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Thursday, 28 January 2016

What IS A Balanced, Healthy Diet?

This is Chapter 2 of my book 'The Best Things To Eat and Drink When You Fly' that gives perspective on what to eat and drink to prepare folks for a flight. But, really, this information is helpful for everyone who may be confused about what is best to eat and drink, in general. I hope it helps you! :)
PS: Please note that you may have to cut and paste the links onto your browser in order to open them, if you want to check them out, but also, please feel free to email me and I will send them to you!

Chapter 2 – Best Diet For Travelers à Balanced, Healthy Diet

“If  you stay ready, you ain’t got to get ready”. Will Smith

For the frequent flier and /or business traveler, the best things to eat and drink to prepare you for calm, comfortable, productive, and pleasant flights and trips is to already be eating and drinking the best things for your body– when you’re not travelling, when you’re on terra firma. You see, along with adequate sleep, proper hydration, and getting enough exercise, a balanced, healthy diet, as part of your usual, regular lifestyle habits, contributes to optimal fitness and health.  A stable, fit, optimal state of health is a much better state for the body to be in and/or to start out at, when subjected to the conditions of cruising in a confined cabin at 30,000 feet – wouldn’t you agree?

Numerous studies affirm the long-term health outcomes associated with habitual consumption of balanced, healthy diets: prevention of obesity and overweight, and lower risks of cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s disease, and certain cancers. Additionally, what can truly be helpful for the frequent flyer to know and understand are the many more proximal and immediate positive benefits of healthy eating and drinking: control and/or prevention of indigestion, gas, nausea, diarrhea, constipation, halitosis, and other gastro-intestinal discomforts, as well as other physiological discomforts such as headaches, lightheadedness, blood clots, urinary tract issues, and general malaise.

So, What Exactly Is A Balanced, Healthy Diet?
A balanced, healthy diet is one which provides the body with its essential nutrient requirements for its physiological needs. So, as much as we enjoy eating and drinking, the main goal is to get and keep us healthy – daily, weekly – for life. That’s not to say we shouldn’t celebrate and enjoy foods, drinks, and eating and drinking! In fact, having access to the foods and drinks we need, but, also, want, and like gives great satisfaction and improves the quality of our lives. All people have the basic human right to be well-nourished from foods and drinks they enjoy and tolerate well. The CDC identifies a healthful diet as one of the necessary determinants of individual health and wellness and national levels of health and well-being.

How To Eat A Daily Balanced, Healthy Diet
If the main goal of a balanced, healthy diet is to get our daily doses of necessary nutrients, then you can always analyze the *Nutrient Chart I have provided for you (see below), go through the sources of each nutrient, pick out the foods you like and can get, and plan your own personalized menus for the day, week, month(s), year, etc., accordingly. And, as you’re out and about, travelling, you will be that person who relates to dining out like this: You’re up for that, right? You have time for that, don’t you? You certainly can go for it, if you want to!

Oh, guess what?  You don’t need to do that because, actually, it’s been done for you. In fact, in almost every nation on the planet, Dietary Guidelines have been developed and are available, so that you make informed dietary choices to enable you to achieve a balanced, healthy diet that delivers your necessary daily nutrient requirements. Dietary Guidelines translate the science and theories of nutrition into the much more practical ‘language’ of food.  Dietary Guidelines distills the information from reliable studies and detailed sources to generate practical plans based on basic, wholesome foods grouped according to their similar nutrient content and compositions with suggested serving amounts, and recommendations on what groups to choose the mainstay of intake from vs. occasional selections or treats. It’s amazing to see that Dietary Guidelines are extremely similar across almost every nation. This affirms the fact that despite our differences of race, culture, national origin, or geographical location, we all share (more or less, but well-within normal human variation) the same nutritional requirements. The foods may be different from country to country, but, they are similar in nutrient compositions, so as to enable classifications in distinct groups, in a similar manner, in each country, from country to country. The ‘language’ of nutrition is universal. Some examples of international food guides:

If more people, across the globe, would start today to consume foods and drinks in suggested servings and amounts, based on Dietary Guidelines, it would be life-changing (for the better!) for individuals, for populations, for nations, for the world! It would result in more people eating balanced, healthy diets --thus, they would be better nourished and, ultimately, healthier. So, why don’t more people follow Dietary Guidelines?  Are they too difficult to understand, to execute? Are the recommendations unreasonable? Are they too vague, too detailed, too generic, too boring? Does it matter?

It does matter -- more today than ever before. Dietary Guidelines, of some sort, have been around a long time, and even the most rudimentary of recommendations have been better than nothing to help people reference and reassure that their dietary intake is within reasonable and helpful limits for the body’s needs. Up until the 1980’s, people actually ate more in alignment with recommendations. It’s only been in the last 30-40 years, that our food intake has run amok. With the increased production and availability of food, in general, came also the increase of convenience and fast foods/drinks engineered and processed with higher sugar, salt, fat, and, ultimately, calorie levels. A ‘food-everywhere’, ‘eat-constantly’ environment has evolved, where grazing, snacking, nibbling, and oversized portions have become normal. Now, I grew up with the ‘mangia-mangia’ dynamic being a second generation Italian, so, this was normal for me and my family (many of whom were overweight, obese, and heart/liver/colon/lung-unhealthy), but now it’s like the whole world is becoming second generation Italians when it comes to food! I might add, too, I believe, it wasn’t so much the Mediterranean diet that I and my family usually consumed that contributed to our diet-related health problems, but, rather, all the convenience and fast foods that we consumed on top of our daily healthy diet, for example: the snack-pack puddings we were given after we had our piece of fruit, going to the burger joint not even a half hour after we finished dinner as our after-dinner entertainment, evening take-out pizza deliveries from an uncle’s restaurant to have as our bedtime snack – always accompanied by cold Cokes, of, course. Our grandparents and parents were fascinated by how easy it was to get cheap, tasty food and lavished us with it. It was a tangible way for them to show us they loved us, could care for us, and that they were ‘making it’ and were as successful as all the other Americans. By the time we transitioned through puberty, early adulthood and full-blown adulthood, our bodies – from our brains to our tastebuds to our stomachs, via our livers, pancreases, and adrenal glands, mediated by all the hormones involved --  (patho)physiologically needed, as well as wanted too much food. It was our normal.

