Thursday, June 27, 2013

What to Eat Before Taking Off: Guide to Airport Dining

People often find themselves stressed out on travel days. A way to minimize this stress and help eliminate it is to make smart choices when it comes to food. Unnecessary calories are packed into the foods offered in the airport and even on the plane. Below are five tips to avoid consuming unhealthy foods and improve your eating while traveling.

1.     Eat Breakfast!
Most of you know by now that you should always eat breakfast. It is one of the most important meals of the day for a reason – it kick starts your metabolism and improves bodily functions, physical and mental. Eating breakfast, whether it be eggs and toast or just a piece of fruit, can help you throughout the day. Making sure you are at your best on travel day is important for keeping track of tickets, boarding passes, times, etc.

2.     Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
Staying hydrated is extremely important when traveling, regardless of the method of transportation. Water is the best choice when it comes to drinks, however teas, juices, and flavored water work just as well (make sure you watch the sugar!). Other beverages such as sodas and specialty coffee drinks are not the best choice. Water helps you stay alert and focused, as well as aid in relieving common travel issues like headaches and fatigue.

3.     What to Avoid at the Airport
The airport is full of temptations when it comes to food, especially if you have a long layover. Although the massive cinnamon rolls and fried chicken may taste fantastic, the results of consuming these foods are not. The obvious “unhealthy” foods, as you know, are packed with calories. For example, the Cinnabon Classic Cinnamon Roll has 880 calories alone. If you are on a 2,500 calorie-per-day diet, that one food right there is 35% of your daily intake. Thirty five percent may not sound like too much, but it has 36 grams of fat, 127 grams of carbohydrates, and only 13 grams of protein. Avoid foods that are comprised of empty calories: common fast food items, creamy soups and salad dressings, specialty coffee drinks, ice creams, and snacks like potato chips, cheese curls, and candy.

4.     What to Choose Instead
Many airports have healthier places to grab a quick snack or to enjoy a nice meal. If you are running short on time in the morning and can’t eat breakfast at home, choose a breakfast that is filling and satisfying. The key to a great meal is carbohydrates plus protein. For example, oatmeal with dried fruit and nuts is a good meal for breakfast, and can be found easily in an airport. If your airport has only big chain restaurants, still check out their menu – McDonald’s even has oatmeal! Another option for breakfast is a bagel with peanut butter or cream cheese. Try to pick bagels that are whole wheat, have fruits and/or nuts baked inside, or multi-grain. Bagels that are plain or covered in cinnamon sugar are full of empty calories. The carbohydrates from the bagel and protein from the peanut butter or cream cheese will make you feel fuller longer, and may prevent unnecessary snacking. If you have enough time to sit down for a meal, choose items that are not deep fried or covered in creamy sauces or dressings. Keeping your meals light and healthy will improve your mood and function during and after your trip. If space and time allows, packing foods from home is a great way to keep your eating healthy, and may even help reduce your cost of travel.

5.     Eating Because You’re Bored
Everyone has at least once snacked for the sole reason of being bored. Waiting for flights is a fairly boring activity, especially when the layover is long. Keep yourself occupied to avoid unnecessary snacking. For example, bring a book, magazine, or puzzle to occupy yourself. You can also try walking laps around the terminal. This is a great way to waste time while waiting – you avoid the snacks and get some exercise! If you feel the need to eat something when you are not hungry, chew a piece of gum. This will give you the feeling of eating without the calories.

Following these five tips will help you decide what to eat the next time you take a trip. Remember to eat breakfast and keep drinking fluids, exchange common fast food items for healthier, delicious options, and take a walk instead of mindless snacking. If you always eat a cheeseburger every time you go to the airport, go for it. However, keep these meals small and eat them sparingly. Your travel day will improve significantly by making better decisions.

Contributed by:
Lauren Marucci
Dietetic Senior
Penn State University

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Dorm Dining: How Does This Work?

All schools have multiple rules about what can and cannot be kept in a dorm room. Although it would be nice to have items like a stove or oven, space is also limited. This makes it difficult to make healthy choices while living on campus. A big tip is to keep your room stocked with fresh fruits and vegetables, milk, bread, cereal, pastas, nuts, plain instant oatmeal, peanut butter, and limit the amount of snack foods. Also make sure you have utensils and dishes to eat with and on. The following are suggestions for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks that can all be made and stored in a common dorm room.

·         Oatmeal
o   Add dried fruit or nuts
o   Mix in a tablespoon of peanut butter
o   Fresh fruit, such as bananas, apples, and berries can be thrown in
o   Sprinkle brown sugar and cinnamon
o   Tip: Cooking instant oatmeal with milk (skim, 1%, or soy) instead of water gives it a creamier texture with more taste
o   Pre-packaged oatmeal mixes are higher in sugar and less natural, as well as less filling

·         Cereal
o   Tip: When walking down the intense cereal aisle at the grocery store, look for cereals with less than 10 grams of sugar, 3 grams of fiber, and the words “Whole Grain” first in the ingredients list
o   Add fresh strawberries, bananas, or dried fruit to cereal to add flavor
o   Recommended Cereals: Fiber One, All Bran, Special K, Kashi, Quaker Oatmeal Squares, Chex, Cheerios

