Healthy Travel Tips

Traveling for work can be challenging with delayed flights, abnormal schedules, eating out and long hours. In order to keep sane with decent digestion, I try to plan ahead prioritizing nutrition, water, exercise, and sleep as much as possible. Maybe some of my tips and strategies will help when you have to travel for work or you may finish reading and think this woman is nuts 🙂

Choosing a hotel:
These are the top things I look for in a hotel – exercise room with weights, a refrigerator in the room, reviews on noise, and depending on my length of stay, proximity to a Whole Foods or decent grocery store.  

Pro tip on hydration, always bring a water bottle to fill up. Aside from getting a workout in, a hotel exercise room always has cold water. I constantly fill up my water especially before bed and in the morning.

Planning meals for the plane:
Yes, the typical person purchases at the airport and buys on the airplane during long flights, but I especially like to start the trip feeling good. And, I don’t know what it is, but as soon as I get seated, I’m starving. Some food items I pack to eat in flight are hard boiled eggs, chopped veggies like carrots, celery, cucumbers and snap peas, nuts, banana, orange or apple. I’m pretty sure that my seat mates aren’t thrilled with me on the eggs, but I need my protein. I also have hand sanitizer before I eat.

Planning meals for trip:
Knowing that I typically don’t plan the meals while traveling, I attempt to find out prior what restaurants will be on the itinerary. This way I can review the menu and come up with a plan before I arrive. This prevents me from temptations or letting the scheduler know if my options are limited. I typically eat dairy and gluten free, and I’m picky on my proteins. If it ends up a bar with fried foods covered in cheese, it’s a no go for me and I’ll eat prior and have a plan.

I have also let the server know that I have food allergies (a bit of a fib) and that I may be a difficult. I try to say this in a fun way and quietly, not to grab everyone’s attention on all the changes I am about to request. Because this is my go to, typically everyone at work wants to know what I ordered and how I completely changed the menu. Some common requests I have are of course dressing the side, no butter and oil to finish off a steak or fish, and steamed or very lightly sautéed vegetables. The amount of butter and oil restaurants cook with is tremendous and crushes my stomach leaving me feel achy and uncomfortable. 

Food I pack in serving size snack bags:
Flaxseed meal
Raw oats with cinnamon 
Tea bags 

Then if I know there will be times on my own for a meal or there’s a prepared meal I know won’t be decent, I try to find a grocery store to grab items. Typically on my list is berries for the oats with breakfast, a non-dairy milk, chopped vegetables, and a protein like hard boiled eggs, lunch meat, smoked salmon or cocktail shrimp. I add the flaxseed on the oats and/or berries, and it’s a good source of fiber and fat.

If a grocery store is out of reach, I will look for a starbucks. The hard boiled egg snack box works great for a quick fix.

Then finally sleep is key to overall survival and productivity while traveling. My rule is no more than 2 drinks and attempt to keep them as early as possible away from bedtime to fall asleep quickly. I also prioritize a workout in the morning before the day starts. Even if it’s only 30 minutes of cardio, the sweat does wonders for my day and energy.

I hope there’s one thing here that you can do differently next time you travel to improve your health on your next trip or even eating out. If you ever want assistance with meal planning or tweaking a workout based on hotel equipment, let me know and I’m happy to help!

Add More Fiber!

When a dog eats something that doesn’t agree with them, their instincts lead them to eat grass to move things through their system quickly.  Fiber is the part of the food that goes undigested and does not break down in our stomachs.  Even though it goes undigested, it grabs other digested food with it through the digestive process.  Fiber is important because it slows the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream from our gut and reduces cholesterol.  Both benefits slow down and prevent disease.  There are 2 types of fiber – soluble and insoluble.   

Soluble fibers attract water forming a gel slowing down digestion and allowing you to feel full longer.  Slower digestion helps with blood sugar as well.  Soluble fiber can be found in lots of fruits like oranges, apples, pears, berries, oats, beans, psyllium, celery, cucumber, and carrots. 

