Saturday, March 3, 2012

Tips for Going Plant Based - Plant Based Travel (Part 1)

This is Part 1 in a three-part series about plant based traveling.

Part 1 - Getting There

I only travel once a year or once every other year to visit my dad and his wife and I only go for three days and two nights so I am not a travel expert but I do think I have the whole traveling plant based lifestyle thing down pretty good.

The most important thing to remember is planning!

One thing I always do is send myself a package at my destination (if I'm visiting family or friends). The package will contain things like travel sizes of my skin care routine, my traveling makeup bag (it has duplicates of the things I use most often and then I pack up a second bag with things I want to use the morning I get ready to go) and things I'd rather not carry with me like gifts or things like that.  I'd also send a container of nutritional yeast and a spray bottle of Bragg's Amino Acids (they sell those) because I'm not certain I can always find those at every grocery store and those are important for my trip. (more on that in Part 2)

My experience detailed here will be for a short flight. If you are going to be on a longer flight you may need more planning and more food. You'll need to think ahead and plan your attack a bit more.

I live near Chicago so I fly out of O'Hare airport and I really like O'Hare. It's huge so there is a lot of walking but hey.. it's exercise! Getting there is a journey in itself tho.  I prefer to take the earliest flight I can get. The airport seems less crowded and I like getting to my destination by mid-morning. For a 7am flight, I get up at 2 am to leave the house at 3:30 am in order to catch a 4 am bus to the airport. The bus ride is an hour and a half. I try and get to the airport about one and a half hours before my flight leaves. My flight is just under 2 hours so by the time I've reached my destination in Oklahoma, I've been up about 7 hours.

Now, at home I like to eat every 2 to 3 hours so in theory I should only want to eat a couple times between leaving the house and getting to my destination but that is not the case! I usually want to eat every hour when I'm traveling. It might be because I'm moving a lot or it might be stress, who knows? All I know is that I get very cranky and irritated and a little sick if I don't eat on a regular basis.

I try and eat something before I leave but eating at 3am isn't always very appetizing. I will do my best to have a bowl of oatmeal or a whole grain cereal like Grape Nuts, because that is filling and not something I can make easily on the road.

I will not check a bag so I take my carry-on suitcase and a large carry-on tote bag.

In my tote bag I will pack:

  • a reusable container of homemade granola (or you can buy a bag) that will have enough for both flights.
  • a banana
  • an unopened bottle of water (you can't take an open bottle thru security)
  • a reusable container with stir fried veggies and brown rice (because I have no problem eating this at room temp) or something like spaghetti marinara. (you can choose whatever food you like, this is just what I do) .. you could also do fresh fruit.
  • a plastic fork 
  • an energy bar like a Luna bar or Clif Bar (bringing two is better or toss a few in your suitcase)

Since I ate before I left the house, I am usually ok on the bus and I try to relax, listen to my iPod, close my eyes and rest.

At the airport I go straight to security and get that over with and I locate my gate so I know where it is. At this point I will usually want something to eat so I decide if I want the banana or the fried rice. I will eat one now and the other on the plane if I get hungry. I fly the cheapest way possible and since my flights are rarely over 2 hours, they don't feed me. The most I get on a flight is a beverage (always water!) and once in awhile I may be given a bag of pretzels. If you are going somewhere that has a longer flight and a meal is offered, order the vegan meal.

Keep your reusable containers and plastic fork because you will need those for the return home.

The granola is there as a back up should you need more food and the energy bar is what you should have on you at your destination at all times in case of a food emergency! An energy bar has saved me on countless occasions when I've been stuck in a car with no meal in sight! If you use your energy bar, replace it immediately. Luna bars and Clif bars can be found in almost any regular grocery store.

Now.. for those you that don't want to pack food... you can find suitable food at the airport but I don't like to take chances and I'd rather eat wholesome food than fast food or overpay for a piece of fruit at the airport.

If you intend on eating at the airport then you MUST take the time to find out what food places are available at each of the airports you will be in. You can do an online search and locate the food vendors ahead of time. You will then know if your choices are McDonald's and Starbucks or Burger King and Cinnabon. (let me just let out a groan here) .. let me just say again how important it is to know ahead of time what will be available!

What you can find at the airport .. just check those labels!

Sit-down restaurants:
 - breakfast foods like pancakes and waffles but they are probably made with cow milk. it's up to you if you're willing to consume it.
 - you may be able to get some sauteed or steamed veggies and rice or pasta. 
 - most airports have a few chain places so you can research that for suitable menu choices

Convenience stores:
 - nuts and trail mixes
 - chips (stick with things like plain potato chips, pretzels (some have milk) or plain corn chips
 - cookies (Oreos are vegan but certainly not healthy)
 - bottled water
 - crackers

Non-chain food kiosks:
 - fresh fruit
 - pre-packaged salads and sandwiches (almost never plant based)
Chain kiosks: 

I really don't recommend eating at any sort of chain but I know people still do. Always do research to find out what chains have plant based foods available and type up a list because you won't remember. Check things like condiments and sauces, as well as individual ingredients like buns and bread. The key to successfully eating at a chain is RESEARCH before you get there.

 - Starbucks has a pre-packed meal that is vegan and they offer oatmeal. 
 - McDonald's has something resembling oatmeal. (Starbucks is a better choice for oatmeal.)
 - Taco Bell has bean tacos and burritos and chips. Ask for no cheese or sour cream, obviously.
 - most pizza kiosks can make you a cheese less pizza
 - if you find an Asian chain they might have rice or noodles and stir fried veggies
 - Subway has a veggie sub but get the Italian bread. The wheat one isn't whole wheat, it has HFCS and the other breads all have milk and/or cheese. Stick with mustard as a condiment.
 - Quiznos has the means to make you a veggie sandwich but their red wine vinegar isn't vegan.
 - Burger King offers a veggie burger but it's vegetarian, not vegan. they use the Morningstar Farms veggie patty.
 - you may also find plain baked potatoes (ask for salsa and steamed veggies to top it)

Note: I will be talking more about eating out in Part 3 so that might be helpful with chain places in airports as well!