Similarly, the now general food-obsessed environment we live in today has made it normal for many more people to overeat. When I was growing up in the 50’s-80’s, I was 1/ 8-10, perhaps even 15 children, classified as obese/overweight. Now, 1/3-4 children are classed as such. It’s ironic that with improvements in food research, production, hygiene, and distribution, it’s become daunting for people, even our children, to get their proper nourishment. It seems our dietary intake is now driven much more by hedonic forces than by our bodies’ physiological needs. The main goal of diet—to obtain our nutrient requirements to get and keep our bodies healthy—has been superseded by other ‘goals’ – to please our palates, feel totally ‘satisfied’ and satiated’, and find ultimate food experiences. “Mangia, mangia”!

Here’s a link to an excellent discussion on why people overeat:

So, it’s time to look back in order to move forward. We must revert back to eating more of the ‘basics’, less processed foods, appropriate portion sizes, and less often. Food and diet need to be put back in perspective. We need to reorient our palates with our bodies’ physiological needs. Dietary Guidelines show us that, no matter where in the world you are or travel to, it is absolutely do-able to consume and enjoy eating and drinking, healthfully. You just have to start doing it and before you know it, you will actually find yourself preferring wholesome, basic, fresh foods and drinks (aka, clean eating) to highly processed too-sweet, too-greasy fare (aka, junk foods) in portions suited to your body’s needs. And if you find you, yourself, can’t be bothered or find it too difficult to follow Dietary Guidelines, do me a favor – get your children to follow them. It will be a gift to them that will keep on giving. ‘Hard-wiring’ your children, from the get-go, to prefer more wholesome, basic, balanced diets as outlined in Dietary Guidelines, will, hopefully reawaken and encourage the dietary autonomy and self-regulation of their food intake that they were born with, to get and keep them healthier, for life. They, in turn, will be more likely to pass this dynamic and physiological legacy to their own children. I love a hopeful strategy! Looking back does not mean moving backward! I can’t help myself from inserting one of my favorite poems here that says it so much better than I ever could!

Although following any of the national Dietary Guidelines that I have listed, will help you to eat and drink better, I admit, I really prefer the Dietary Guidelines and Food Pyramid  as proffered by the Harvard School of Public Health: It is clear, concise, and very much all that is known to help you make the best dietary choices you possibly can, according to the best evidence-to-date.

Additionally, one of the best resources I’ve ever seen that explains many of the benefits of healthy eating can be found at:  The explanation of what happens to the body when you eat and drink too much of too rich, too-sugary, too –high-saturated fat, too-high alcohol, is worth the short hour of listening -- perhaps while waiting at the gate? J. The presentation was made to help guard against overindulging at holiday times, but the principles are pertinent to everyday choices. Certainly, as one meanders around food courts at airports, it’s good to have information to help you be mindful of what it means if you succumb to hedonic eating and drinking, especially shortly before subjecting your body to the added stressors of air flight. The gluten-free aspects may not apply to you, but it’s good to be educated and aware of issues surrounding the gluten-free craze, and, actually, as overblown as it might be, there is evidence of an increase in the prevalence of celiac disease and gluten-sensitivity in many countries. Moreover, similar mechanisms of gastrointestinal distress and other signs of physiological intolerance can and do legitimately occur with any substance that is not tolerated, for some reason, by the body, or consumed excessively. These issues are explained clearly in this slideshow. The practical advice on how you can execute healthy eating each day, is also worth a look and listen.

If you are still not convinced and/or feel you need additional more individualized dietary guidance to help you achieve a balanced, healthy diet and the optimal health, vigor, radiance, and energy levels that you desperately want and need to be the consummate frequent flyer and globetrotter, then, the next chapter is expressly for you! Fasten your seat belts! Read on! J

*Nutrient Chart file:///C:/Users/mjove/Documents/AppendixC_NutrientChart.pdf

Friday, 22 January 2016

For the frequent flyer -- excerpt from my book 'The Best Things To Eat and Drink When You Fly' :)

Chapter 9 – Showing Up Alert, Fresh, and Ready

… I eat flowers now and birds come.

I eat care and things to love arrive.

I eat time and as I age

Whatever I swallow grows timeless. …

                                                              Mark Nepo, from ‘Surviving Has Made Me Crazy’

If you’ve ever doubted the power of positive words and thinking, I have just five words to say to you:

“Cabin crew, prepare for landing”!

Am I right or what? J

Hearing that announcement is like waving a magic wand over the whole planeful of weary travelers. All of our aches, pains, and ailments just seem to dissipate, if not disappear entirely! We find ourselves smiling at the ‘cute’ screaming babies across from us; chatting to the ‘nice chap’ in front of us who had his chair in our face the whole trip (@@); and even wishing the woman next to us, who kept dropping her litter on ‘our floorspace’, a wonderful trip!

In the 30+ years that I have been frequently flying, I haven’t once heard anyone say:

“Aww, shucks! Do I really need to get off the plane? Must I go…now?!”