·         Eggs
o   Believe it or not, scrambled eggs can be made in a dorm room!
o   Spray a small, microwave-safe dish with non-fat cooking spray; crack eggs and “whisk” with a fork; microwave 45-60 seconds, stirring after the first 30 seconds
o   Sprinkle cheese or your favorite seasonings
o   Add a spoonful of salsa or a dash of hot sauce
o   Put on a whole wheat English muffin or toast with turkey sausage to make a sandwich

·         Waffles and Pancakes
o   Frozen waffles and pancakes are a quick and easy option when living in a dorm
o   Choose whole wheat or multi-grain waffles or pancakes
o   Spread a tablespoon of peanut butter and slice bananas to put on top
o   Don’t overdo the butter and syrup, although small amounts are good
o   Add yogurt for a creamy topping
o   Fresh fruit or nuts add flavor and crunch

·         Other Ideas
o   Yogurt Parfait: layer yogurt, granola/nuts/seeds/high fiber cereal, and fresh fruit
o   Rice cakes with peanut butter
o   Egg Sandwich

·         Soups
o   Microwavable soups are easy and healthy options
o   Choose soups with a light broth and avoid cream-based soups
o   Soups are a great way to include vegetables in your diet
o   Soups with lean proteins are good options
o   Remember beans have protein! Soups don’t need the common forms of protein (meat)
o   Chili is a great choice – meat, beans, and vegetables
o   Depending on the soup, a small sandwich, whole grain crackers, pretzels, yogurt, or piece of fruit pairs well

·         Sandwiches
o   Bread: purchase whole wheat, high fiber, or multi-grain bread. It keeps well on a shelf in a dorm room and is a healthy food item to always have on-hand. Choose breads with flavor – don’t force yourself to eat bread that tastes like cardboard. When in the bread aisle, look for breads that have whole grain/wheat as the first ingredient, and DON’T have any type of sugar in the first three ingredients.
o   Try different grains: pitas or wraps are great!
o   Meat: deli-sliced or pre-packaged meats work well. Turkey, ham, roast beef, pastrami, and chicken are good choices. Avoid highly processed meats like bologna.
o   Hummus is a great source of protein that can add a different flavor to any sandwich
o   Cheese: Cheeses provide some protein when assembling the perfect sandwich. A fun tip is to try different cheeses to mix up your routine sandwich
o   Toppings: Raw veggies come in handy here! Vegetables like spinach, lettuce, cucumbers, peppers, and carrot slices are great ways to add vitamins in your day.
o   Watch the amount of fat-based spreads or dressings you put on your sandwich: these are okay to include, however don’t load up on them.
o   Add a small cup of soup, yogurt, piece of fruit/fruit cup, pretzels, trail mix, or salad for a satisfying meal

·         Salads
o   Salads are a great way to load up on veggies, fruits, and protein
o   Get creative!
o   Add at least one source of protein: this can be meat/fish, hummus, seeds, beans, or nuts
o   Try to include two different vegetables (besides lettuce!): raw peppers, cucumbers, carrots, broccoli
o   Choose green, leafy lettuce; don’t use only Romaine lettuce (make your salads half spinach, half Romaine or Iceberg lettuce)
o   Try adding nuts, cheeses, trail mixes, dried and fresh fruits for something different
o   Dressings: stick to clear dressings like vinaigrettes; if you want a creamy dressing, use sparingly

·         Grains
o   Believe it or not, pasta and rice can be made in your dorm room!
o   Fill a microwave-safe bowl with the appropriate amount of water, add the pasta or rice, and microwave accordingly until it is finished cooking
o   Use your favorite sauces on pasta; use the heavy, creamy sauces sparingly
o   Be sure to include a protein with the carbohydrates: grilled chicken, shrimp, and fish that are refrigerated/frozen
o   Throw in some vegetables for a “Garden Pasta”
o   Make pasta salads for future meals
o   Rice and beans
o   Choose brown rice over white

·         Meat
o   Finding meat to cook in a dorm room is easier than you may think
o   Frozen/pre-cooked chicken and turkey breasts and seafood are easy and good sources of protein
o   Some frozen meats/meat substitutes are quick meals: for example, MorningStar Black Bean Burgers have great flavor and make a good sandwich; turkey sausage is also a good choice

·         Vegetables
o   Frozen vegetables are also very easy to find, as well as prepare
o   Put in a microwave-safe bowl and cook until done (adding water for cooking isn’t necessary; it actually causes most of the vitamins and nutrients to be lost)
o   White and sweet potatoes can be easily cooked in a microwave – just make sure you poke them with a fork to avoid explosions!

·         Frozen Meals
o   These are easy and quick
o   Microwavable dinners: Choose dinners with LESS than 400 calories, LESS than 600 mg sodium, LESS than 10 grams fat, and AT LEAST 3 grams fiber. (Lean Cuisine, Smart Ones)

·         Hummus and pretzels/raw veggies
·         Yogurt
·         Fresh fruit
·         Whole wheat crackers and cheese
·         Peanut butter and celery/crackers/fruit/pretzels
·         Baked chips
·         Fruit and cheese
·         Trail mix

Contributed by:
Lauren Marucci
Dietetic Senior
Penn State University