions and crushed red pepper, or this vegan dressing: mix raw tahini with hot water (3 parts tahini: 1 part water). Stir in a small amount of non-soy miso paste while the water is still hot (available at most health food stores in the refrigerated section) and add more paste to taste depending on how salty you like it. Take note: those with existing kidney or gallbladder issues might stay away from turnip greens as they may exacerbate your symptoms.

A Japanese Condiment to Swear By

Ume fruit and Umeshu wine Japanese aperitif and dessertUme plum vinegar. It will change your life as well as your steamed greens, scrambled eggs, salads, brown rice, and pretty much anything. It is a Japanese condiment made from ume plum, shiso leaf and salt. It is salty and sour and totally addictive. It can also be great for your body and energy levels because it stimulates your digestion and helps break down lactic acid, which builds in the body as a result of stress as well as some exercise. Eden Foods makes an organic version that you can find in most health food stores or online. The salt levels are pretty high though so use sparingly and only if you do not otherwise consume much salt throughout your day.

Squash Sugar This Holiday Season

pumpkin baked with herbs and spices on a plateCrowd out processed sugar by eating sweet vegetables for dessert instead, like butternut or kabocha squash or carrots that have naturally caramelized in the oven or on the stove. In addition to reducing sugar cravings and maintaining more balanced energy levels, eating squash or carrots provides your body with beta carotene which can be helpful for your eyes and skin because it helps rebuild tissue. This can be especially good for those of you in your third trimester or who have just had a baby.

If you must have more sweet flavor drizzle a small amount of high quality maple syrup on your veggies (less than you think you need). Then try to decrease the amount of maple syrup you use each time.

Vitamin D: To Sun or Not To Sun

grilled sardinesHealth practitioners are increasingly identifying Vitamin D as an important component in the prevention of many ailments including the common cold, cancer, osteoporosis, depression, and diabetes. There is controversy over the method by which we acquire this essential hormone though. Countless articles and blogs and theories promote the value of sun for our Vitamin D levels while others discuss its potential harmfulness. So what do you do? When you hit the sand, do you leave your SPF at home because it blocks Vitamin D absorption? Do you diligently apply sunscreen in the morning and throughout the day and take a supplement instead?

Some say just 10 minutes of sun each day on the face and hands will do the trick but if you are very pale and your family has a history of skin cancer, this may seem a bit risky. In addition, if you are darker, 10 minutes may not be sufficient.

Supplements on the other hand are synthetic and our bodies’ ability to properly absorb the vitamin is still in question.

Here are two things you can’t go wrong doing:

1. Discuss your particular situation, skin tone, and family history with your doctor or dermatologist.

2. Eat foods that are rich in bioavailable Vitamin D—eggs, sardines, cod liver oil. These foods will not provide you with sufficient amounts of Vitamin D but at least you are getting yourself part way there worry-free. Sardines in particular have a ton of other nutrients including calcium, phosphorus and selenium. They are delicious when served Spanish style, tossed with parsley and fresh lemon. Just be sure to buy the kind that is packed in extra virgin olive oil.