Never!  Just anticipating getting off the plane fills us with joyful relief and exhilarating energy.  Mood-boosting hormones kick-in to help innervate our brains, strengthen our muscles, limber-up our bones, and release energy so we can make our way onto terra firma, and move forward to the places we have to be, the people we want to see, and the things we need to do! J

Happy Landing!
It’s a great start to the rest of your trip!  To keep that momentum going, your body will continue to work most effectively for you, if you’ve already been implementing information from previous chapters:

  1. Chapter 1—Having a good overview of the purpose and itinerary of your trip. Being as prepared and relaxed as possible
  2. Chapter 2 --Having an understanding of a balanced diet and doing your best to follow sensible Dietary Guidelines
  3. Chapter 3—Controlling your weight; being and getting healthy and fit.
  4. Chapter 4 – Following dietary tips to control inevitable flatulence that occurs with air travel, minimizing effects and discomfort
  5. Chapter 5 – Staying optimally hydrated
  6. Chapter 6 – Being mindful of the dietary factors that optimize gastrointestinal function and minimize, manage, and control g.i. dysfunction
  7. Chapter 7 – Executing advice on exercise, movements, and nutritional recommendations to optimize bone and joint flexibility/mobility and muscle strength and agility and to minimize/prevent clot and circulation issues
  8. Chapter 8 – Implementing tips to minimize and best-manage jet lag, headaches, and vertigo

With all of the above going for you, I can’t guarantee 100% you won’t encounter indigestion, achy joints, constipation/diarrhea, unbearable dry mouth, a sudden wave of exhaustion, a bothersome headache, or a bout of dizziness, but honestly, I feel confident that the likelihood of untoward events will be much less if you’ve applied the above information, as needed, to help you fly better.  You will be so thankful, too, to arrive at your new destination feeling good and looking great. 

But there’s more! J

In this last chapter, I’d like to pass on some diet-related information that may help you feel even better than just ‘good’. Upon arrival or soon thereafter, being more conscious of making the following dietary choices can help you ‘show up’ to your meeting or excursion feeling ‘detoxed’, more alert and sharp-minded, fresh and refreshed, renewed, and ready!

Super Flyer
‘Detoxing’ and Diet

Certain nutrients-- and foods sources of these nutrients-- have been identified as being helpful in ridding our bodies of harmful, unnecessary, or foreign substances.

It first has to be said that if a person is consuming a healthy, balanced diet, it’s highly likely that these key detoxifying nutrients are already being provided!  Because the best ‘detox’ diet is one that nourishes you with the ideal mix of macronutrients (protein, carbohydrate, fat, and calories), vitamins, minerals, trace elements, and electrolytes that you optimally need (not too much, not too little) from a variety of wholesome foods and beverages and, of course, optimal fluid, so as to sustain a healthy body weight, strong bones and joint mobility, and uber-functioning organs and systems.  Remember, your liver, kidneys, lungs, skin, and intestines, when healthy and working well, rid the body very nicely of any and all excessive substances and excrement.  

So, there is a high likelihood of obtaining all the detoxifying nutrients that have been found helpful when you are already consuming a balanced, healthy, varied diet! In fact, this is a key concept to grasp when evaluating true detoxification plans and principles from popular advertised ‘cleanses’ and ‘detox’ regimes that advocate juice-type fasts or combinations of broths, spices, and other ingredients which claim to ‘empty’ your body of harmful substances. Often, these popular hyped practices are not evidence-based and have no more added advantage than just getting a person to avoid/stop ingesting overly-processed foods that are high in additives, refined sugars, and trans-fatty acids. Doing this, alone, will help you feel better! Ironically, too, large ‘doses’ of juices contain hefty amounts of sugar which may not be needed by the body at all, especially at the expense of denying you important protein and good fatty acids needed for health and true detoxification processes. Alternatively, high-protein, zero-carbohydrate type ‘cleanses’, as well as total fasts may result in increasing the risk of gallstones and/or poor organ function, even organ failure if the kidneys get overloaded. So, please be mindful of these facts when you feel the need to detoxify! The main goal should be to optimally nourish your body, which, in turn, keeps the integrity of your organs and their functions, intact.

A fit, healthy body is your amazing, already-built-in, best detoxification plan!

Now, having said all that, for the duration of a flight (1/2 day to 12-13 hours), if you are healthy, if you already are used to consuming a healthy, balanced diet, and if you want to take the opportunity to do a ‘semi-fast’ – avoiding the airplane food, drinking your required fluids, and only taking fruit or the odd handful of nuts or other snack from your ZB (ziplock bag) – that should be perfectly fine as a sort of ‘detox’, and, as I mentioned in Chapter 8, often helps with jet lag.

Dietitians working in integrative and functional medicine, have affirmed that many individuals ‘at risk’ because of exposures to various chemicals (like those of us who frequently fly have!), or poor diet, or genetic predisposition, could benefit from a form of ‘detoxification diet’.  True ‘detox’ diets and protocols are in their infancy and still-emerging, but there’s evidence to suggest that specific nutrients and substances have an important function in helping rid the body of various unwanted, unnecessary, and toxic substances.  ‘Toxins’ are known as xenobiotics and endotoxins and are chemical substances that are foreign to the human body.  Cigarette smoke and charbroiled meats used to be considered the main toxins to the body. In the past fifty years, however, it’s estimated that tens of thousands of new synthetic compounds have been introduced in the environment that are exposing us to many more ‘foreign’ substances that may be toxic – from pollution, to various chemical compounds in the many toiletries we use, to the increase use of plastics in everyday products, to the many additives, preservatives, parabens, and heavy metals, like mercury and lead, in our food supply – in wholesome food, by the way, as well as in overly-processed, typical ‘junk foods’.  At this point in time, despite our age-old, already-built-in, remarkable natural ability to detoxify our bodies, it doesn’t hurt to be aware of these increased exposures and to use our knowledge to assist, facilitate, and expedite the process of detoxifying, especially for those of us that are more exposed than others or at a higher risk because of illness, genetic predisposition, or clearly already showing untoward effects!

