Friday, January 6, 2012
I'm currently on a short break from training due to a family trip down to NYC. That's right, the Big Apple! And sitting here on the good ol' Amtrak really has caused me to remember a simple yet extremely crucial activity that any dieter needs to become quite good at if they wish to succeed in their weight/muscle related journey. What is this simple skill that is so often overlooked?
Why, PACKING FOOD of course!
Think about it. No matter how strict or successful your diet is, it can become unsuccessful quite quickly once the choice of food is no longer in your control. Sure, you can always modify decently healthy menu items (which I will eventually discuss in a later article), but wouldn't it be nice to know exactly the number of calories, nutrients, and all that other important nutritional information of your food? Why not count it all out beforehand? Make sure you won't get stuck with a greasy burger and diet soda just because that's all the menu has!
First things first, if it's a long trip, pack things that'll keep for a while. Certain fruits and veggies will keep for days unrefrigerated, including apples, oranges, clementines, carrots, peppers, onions, celery, lettuce, bananas, tomatoes, need I go further?
Now I'm perfectly content to eat this things undressed, but maybe you're not quite at that level yet. So work around it! Pack some little containers of healthy sauces/toppings. Mustard, salsa, pepper, balsamic vinegar, heck, whatever you feel like you need to make those veggies palatable. You and I both know they're a crucial part of any sort of healthy diet.
What about protein? Well, the first thing that immediately pops into my mind (and hopefully yours as well) is a good, cheap whey protein supplement. Save the good stuff for your gym days, and run out and purchase a 15 dollar pack of the Walmart brand. Sure it may not taste amazing, but hey, I think you'll be all right. It mixes easily in water, and is easy to bag up and pack into even the tightest suitcases. Just make sure those bags are sealed!
Another great source of protein is vacuum packaged fish, like tuna and salmon! They sell them in almost any grocery store, and generally you'll get between 15-20 grams of protein for less than 100 calories! I can almost guarantee it will be quite satisfying too, as lean protein generally is good at filling you up quick. The salmon by itself is delicious in my opinion, and I don't think it'll require much (if any) additives to chew it up and chug it down. The tuna on the other hand, while again, one of my personal favorites even plain, might need a little spicing up for you to enjoy it. Cayenne pepper goes a long way, as does a good bean salsa.
If the trip is shorter, you have pretty much all the freedom in the world to bring whatever you need. And you should bring something, because remember to keep that metabolism up in general it's a good idea to eat at least 5 times throughout the day.
Some of my favorite packaged meals include:
Oats and whey: Just what it sounds like! 1/2 cup of rolled oats, one scoop of chocolate whey protein. Add a little water until it's a yummy mush, and eat up all those tasty complex carbs and rich source of protein. Around 300 calories and nearly the PERFECT muscle building food. If you're looking to pack on a little more size, add a tablespoon or two of natural peanut butter and get some healthy fats in there!
Vegetable Medley: This can be whatever you want. I love mixing together corn, chickpeas, black beans, diced tomatoes, diced peppers, diced onions, peas, the works! You'll create an extremely yummy bean salad that's packed with healthy grains and complex carbs. Need a little more flavor? I'll say it again, spice it up! Add some salsa! Salsa is only 10-15 calories for two tablespoons, so if you can handle 3 servings you can have a pretty tasty meal at only a few hundred calories, not to mention an extremely healthy one!
Mixed Nuts: I suggest bringing all sorts of these little guys, but in pre-measured packages! Don't bring the whole can, because most likely you'll eat the whole can. Look at the serving sizes and measure out the amounts accordingly, matching your desired caloric/ macro-nutrient amount.
Sandwiches: Now I know they serve sandwiches most places, but believe me you don't want many of those if you're on a strict diet. I suggest using 100 calorie wheat flat-breads, which can be found at any grocery store. Pile on some tuna, turkey, or chicken, some veggies (pack it full to make it satiating), use mustard instead of mayo, and if you really want some cheese opt for a more healthy option than the nasty old kraft American singles (as easy as they are to add to a sandwich). I STRONGLY recommend adding a tomato slice or two, as they can make a HUGE difference in taste and density of a sandwich.
Leftovers: Imagine your options, chicken breast with peas and spinach, turkey with corn and brown rice, tuna steak with asparagus and cauliflower, it's unlimited! See what you've got in that fridge/freezer. Measure it out and stick it in some tupperware, you can even label it if you wish. You could pack meals for days.
Other things to bring? Well, I've already mentioned raw fruits and veggies, but I'd also suggest hard-boiled eggs, low sugar/plain greek yogurt, and a good supply of water (or milk if you wish, though make sure it doesn't spoil.)
A trip or vacation, whether long or short, doesn't have to spoil a diet. Just plan ahead. Take meals with you! It'll keep you on track and feeling great. Don't be afraid to enjoy a little of the "native food," but pick your timing and your menu item carefully, and make great choices, because after all, you'll be the one living with them.
Pack smart, travel safely, and as always, good luck!