The rest of the series:

Tips for Going Plant Based - Go Organic!

I've had people tell me they can't afford to buy organic produce and I totally get that.

I only buy certain organic fruits and veggies.

Not all fresh produce has to be organic.. just certain ones where you are eating the skin or have a skin that is thin enough to allow chemicals into the item.

If you can't afford to buy 100% organic, use this list to help you decide what to splurge on when you do buy organic. Also, check your organic area for special deals. Often times, the prices are the same or slightly higher for organic and non-organic so why not buy organic if it's the same price or very close?

You DO NOT Need to buy organic:

corn -  buy local whenever possible
sweet peas
kiwi - wash well
melons - watermelon, cantaloupe and honeydew
winter squash

You SHOULD buy organic:

bell peppers
strawberries - grow your own if you can!
leafy greens
citrus that you are using for zest.

Friday, March 2, 2012

What Going Vegan Has Taught Me - I hate the word moderation.

mod·er·a·tion - The avoidance of excess or extremes; restraint

If you want to annoy me, you just need to utter three words "everything in moderation" ... no three words in the human language irritate me more!

Usually, when someone says 'everything in moderation', they are looking for permission to eat, do, drink or take something they probably shouldn't.

Moderation is relative to each individual. It cannot be applied in a general way.

If you have someone that smokes 2 packs of cigarettes a day and then they switch to smoking one pack a day .. that individual is now smoking 'in moderation'. For me, I think smoking is something you shouldn't ever do so having one cigarette a YEAR is moderate in my opinion.

If you have someone that has McDonald's every day for lunch and they start having it twice a week, they think that is 'moderation'. For me, I think you shouldn't ever eat McDonald's.

Moderation is also relative to an individuals moral and ethic beliefs. I follow a plant based food lifestyle so eating animals is not a choice I will make. Eating turkey on Thanksgiving is not 'moderation', it's simply wrong.

I am a girl that is all about facts. If I am supposed to eat something in moderation then tell me what moderate IS. Is it ok to have 4 oz a day or should I only eat it once a week? once a month, once a year?

I want clear and concise instructions.

One thing I eat in 'moderation' by my standards is vegan sushi. It's white rice and veggies. The sushi places where I live do not offer brown rice and white rice is not something I like to eat on a regular basis because there is no nutritional value to it. I consider white rice to be junk food in my lifestyle. I try and only have sushi once a month.

One example that applies to everyone is sugar. We all know that we shouldn't eat a ton of sugar but most people still do.. most people ingest added sugar and they don't even realize it. Reports say that the average American in eating 22 teaspoons of sugar a day, that is 88 grams! To put it in perspective, that averages about 150 lbs per year, per person.. that is almost 38 bags of sugar (if they are 4 lbs ea) for each person!

The average adult female should limit their added sugar intake to 25 grams a day based on a calorie count of 1500 calories a day. For men, it's about 40 grams based on a 2000 calorie day. For kids, you should shoot for zero but certainly no more than 15 grams a day (and one pudding cup is over that!)

One teaspoon of sugar has 4 grams so you should limit your added sugar intake to 6 teaspoons a day, that is 2 tablespoons. Of course, the less sugar you consume, the better. (and no, artificial sweeteners are not okay!)

Whole fruit doesn't count in this number. Added sugar would be things like sugar you may add to your coffee, a homemade cupcake and almost everything processed will have added sugars. If you start paying attention to the grams of sugar in your food, you will be stunned. If you consume processed foods, start looking at labels.

Sugar makes you fat and you are addicted. (true story)

To give you an idea of added sugar in certain things.. here is a small list, including a few things you may think are 'healthy'. As you read this list, keep in mind that your maximum intake in a given 24 hour period should be 25 grams for women, 40 grams for men, 15 grams for children.

20 oz bottle of Coke - 65 grams
16 oz Starbucks Mocha Frap with whipped cream - 47 grams
20 oz Vitamin Water - 33 grams
16 oz Jamba Juice (sunrise banana berry) - 59 grams
8 oz Red Bull - 27 grams
16 oz Snapple Lemon Iced Tea - 46 grams
1 Pop Tart - 17 grams
1 Cinnabon roll - 55 grams
1 cup Kellogg's Raisin Bran - 18 grams
4 Oreos (regular) - 14 grams
6 oz Yoplait strawberry yogurt - 27 grams
6 oz Yoplait light strawberry yogurt - 14 grams
1/2 cup Ben & Jerry's Cherry Garcia - 21 grams
16 oz Dairy Queen Blizzard (butterfinger) - 86 grams
21 oz McDonald's Chocolate Shake - 111 grams
1 tbsp ketchup - 4 grams
2 tbsp Thousand Island dressing - 5 grams
1/2 cup Prego Marinara sauce - 7 grams
Reeses's Peanut Butter Cups (standard 2 cup pack - 20 grams
2.6 oz Skittles - 47 grams
Snack Pack Chocolate Pudding cup - 16 grams

So, when it comes to sugar, which is a completely unnecessary ingredient (meaning it has no nutritional value and does harm to your body), what is 'moderate' in your opinion?

If you are someone that eats a candy bar and drinks three sodas every day then you may think dropping to one soda a day and having a candy bar three days a week is moderate. For me, I never drink soda and the only candy I have is dark vegan chocolate.

So.. it's all relative.