Helpful Diet Information to ‘Detox’ Frequent Flyers
I’d like to take this opportunity to highlight great food sources that contain detoxifying nutrients.  Try to consciously make an effort to add some of these items to your dietary intake, shortly after you’ve disembarked from your flight(s).  Ingestion of foods that contain these nutrients and substances could be helpful for those of us who frequently fly who want to ‘mop up’ the possible ‘toxins’ we’ve unwittingly been exposed to at airports and on airplanes (cosmic radiation, fumes of jet fuel, re-cycled cabin air, unwelcome microorganisms in the crowded plane), through the compensatory physiological processes our body experience while flying, and from extra stresses we may be having from our flight travels.

Glutathione is a powerful antioxidant and the body’s master detoxifying substance. It is necessary for all complex, but efficient processes that rid the body of toxins. It contains a high number of sulfur groups which act like ‘sticky tape’ which various toxins like to adhere to, which, in turn, makes it easier for them to be carried and flushed out of the body through various organ processes. Glutathione also recycles other antioxidants – very handy property in maximizing the beneficial effects of ingesting a total, balanced diet! The best food sources of glutathione are cruciferous vegetables, like cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, etc.(see link below for complete list), onions, and garlic. Cruciferous vegetables can cause flatulence, so you wouldn’t want to eat them on the plane, but, they are also extremely rich in phytochemicals which help bind toxic ‘chemicals’ to rid and detoxify. So, as soon as you’re off the plane, you can eat these foods again! Woo hoo! Glutathione is also found in whey protein, thus, non-fat dairy products, egg-whites, and whey protein powder are also excellent sources.  Moreover, exercise has been shown to help release more glutathione into the body.

Foods rich in antioxidants, like berries, green leafy vegetables – actually -- most fruits and vegetables are also great detoxifying agents.  So, again, look for ways to keep your intake of vegetables and fruits regular and plentiful.  Artichokes and watercress have been found to be particularly high in antioxidant power. Apples are a great source of flavonoids, which are also important molecules that help detoxify the body. Certain items, such as, pomegranate contain a specific substance (ellagic acid), that have high detoxifying power. Tea is also rich in antioxidants, especially green tea.  Foods that are high in fiber are also important, as it helps with regulating bowel habits. Brown rice has been pointed out as being particularly helpful in ridding the body of fat-soluble toxins. Brown rice is also an excellent source of B-vitamins. Foods, such as whole-grains, which are rich in B-vitamins, are important in all detoxifying processes. Turmeric/curcumin has also been found to have detoxifying properties.

So, it’s actually easy to incorporate some tasty, but detoxifying foods after getting off the plane! Here’s some ideas to get you going:

--Have an omelette made with broccoli and feta or part-skim mozzarella cheese (even better, an egg-white omelette) with some whole wheat toast

--Get a ‘green smoothie’ made with green-tea, plain low-fat yogurt, kale or watercress, a green apple, perhaps with a tablespoon or two of whey protein powder or a berry smoothie

--Enjoy a salmon hot noodle pot or a tasty bowl of miso soup

--Order cauliflower soup or better yet, a cauliflower curry with brown rice

--Just get a nice cup of green tea

--Continue to drink the best detoxifying beverage -- water!

As you can see, all of the above fits in so very well with just making healthy, balanced choices based on wholesome, delicious foods all in accordance with recommendations! I have simply pointed out even more specific items that have been associated with the process of detoxification of the body! In choosing detoxifying foods, you will automatically avoid refined sugars, foods high in trans-fats, and foods high in additives. Do try to keep up with sweat-producing exercise and you’ll enhance your overall ‘cleansing’ plan!

There have been suggestions, in the literature, to take glutathione and the pre-cursor of glutathione, N-acetyl cysteine(NAC), in supplement form, but, in my opinion, if you are consciously making better dietary choices, you get the added benefit of increasing your sources of fiber, antioxidants, and other substances that help to detoxify your body, which is much better than the isolated molecule.  For some people, glutathione and/or NAC supplements may be in order, but I would definitely check with your doctor or dietitian to see if it’s clearly needed!

Increase Mental Alertness
Foods and nutrients that improve cognitive function, coordination, memory, and mood are extremely welcome as we exit an exhausting, disorienting long-haul flight or, even, an energy-zapping, mind-numbing short-duration jaunt!  Foods high in antioxidants (such as anthocyanin, luteolin, epicatechin), foods rich in brain anti-inflammatory substances (such as omega-3-fatty acids and, again, luteolin), foods rich in the amino acid, tyrosine, foods rich in choline, foods and beverages that have caffeine (yay!)

Anthocyanins are found in blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, red grapes, red cabbage, and red onions. I see a theme here! J If you’re a berry-person, go for it! There’s so many good berry juice products available today.  Although I normally would recommend eating fruits versus fruit juices, after disembarking a plane, it’s one time where a brain-boosting shot of blueberry, strawberry, or mixed-berry juice would be a great antidote to your drowsy mood.  Go grab yourself a berry smoothie! By all means, if you can get a bowl of fresh berries, that would be lovely, too!

Luteolin is a flavonoid that has been shown to improve memory and reduce brain inflammation.  It is found in celery hearts, carrots, broccoli, citrus fruits, peppers, beets, peppermint, oregano, basil, olive oil, chamomile tea, and get this – parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme! So, whether you have your ZB (ziplock bag) with carrot sticks and orange halves or you want to add generous sprigs of herbs to your eggs and post-flight meal, know that these items can help sharpen your mind and keep you alert!