 Insoluble fiber does not attract the water and helps to speed up digestion, assisting with constipation.  This fiber keeps things moving.  Insoluble fiber can be found in whole grains, nuts, seeds, and vegetables.  Many seeds, nuts, and vegetables have a good combination of both fibers which make them a great addition to your daily diet. 

 They average person consumes 8-15 grams of fiber per day, although it is recommended that people get anywhere from 25-40+ grams per day based on sex and weight.     

Here’s a typical day of meals with the amount of fiber noted: 


Bagel – 3 grams
Cream cheese – 0 grams
Banana – 3 grams
Coffee – o grams
Total = 6 grams

Salad with:
2 cups of Romaine lettuce – 2 grams
Cucumber (no skin) – 0 grams
1 cup cherry tomatoes – 2 grams
Onions – 1 gram
Dressing – 0 grams
Slice of cheese pizza – 2 grams
Total = 7 grams

4 oz chicken breast (or any meat) – 0 grams
½ cup steamed broccoli – 3 grams
Mashed potatoes – 0 grams
Total = 3 grams

Total fiber for the day = 16 grams

Here’s what a typical day could be:

Oat Cereal with:
½ cup oats – 2 grams
½ cup raspberries – 4 grams
½ cup blueberries – 2 grams
1 Banana – 3 grams
1 oz sunflower seeds – 3 grams
Coffee – 0 grams
Total = 14 grams

Salad with:
2 cups of Romaine lettuce – 2 grams
½ avocado – 7 grams
1 cup cherry tomatoes – 2 grams
1 oz pumpkin seeds – 1 gram
Apple (with skin) and peanut butter – 8 grams
Total = 20 grams

4 oz chicken breast (or any meat) – 0 grams
½ cup lentils – 8 grams
½ cup quinoa – 3 grams
½ cup steamed broccoli – 3 grams
Total = 14 grams

Total fiber for the day = 48 grams

Some additional foods easily found to gain more fiber:

Beans, 1 cup – 11-15 grams
1 avocado – 14 grams
1 medium sweet potato baked – 4 grams
Pumpkin, ½ cup – 4 grams
Orange – 3 grams
Almonds, 1 ounce – 3 grams
1 tbsp flaxseed meal – 2 grams

So, help your digestive system by adding more fiber*.  If your system is not used to high fiber, start slowly as you may find yourself in the bathroom a little more than expected.   High fiber diets are known to reduce or prevent disease, especially various cancers, heart disease, and diabetes.  Fiber also helps reduce bloating in many people and weight loss.  Recent studies also note that high fiber diets result in longer life span.  Think like a dog and eat something green today. 

*If you have diagnosed digestive issues or take medication, talk to your doctor before changing your diet.  

Micronutrients – Eat the rainbow

Now that we’ve mastered macronutrients, and let’s review micronutrients. These are all the vitamins and minerals contained in foods. Like everything in life, balance and variety is key. Many athletes focus on macronutrients, and I believe in optimal health and focus on both. Not only should we look good and train hard, but we should feel good and including all the different nutrients in our diet is a great start.

Micronutrients, as defined by the World Health Organization, are vitamins and minerals needed by the body in very small amounts. However, their impact on a body’s health are critical, and deficiency in any of them can cause severe and even life-threatening conditions. They perform a range of functions, including enabling the body to produce enzymes, hormones and other substances needed for normal growth and development. 

Our bodies need a variety of food and if we eat the same foods each day, we’re probably missing out on some important vitamins and minerals. While most of these are only required in small amounts, you don’t need to eat a huge amount every single day to reach the optimal quantity.

I wrote a lot about protein previously, although animal proteins don’t necessarily fortify us with a wide variety of nutrients. Typically most animal proteins contain B vitamins, iron, selenium and zinc. B12 is the only vitamin not found in plant foods.  

Let’s start with vitamins. They are organic compounds which means they contain carbon, essential for life. They are either water soluble or fat soluble meaning they either need water or fat to be digested and absorbed. Water soluble include all B-vitamins and vitamin C. Fat soluble include vitamins A, D, E, and K.

