Eating Healthy on the Go
Flight attendants know every grocery store on every layover they've ever worked. Be it Sainsbury's in London, the smallest bodega in São Paulo, or the closest Trader Joe's in L.A., we know the perfect pasta sauce in Milan; the best beers in Belgium; plus the most delicious yogurt to buy in Paris (and every baguette, too). Our bags are teeming with enough food to get us through the most demanding flight and, often, a whole 3-day trip. And in the final moments on any given day on international flights returning into the United States, you'll find us in the galley trading half an avocado for a cupful of cherries, or debating whether carrot sticks and lettuce are okay to bring in the country while stuffing our faces with forbidden fresh produce prior to entry on our way home. Part of this behavior stems from the fact that we can only eat so much of the same airplane food day after day, trip after trip, and let's face it: airport food courts don't offer the healthiest choices. Another issue is that our companies don't provide us with crew meals, except on long haul legs of over ten hours flying time. We are only entitled (eye roll) to eat what is left over after serving all our passengers. On dinner flights that can leave us with one dried up chicken breast to split between eleven crewmembers... or nothing at all if you've gone vegan, like me, and are caught out unprepared.
If you've read my blog before you may know I live in Paris, but I worked in New York. Then, to make life more complicated and because I'm
sadistic crazy adventurous and missed Hawaii, I transferred to the west coast in March, so now I commute 11 hours by airplane to start or end my workday. That's right. Some people get on the I-405. I get on an airplane for an insanely long time from Charles de Gaulle to Los Angeles, and in the hours before any given flight I'm always in a panic as to whether or not I'll have enough food. Vegans eat a lot!
So in an ongoing dialog with one of my coworkers, she asked me to lay out a method to my madness. A means to sustain myself while on the go. Inspiration, perhaps, for her to incorporate more the vegan choices into her own lifestyle? One can hope. ;)
The easiest thing I tell her to do is to make friends with the produce department at her local store. Though Bridget and I both advocate organic, sustainable fruits and vegetables, many mainstream grocers like Ralph's or Vons carry more and more organic produce than ever. While buying exclusively organic foods is not always conducive to keeping a low budget or for times when Whole Foods may not be within walking distance, get familiar with what's recommended on diagrams like The Clean Fifteen.
Fortunately these days, most stores carry several types of pre-washed, organic salad greens in bags that, when opened carefully, also double as a convenient bowl for eating on the go. Again, relax... Not everything has to be organic. Avocados and pre-cut pineapple chunks, for example, are perfectly safe additions to jazz up an otherwise boring salad or to enjoy as a sweet treat, and you'll intake some healthy fats and vitamin C in the process. Add some packaged herbs, like basil or cilantro (coriander), as many of these are hydroponically grown and are generally free of pesticides. These dark, leafy greens have wonderful medicinal properties to aid digestion and bring sparkle to the palate. Always keep in mind it's best to get ANY veggies in you than none at all.
In my lunch tote today you'll find bananas (nature's fast food on a stick), melon, quinoa cakes, almond butter, salad wraps, sugar snap peas (which I had to scarf before exiting Kauai), lentil chips, and lentil dip. And I'm almost never without the ubiquitous nuts and berries, a few raw protein bars, plus the ever-present dark chocolate. Okay, granted some of the items are cooked foods, but I don't beat myself up over not eating 100% raw when I'm still getting great nutrition. It's all about maintaining a healthy balance. At the next stop or as soon as I'm home, I load up on greens.
How healthy is this, you may ask? Well, I'm proud to say that I recently had my blood work done by a holistic DO, and save for a deficiency in vitamin D - most likely due to living in a northern climate and being cooped up in airplanes - my test results came back with stellar numbers. Since practicing this whole foods, plant-based diet, I have never felt better, cleaner, or lighter. As someone who used to live off 5-hr Energy Drinks and coffee, I no longer have the need or desire to drink either, because I get so much natural energy from foods that thrive in the sun. And by substituting dates or maple syrup as sweeteners, I killed the beastly cravings and eliminated processed sugar, too. The day I woke up and threw away all of the sugar in my cabinet was a day I felt empowered to take on anything. Now I can walk past the best patisserie and not want a thing. Oh, and I never get sick. It's liberating to feel so amazing and know that it's real because I'm in control of my health.
The beauty of all this is that you can achieve this same health, this same glow, with a commitment to yourself and a little dedication to honoring all that you can be. Contrary to the myth that "vegan is hard" or expensive or even extreme, it's totally doable and the benefits far outweigh a daily regiment of doctor appointments and pricey pharmaceuticals. If I made it work on a ridiculously abnormal schedule where my body doesn't know day from night or night from day, so can you. Using these tips I describe above, small improvements add up to big change. Remember, you are worth it. Get busy living and live life deliciously!
Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with nor do I receive compensation for any of the products mentioned or shown in this post. All photographs except The Clean Fifteen graphic were taken by me and you have my permission to share them. Please eat healthy and spread the word.
À tout à l'heure...