Epicatechins are flavonoids found in dark chocolate.  How perfect is that? It’s easy and delicious to grab a piece or two of dark chocolate (at least 65% cocoa) when you are in transit. You don’t need to eat alot – about 60 grams, and no more than 85 grams of dark chocolate (which is the amount in one or two pieces) – should do the trick without adding too much fat or calories.

Omega-3-fatty acids have already been mentioned a few times, so I think you get the point that foods containing these powerful anti-inflammatory agents are crucial to great health!  These, of course, are found in oily fish, such as salmon and sardines, oils, such as canola and soybean, walnuts, and flaxseeds, all of which should not be too difficult to get if you add walnuts and flaxseeds to salads and oatmeal, for example, choose oily fish meals as often as possible, and use dressings and omega-3-fatty acid rich oils.

Tyrosine is an important building block of neurotransmitters and is a nonessential amino acid, which means the body makes it (except if you have phenylketonuria) from the amino acid phenylalanine. But, there is evidence that including tyrosine-rich foods in the diet boosts levels of tyrosine in the body and this can enhance brain function, especially during periods of stress and sleep deprivation.  Need I say more, frequent flyers?! Rich sources of tyrosine are soy products, chicken, turkey, fish, peanuts, almonds, avocados, bananas, milk, cheese, yogurt, cottage cheese, lima beans, pumpkin seeds, and sesame seeds. So, there’s enough variety there that give us plenty of options to choose, either from any restaurant menu, corner food shop, or supermarket we pass through or in our own, easy-to-pack ZB supply!  How about a bowl of yogurt or cottage cheese with wheat germ, walnuts, and berries? Make your selections nutritious and delicious!

Choline is a substance that is necessary for the synthesis of phospholipids and healthy cell membranes, especially our sensitive brain cell membranes. It is found mainly in foods high in lecithin, such as egg yolks and whole eggs, organ meats, soybeans, wheat germ, and whole wheat products. So, making a point of including eggs regularly, choosing whole wheat breads, pasta, and cereals, and snacking on edamame and dry-roasted soybeans would be an excellent way to boost your brain function when travelling.

Caffeine is a known stimulant.  So, if you’re a coffee drinker, don’t forget to enjoy your cup or two as you head out to be where you need to be (as if I had to remind you J)! Add a square or two of your dark chocolate with your coffee and life just gets better and better!  If you’re not a coffee drinker, tea is perfectly fine and also contains caffeine, perhaps not as much as in coffee, but, certainly enough to wake-up and stimulate mental capacity! Both coffee and tea have potent antioxidants, too! And, if you’re neither a coffee or tea drinker, you can still enjoy your dark chocolate, just for the caffeine – right? Caffeine is also found in soft drinks, and, although, I admit, soda is not the healthiest beverage – if it is consumed in moderation and to help you enjoy other healthy foods and as a source of hydration, go for it!

Just being aware of foods and nutrients that boost your brain function will subconsciously prime you to consciously look out for these foods and include them in your dietary intake soon after arrival. Moreover, it’s nice to know that these choices known for boosting alertness, memory, and cognitive ability fit very nicely with foods that aid in detoxifying your body!  This makes life easier and that’s always a plus!

Freshen Up!
These last tips are all about arriving at your destination feeling good and looking even better than you imagined! The following information will help you with freshening your breath, whitening your teeth, and getting that healthy glow!

Fresh Breath
Fresh breath is reliant on great oral hygiene and your intestinal flora.

Oral Hygiene
Firstly, if you know you will have a busy, non-stop frequent-flying schedule – get yourself booked in for a dental check-up. Unheeded cavities and pockets of dental decay are not only sources of foul bacterial overgrowth and odor, but it’s well known that changes in altitude can cause these holes to trap gas which results in exacerbation of foul bacteria, possible infections, and pain. L So, having cavities filled, infections treated and healed, and teeth cleaned will prevent sources of odor. Brushing and flossing your teeth before or soon after arrival helps, too. Don’t forget to brush your tongue, too! Rinsing your mouth with a solution of water and baking soda can neutralize bad breath. If you have any baking soda left from you ZB stash (it helps with neutralizing stomach acidity and heartburn, too!), now’s the time to use it up for another good purpose.  Diluted peroxide is an alternative mouthwash, too. Most flight attendant medical kits have peroxide, so you can always (nicely) ask for some, if necessary.

Intestinal Flora
If you’ve been trying to follow dietary recommendations already given – especially regarding control of flatulence (Chapter 4) and gastrointestinal issues (Chapter 5), your gut bacterial flora will already be in check and low in those microorganisms that fuel putrid mouth and breath vapors that emanate from deep inside your digestive tract.  Optimal hydration (Chapter 6) further assures dilution and excretion of particles that cause odor.

Dietary Tips That Directly Help Neutralize and Banish Bad Breath
There are many ways that dietary sources can help neutralize bad breath, such as:

  1. Optimal hydration and drinking plenty of water
  2. Chew on fresh or dried herbs, especially parsley and mint
  3. Chew on dried fennel seeds or cardamom pods
  4. Drink herbal and spiced teas, especially peppermint, ginger, cinnamon, chia teas
  5. Berries, citrus fruits, and melon as these all neutralize breath odors. Even sucking on a lemon or adding lemon to your water and tea helps
  6. Crunchy fruits and vegetables, especially apples, celery, and carrots increase saliva production which helps to rid mouth of foul-smelling bacteria
  7. Yogurt, buttermilk, kefir, and foods with active cultures also helps to neutralize strong odors
  8. In a pinch, chewing sugarless gum also increases saliva production and can help decrease bad breath