Now for food sources for each vitamin:

A – whole eggs, dairy, beef liver, dark green vegetables, yellow/orange colored vegetables 

B – green vegetables, meats, dairy and fortified foods (B12 animal protein only)

C – fruits, vegetables especially citrus, bell peppers, kiwi, broccoli, strawberries, tomatoes, watermelon, potatoes, bananas and carrots 

D – fatty fish, cod liver oil, dairy that has been fortified, egg yolks and beef liver and of course from the sun

E – nuts, beans, whole grains and fortified cereals

K – green leafy vegetables, cabbage, beef liver 

Now onto minerals! They are categorized as either major or trace dependent upon how much our body needs. Trace minerals are needed just as much for function but they are needed in much smaller amounts than major minerals. Major minerals include: calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, chloride, magnesium, and sulfur. Trace minerals include iron, iIodine, zinc, chromium, selenium, fluoride, molybdenum, copper, and manganese.

Minerals are inorganic, they do not contain carbon. They are much more simple in structure than vitamins. Therefore they are much less vulnerable to damage from heat, light, cooking, and processing. There are a lot and most people think dairy when they think calcium which is true and can also be found in dark green vegetables, seaweeds, canned fish with edible bones, soy, sesame, and almonds. Of course it’s also added to many cereals and packaged foods as well. I won’t provide the list of all the foods sources here because we don’t need a lot to meet our daily requirements. So that’s where the balance of foods come in and eating whole foods in many varieties and many colors hence the rainbow. 

Many people ask, “why don’t I take a supplement and not worry about it?”. That is a strategy, although I will comment that they way we absorb supplements is different than how we absorb nutrients in whole foods. There are many cases when the supplements have too many minerals and put an extra strain on our liver in order to clear those through our systems. A wide variety of foods will provide us with the fiber we need, a great variety of nutrients and keep our bodies working at optimal levels. 

So eat the rainbow and think red – raspberries, strawberries, peppers; orange – oranges, carrots, sweet potatoes; yellow – squash, bananas, cauliflower; green – dark leafy greens, broccoli, peas, seaweed; blue/purple – beets, blueberries, blackberries. Then for balance and variety – fish, meat, beans, lentils, nuts, and seeds. Kids love to check off the rainbow everyday so you can make it a fun family event too!

Macro #3 – Fat Makes Our Food Taste Yummy

Now let’s move on to fat, our 3rd and final macro. Once a myth that it would clog your arteries and make you fat. Fat is needed by the body for normal growth and development, energy and absorption of fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K). Fat provides cushioning for organs, maintains cell membranes, insulates the body and protects it from shock, and used to make hormones. That’s a lot of benefits and necessities! 

Fat is typically found in meat, poultry, nuts, dairy, tropical fruits, butter, oils, lard, fish, and grains. There are 3 forms of fat: 1. Saturated – found mostly in animal products, solid at room temperature (butter, skin on meats, beef fat), 2. Unsaturated – found mostly in plant products (oils), 3. Trans-fats – unsaturated fats that have been hydrogenated to turn them into a form more similar to saturated (i.e margarine).

The USDA states that our diets should contain about 20-30% of calories from fat. This is the only macro where the USDA recommends the same as an athletic trainer would recommend. Remember that each gram of fat equals 9 calories so they definitely add up faster than the other macros and on the plate. So overall you would eat those in smaller quantities or included with your proteins. 

An avocado has ~300 calories and ~28 grams of fat. That would equate to almost 20% of fat on a 2,000/day calorie diet. A tablespoon of peanut butter has about 94 calories and 8 grams of fat, and an ounce of almonds or about 23 almonds is 164 calories and 14 grams of fat. For me that adds up quickly as I can eat a handful of almonds in a quick minute. So be mindful of what you are consuming while you balance and get it all in for the day.