Dietary Tips That Can Help Clean and Whiten Teeth
Nothing beats a professional cleaning and whitening process. Teeth-whitening strips can also come in handy and, of course, brushing with whitening toothpaste and flossing your teeth, but soon after landing there are some natural tips that can help get teeth feeling and looking clean and bright:

  1. Chewing crunchy fruits and vegetables, such as apples (also contain a natural teeth-whitening acid called malic acid) and celery
  2. Eating some pineapple! Pineapple contains bromelain, which has been found to be an effective stain-removing compound for teeth
  3. Strawberries, similarly, contain a teeth-whitening acid, called malic acid
  4. Eating raw broccoli has been shown to help clean and polish teeth
  5. Chewing raisins stimulates saliva and neutralizes bacteria in the mouth while removing stains
  6. Lactic acid in cheese protects against tooth decay and helps clean teeth

These dietary tips, together with getting some quality sleep, managing jet lag, and lastly – cleaning and moisturizing your face, hands, legs, and arms (this is for BOTH men and women!) -- will help you show up feeling refreshed and looking radiant!

And very lastly, three key points are important to help you arrive as clean, coherent, and fresh as possible:

  1. If you can arrange arriving a day early to acclimate yourself before your ‘official’ business or vacation begins, that’s ideal.
  2. Practice good hand-washing or use an alcohol-based hand gel (at least 60% alcohol) to avoid picking up or spreading infections.
  3. ALWAYS keep in mind the travel advisories regarding compromised food and water-supply hygiene whenever you make choices involving vegetables, fruits, and or raw, uncooked, unpasteurized foods and beverages of any kind, when applicable, especially in countries with known issues.

I Bid You A Fine, Frequent-Flyer Farewell….For Now
The best things to eat and drink when you fly do not fall out of the sky and onto your plates and into your cups. I know it takes forethought, strategic planning, conscious decision-making, discipline and reigning in impulses, and good sleep and stress management.  But, the benefits of traveling and arriving well are so worth it!

I have done my utmost to gather together evidence-based information, but, also practical tips to help make your flying experiences more comfortable, healthier, and pleasant.  My goal was to make the information accessible and available to you in one handy reference. I have tried to cover the issues that, in my opinion and experience, are of greatest concern and have the most impact for flyers in truly making your travels easier and most effective. As much ground as I have covered, I realize there may be many issues still ‘up in the air’ (hopefully, that will be the last of my unintended puns J). Perhaps, there is a concern or two that you may have that I have not addressed in this book.  Thus, I invite you to feel free to contact me re: The Best Things To Eat and Drink When You Fly at  I will do my best to help you with your particular issue. I am busy gathering specific information on what and where to find optimal food and drink at several international airports. I can make that list more complete with your help, so please email me with your experiences and suggestions. Additionally, I am still active in contacting airlines on how they can best serve the flying public when it comes to delivering more nutritious, yet delicious and appropriate meal options as well as special meal requests. I would also appreciate hearing from you about your meals and meal service experiences with airlines, and restaurant and food/drink tips about different airports you fly in and out of – photos highly appreciated!  The pressure on airports and airlines to supply and deliver tastier, more convenient, yet healthier options will be ever evolving, as supply resonates more with increasing demand, so I anticipate we have an active, but exciting ‘journey’ ahead on those fronts!  Bring it on!

And, if by chance, in your frequent flying travels, you find yourself sitting, standing, or walking next to me, don’t hesitate to say hello. Perhaps, we can make our way to the green-tea Greek-yogurt smoothie counter, together!  I look forward with great pleasure to meeting you! J.  Till then:

“May the road rise up to meet you
May the wind be always at your back
May the sun shine warm upon your face
And the rain fall soft upon your fields
And until we meet again
May God hold you in the palm of his hand”
                                                                    ― Irish Blessings


Eat Right – Traveling Home and Abroad

How diet protects the brain.

Brain foods: the effect of nutrients on brain function.

Brain food: superfoods to improve your cognitive function.

Harris,J and Warde, F. The little book of chocolat. Doubleday, 2014.

Granola on the go.

Hand hygiene in health-care settings.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

When Visiting The Netherlands....

As many of you know, my husband is Dutch. I found this 'email' he sent to friends so wonderful, that I thought I would put it on my blog. They asked him for a 'few suggestions' on what to do while visiting The Netherlands next week. This is just him -- very thorough and thoughtful. So, if you, too, are planning a visit to Holland, the following may help out a bit. :) This is from his perspective, I take no credit for this other than having enjoyed some of these amazing excursions with him and our children during many a 'local' holiday:

Here are some ideas for a glorious Holland visit:

Seaside cycling/ walking/ resorts:

some options:

Middelburg/ Domburg/ Veere/Vlissingen

Very nice dune and beach, old fashioned holiday area, very popular. Stay in Veere for instance, rent bicyles there and 'roam' the island. (now not an island anymore. I used to go there on holiday as a child. We loved it. Women were still wearing the traditional dress (with white starched headgear witth gold pins in it!). Visit Oost Capelle/ West Capelle, Domburg, lovely towns/ villages beaches everywhere. You can certainly rent bicyles, sail on the Veerse meer, ride horses and totally relax.,3.660775,3a,75y,36.46h,90t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1sX0GbrDZExOCynVENyYjFGg!2e0!6m1!1e1

These are the images of the women in Zeeland that I remember as a child!

Den Haag/ Wassenaar. Katwijk, Noordwijk

Here you see the beach at the Hague. I could possibly arrange for you a tour in parliament. The images above are of the beach in the Hague and the 3 rd image is Wassenaar (north of the Hague, partially in the dunes) where we have our home (which we, of course, are presently not living in, at the moment). If you go there I can give you the address, if you want to see it :), and you can check out the area. Again a lovely area to bicycle. You also should visit here the Mauritshuis museum. (just re-opened!) In the picture of the museum, you see to your right a small tower. It houses the office of the prime minister. Here are some images of world renowned Dutch painters from the 17 th century the Dutch 'Golden age'. (Vermeer and Rembrandt featured: must see!)

Above a picture of hotel Duinoord in Wassenaar (Fletcher hotel), just north of The Hague, nice place to stay or eat in the middle of the dunes in Wassenaar (if you can get a reservation). We had my 50 th b-day party there with friends and family. They also rent bicycles and from there you can cycle through the dunes to Katwijk (see picture above) and Noordwijk, old fisher towns and now also beach towns. Katwijk is still very traditional (everybody goes to church on Sunday), Noordwijk is more 'touristic'. Both towns also have lots of B&B's and hotels. Hotel van Oranje and 'Huis ter Duin' in Noordwijk are the 5 star properties on the beach. In Katwijk if you have a chance try to eat on the beach in restaurant 'de Zwaan'. (great fish)

This (below) is hotel Belvedere in the dunes in Noordwijk: lovely and very old traditional place. I stayed here once and liked it. Best is to call them if they have room. You can also rent good B&B's in Noordwijk using

From here of course you can visit Amsterdam (certainly worth a day: the canals and museums. You should make a 'rondvaart', see the Anne Frank huis en the just restored Rijksmuseum. Haarlem is a very nice old town close by and also worth a visit.

By the way in Amsterdam:  a 'coffeeshop' is not a place to get a cup of coffee!.....and you have to see the 'Nightwatch' in the Rijksmuseum!!

In Haarlem of course you see the Frans Hals museum:

In the east of the Netherlands, I can recommend the area around Apeldoorn, Arnhem and cycle in Hoog Soeren and to the Kroller Muller museum. (see image below of the museum). the museum is set completely in nature, holds an important collection of Van Goghs and other fantastic art.

Hoog soeren is a nice quaint place to stay with Hotel Hoog Soeren. In Apeldoorn you will find hotel de 'Keizerskroon' (after the German 'Kaiser') who stayed in het Loo palace (see above) after he was ousted and sent packing. Below a typical farm iamge of the places you find in the forest there. You have to eat at the 'Echoput' restaurant. One of the oldest and most traditional places to go.

And young Daniel, when in Holland, if you get lucky, you will meet one of these young ladies ! Don't give them too much stick though because they will hit back!....(World and Olympic champions....)

I hope this gives you guys some ideas. Also nice is along the Ijssel river to cycle and see Zwolle (eat in the Librije...only 3 Michelin stars), Utrecht (beautiful old town with some nice places to visit or Den Bosch (bit more to the south, my old home town with a medieval centre.
Good luck planning!

warmest regards,

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Weight Loss...I Want For You What YOU Want For You!!

When people tell me they are going on the newest popular 'diet' or on some fad diet or they come to me and ask me to put them on such a 'diet', I used to cringe.  But, now, I finally, after ALL THESE YEARS, get it! I now use this information wisely, and more importantly, to the advantage of my client(s) to truly help them achieve what they want. For, I now know what they are REALLY asking for and want: to lose weight fast and/or as much weight as they can in a short period of time! You know -- magic -- the proverbial silver bullet?!  Haha! 

And, you know what? This, actually, is, quite useful. Quick-starting a good weight loss can really be motivating and a helpful segueway into getting people to follow a balanced, sustainable healthy way of eating -- for continued weight-loss (primarily fat loss) and, ultimately, for weight maintenance with an optimal muscle:fat ratio and a healthy way of eating -- for life.

I want for you what YOU want for you!! And I am open and willing to do my utmost to help you get it! :) 
So, I do keep in my 'tool box' some options for initial rapid weight loss:  1) a hypocaloric diet that I, myself, have developed based on what I believe is an optimal proportion of carbohydrate:protein:fat that affords a very quick weight loss result-- mainly fat loss; 2) a quick weight-loss plan based on and around proprietary products such as shakes, bars, soups, oatmeal, packaged snacks, etc; 3) plans based on 'diet' meal delivery programs; 4) plans based on whatever a client tells me is their 'go-to' quick weight loss regime -- even plans that include some sort of fasting period(s). If a client needs medical supervision, in any way, I make sure they get it. But, usually, I am totally involved in the short period of time a client follows such a plan and have 'tweaked'  any extreme regimes that are outlandish, crazy, or downright dangerous to be less extreme, more agreeable, but as effective, if not even more-effective versions of the diet, so medical tests and supervision are not necessary. Being an experienced, properly trained and educated RD(N) and longstanding member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the Association for the Study of Obesity helps...alot! I rely on keeping up-to-date on ever-evolving evidenced-based approaches and my large network of experienced colleagues, as much as I do on my strong background and long years of clinical practice and expertise. 

And I keep well in perspective that any quick weight-loss plan is a means to an end. The endgame, here, being that people feel good quite early-on and then, they actually appreciate balanced, healthy eating with its variety of textures, flavors, colours, and tastes once they see how boring, unsatisfying, and unappealing fad diets truly are! Moreover, people DO lose weight rather quickly with fad diets, but they are also quick to realize that these are diets that do not yield lasting results and are just not sustainable in the long term. Most folks quickly regain weight if they 'cheat' or even as I 'wean' them onto more balanced plans. The good thing is -- as long as they undergo these diets under my supervision, I prepare people for these realities and explain, up-front, the truth of the quick weight-losses  -- ie -- the 'weight' can come from water loss or fluctuations. And we work through this, together. A person is not left to feel they failed, yet again :(... or that fitness and a trim body is something they will never achieve. We also discuss the fall-out of regimes that are SO strict that they often result in people feeling lousy and often how these extreme plans actually encourage binge-ing. This cycle of fast:feast is so counterproductive, hormonally, for the body. It is MUCH better to get the necessary balance of carbs, protein, and good fats in the diet -- even when on a quick weight-loss plan. Depending on the baseline condition of a person, genetic pre-disposition, a person's age, sex, and level of physical activity-- certain people respond better to a balanced diet with a higher protein skew -- so I include carbs, but ONLY enough to take that craving edge off their appetite and to give the body what it needs to physiologically kick in the hormones that help to make that happen! Other people may respond better to a balanced diet, yet a bit higher in their proportion of carbohydrates, which, for them, works to keep hormonal balance and cravings in check.