A recent article in the Science Focus states “Despite scientists’ growing understanding of the importance of fat, high-protein and extremely low-fat diets are still all the rage as people obsess over shedding fat at all costs. But ultra-low fat diets, where fewer than 10 percent of a person’s calories come from fat, are not very healthy in the long term.”

Now that you know what macros are and how they are calculated, you can make wiser decisions about your meals and understand the balance you eat each day or in a week. While the recommendations are helpful, they don’t account for activity or physical or health goals. My suggestion is work toward a healthy balance each day. I try to eat about 30% protein, 50% carbs, and 20% fat. The reality is on most days I’m probably 20% protein, 40% carbs, and 40% fat, but it’s good to have goals ;).

I don’t track to perfection, but the protein helps with muscle development and maintenance and the fat and carbs help with my energy, sleep, and gut health. I tend to eat nuts and seeds so my fat will be higher than my carbs many days. I also omit dairy and gluten from my diet as they don’t agree with me. Everyone will be a bit different so listen to your body and look for balance. 

One final note on labels of food, keep in mind that the calories on the labels are not necessarily accurate and there are ways to fudge the system. If a packaged food has added fiber, those fiber grams are deducted from the carb grams since they aren’t absorbed. So if you’re trying to figure out calories based on a package, the math for grams times the macro count may not add up. Food manufacturers want to keep the calories at a minimum especially that they are required to label them and enlarge the overall calories per serving. 

As we age, the balance is even more important so we maintain or grow muscles while having all the energy we need. I recommend to experiment based on your goals and find what works for you which may not be the same as your partner or friends. That’s ok too.

Macro #2 – Carbohydrates, Our Friends

As promised, I’ll cover the 2nd of the 3 macros – carbohydrates. One of the most debated macros in current times. No carb, low carb, carb cycling. Carbs run our bodies, give us energy, and allow us to lift heavy and RX+ WODs! This is where we get all of our fruits and vegetables, our fiber, and our whole grains. The US Dietary guidelines state that these should be 50-60% of our calories. Please don’t discount carbs and their power for energy and great workouts. Carbohydrates are found in plant foods only with the exception of lactose (sugar in milk). They make up all fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds and used by the body for energy. 

Fiber is a form of carbohydrate but is not digested or absorbed by the body. Instead it is
used to keep our digestive track healthy by forming and eliminating waste from the body. Keep this in mind when I touch on food labels as promised last time.

Carbs can also be defined as whole grains vs. refined grains. Whole grains are foods that have not been significantly altered from their state they occur in nature e.g. white rice versus brown rice. Refined grains have most of the nutritional parts removed and are therefore enriched, or re-fortified. Simple sugars include: Glucose – blood sugar, Fructose – sugar in fruit and honey, Sucrose – table sugar, Lactose – milk sugar among some others. While complex carbohydrates include: Starches – potatoes, cereals, grains, corn, peas and Fiber – legumes, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, tomatoes, etc. 

Foods such as fruit contain both simple and complex carbohydrates. They contain fructose which is the simple sugar that cause them to taste sweet and they contain complex carbohydrates, the fiber, that gives them peels and form/structure. These foods matter and provide us with most of our micronutrients in which I’ll discuss in the future. These foods also are bulky, nutrient dense and take up room in our stomachs although typically digested a bit quicker than fat and protein. The fiber slows it down and why an orange is more beneficial than orange juice. 

Reviewing a couple of examples to breakout for your daily diet, think about cauliflower. There are 25 calories in a cup of cauliflower. You can eat as much cauliflower as you wish if those cruciferous vegetables agree with you. 71% of cauliflower calories come from carbs. (They are also 26% protein but it doesn’t add up to much protein given the calorie count.) There are about 310 calories in a cup of oats, providing 55g carbs and 11g of protein.

Back to our example from last time for a 150 lb person eating 2400 calories per day, a decent amount of carbs is about 1200 calories or 1200/4=300 grams of carbs. So in my examples above, that’s about 2-3 cups of oats, rice, or fruit plus 4-8 cups of cruciferous vegetables, and 2 cups of starchy vegetables. That is a lot of food and so good for you with lots of fiber!

Some of the carbs I eat on a daily basis are berries, kale, spinach, sweet potatoes, carrots, grapes, broccoli, cauliflower, cucumbers, oats and quinoa. I tend to eat more fat than carbs as I too am a work on progress. 

Next time we’ll look at fat. Another highly debated macro, Remember, all macros are important. Too much or too little of a good thing could be detrimental to our goals. Reach out if you want to talk nutrition and goals.

Macronutrients – Eating for Athletes

There’s lots of chatter around macros and how to divide them for the day. Some experiment with leaving out carbs to lose fat. Or as a product of the 80’s, we heard that fat is bad so reduce that as much as possible. The reality is that we need macronutrients and they all have their place daily. Typically a specific split doesn’t work for everyone and even when you find that balance, life, age and exercise may have you tweak the split.

To start with the definition – Macronutrients are those that provide calories or energy needed for growth, development, metabolism and all body functions. Macro means large therefore macronutrients are the nutrients we need in the largest amounts. 

The 3 main macronutrients are: Protein, Carbohydrates, and Fat.

Each macronutrient provides specific calories: Protein = 4 calorie/gram; Carbohydrate = 4 calorie/gram; Fat = 9 calorie/gram.

Everything we eat contains macronutrients or are broken down by macros, and every package of food contains a list of these macros but not necessarily broken down that nicely. We’ll come back to labels.

Let’s start with Protein. We are all working on muscle growth at the CFW, right? If you review the US dietary guidelines, you’ll see that we need ~10-15% of our daily calories to come from protein. This can be plant or animal based protein. If you read any guidelines for athletes or active people, we’re told to consume .8-1.2 grams per body weight or desired bodyweight in protein. If we want to grow muscle, it could be more like 1.4 grams per body weight. 

So if you weigh 150 pounds and follow a 2400 calorie diet to maintain weight, the USDA guidelines state you should consume 10-15% in protein which would come out to about 288 calories in protein or 72 grams. In this same scenario, athletes or people that want to build muscle should have 150-210 grams of protein. This is where information becomes confusing. So do we eat 72 or 200 grams? That is a huge difference.

To put it in perspective of food, a 4 oz raw chicken breast is approximately 130 calories, 25 grams of protein (25×4=100 calories). To get the 100 grams of protein in a day, that would be at least 4 chicken breasts. Ok, I gag a little just thinking about that. You can see how that could become tough out of the gate and discourage people. 

Let’s take a look at a plant based option, lentils. These hearty nuggets contain about 325 calories per cooked cup with 20% protein (16g), 44% carbs (36g) and 36% fat (13g). That would be 6 cups of lentils in our 100 grams per day example. Another unrealistic example, at least for me. 

There’s also the science of how much protein we can metabolize at any given meal. That range is somewhere between 25-40 grams per meal. So even if you were so inclined to eat 3 chicken breasts or 3 cups of lentils in one sitting, chances are that you’re straining your organs trying to digest it and your body won’t leverage all the protein. 

As we age, we do need a bit more protein to maintain muscle. As we work hard in the gym to build those quads, glutes, pecs, and biceps, I would recommend to try and eat at least .8 grams per body weight so in our 150 lb example, that’s about 120 grams of protein per day. Before you set goals and redesign your eating plan, start to track what you typically eat in a day. There are plenty of apps out there that will count it all up for you. I personally like the app Lose It. It’s super simple to use, has a great database and you can include recipes for meals that you eat often. 

I try to load up on protein early in the day because I struggle with it. Here is an example of my typical breakfast:

4 oz salmon, 1 egg, a smoothie with frozen berries, 1/4 banana and 3-4 cups of greens, and a handful of carrots or grapes. That is about 400 calories, 32g protein, 35g carbs, and 16 grams of fat. This probably last me about 3 hours depending on how hard I worked out that morning. 

If you’re looking for nutrition advice or help with meal planning, reach out. I’d love to chat. Next time, I will cover carbs – friend or foe?

– Coach Jen