A big goal of getting people to eat healthy-for-life is to STOP folks from thinking about food all the time! When people go on extreme plans -- they end up thinking more about food than is emotionally or psychologically healthy and, in the end, (with the help of, as I mentioned above, the physiological processes happening in the body), the self-fulfilling prophecy kicks in and people just end up binge-ing/gorging on food, caving in to cravings, and/or return to old weight-gaining eating habits because of all the ' food cue-ing' happening in their brains. The importance of having a good RD(N) supervising, when people are on quick weight-loss plans, is that we can help you to be aware and mindful of what's happening, and work you through the process until you succeed at the initial goal of quick weight-loss. We help in minimizing the rebound effects of spurious 'weight-loss' and help you keep most of this initial weight off, which maximizes the whole point of this initial great result, in moving forward to an optimal diet plan for life. We can continue to work with you on a long-term, sustainable plan for continued weight-loss, followed by an enjoyable weight-maintenance plan, until you are confident you have mastered your healthy-eating plan for life!

Working with an RD(N) to objectively assess, monitor, re-assess, and coach you through this process, can be the difference between lasting results and a temporary quick 'fix' that goes awry within a month or two!

So, I believe the services of an open-minded,  experienced RD(N), can help you feel safe and free to choose a quick weight-loss plan. Working together with an RD(N), you can make the plan work the way YOU want it to work and you will get the results you are looking for, but it will be a safer and more effective process than doing it on your own. Losing the weight and keeping it off will be a much more positive experience and will give you energy and momentum to be and STAY healthy and fit -- for life! 

If you have further questions or comments, feel free to ask:

Star Bene! 

Mary-Jo Overwater-Gervasio, MSc, MMSc, RD

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Dutch Apple Pie :)

There's a few birthdays coming up in our bi-cultural (half-Dutch) home, and, hands-down,  Dutch apple tart is the birthday treat they always want and truly appreciate! Well, at least the 'half' whose birthday is coming up who's Dutch and the other one's birthday who's got a great affinity for her better-Dutch side ;). Did you get that? Good, because I didn't! I'm Italian! I prefer ricotta pie or Italian rum cake any day!!

As I've been making Dutch Appel Taart for the past 28 years and could probably make it in my sleep, which, hot oven alert, I never would, for the life of me, because I don't follow a recipe anymore when I make it, I can't seem to delineate a recipe for 'jullie'. So I have found one that I'm linking you to that is VERY close to the one I think I follow:

Just some comments as I peruse the recipe link -- I sometimes use brown sugar for the dough and other times I use regular granulated, even caster sugar -- it's whatever I have in the home. And I also don't use 1/2 cup sugar for the dough -- usually more like 1/3 cup. It doesn't seem to make a big difference that I use whatever sugar I have around and a bit less than this recipe calls for (well, so far, so good!). I also like to add dried cranberries or Craisins in place of raisins, but I've been known to use raisins if no Craisins are lurking in the cupboard.  I do have to mention, it is important to use the right kind of apples -- Goudrennet or Granny Smith work best -- apples that are not too sweet, not too tart. But, don't tell anyone -- I have been known to use whatever apples I know I need to use up before they go rotten -- no matter what kind they are. So, the inside of the pie ends up being a bit softer than it should -- no one's complained yet!! (They better not!). I often add chopped walnuts or pecans, too. I'm also not too fussy about how I lattice the top-- I only know that it's important to keep plenty of breathing space for the apple mixture as the tart bakes -- never to cover it fully or tightly as one would do with an American apple pie.  No matter how messy it looks when I lattice, it always bakes out to look fantastic -- well -- considering that I always lightly dust the top, after the pie cools a bit, with sifted icing sugar or 'poedersuiker'. Oh, and if I have any egg left over, I actually just pour that over the apple filling after I've filled the tart with the apple mixture and BEFORE I lattice the top and, of course, before baking! I also don't necessarily sprinkle semolina on the bottom of the crust -- breadcrumbs or even some of the self-rising flour or even rolled oats (so healthy of me, yes?!!)will do just fine. But, if I have semolina in the cupboard, I use it.

 And here's what it looks like -- one I've baked earlier ;)

Really, check that recipe link out and make this soon! It's an easy 'pie dough' to make as there's no intricate rolling involved! You just need to press the dough into the bottom and sides of the pie tin. You can roll it first, if you want to, but it's not necessary. Same with making the lattice -- you can roll the dough first, then make the strips, but, honestly, I just press it lightly on my floured board and then make strips -- works fine! I also like this recipe because it doesn't require SO much sugar and it uses real butter -- hey -- sometimes it has to be butter! I've made it with margarine, too, but calorically, it's the same, so why not use butter, I say! It actually works better with butter. PLUS -- this is a treat -- remember?! Not something we eat habitually. Whoops -- the RD in me had to get that in :( While we're on that subject, you can add low-fat vanilla yogurt or even fat-free plain Greek yogurt :( on the side instead of the usual whipped cream (slagroom), vanilla custard, or vanilla ice cream :)

Enjoy! :)

Tot Ziens!
xo MJ