Jayne McAllister

Travel Wellness Expert and Author

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Want to avoid getting sick while traveling this holiday season?

MILEHIGH_FRONT_FINALTraveling from sunny Florida to colder climes always presents a problem with getting sick. I take all the precautions I can to be resilient but every now and again, I succumb. On my most recent trip to England, I happened to be staying with family who both had a throat infection when I arrived. Given that touch is the most common way to transfer germs, I couldn’t exactly wear a Hazmat suit as I arrived on their doorstep. Nor did I feel inclined to insult my hosts by disinfecting all flat surfaces or asking them to wear gloves while preparing my meals.

Five days later my voice disappeared. In all fairness, I’d also undertaken 11 hours of flying to get there. If I’d taken my own advice better, what could I have done? Here’s an excerpt from my upcoming book “Mile High and Healthy: The Frequent Traveler’s Roadmap to Eating, Energy, Exercise and a Balanced Life.”

“Travelers often complain that they have picked up a cold or flu after flying. I’ve certainly blamed the odd cold on fellow passengers. Confined spaces, reused blankets and pillows and proximity to other passengers over the course of several hours mean exposure from breathing, coughing and sneezing as germs are released into the air.

You can easily catch a cold by sharing an office, train, bus or room with infected people. However, a 2004 study in the Journal of Environmental Health Research revealed that twenty percent of passengers reported colds five to seven days after a two and a half hour flight.

According to Mariana Calleja, M.D. and founder of travelthy.com , ‘Touch is the most common way to get infected during air travel. For example, everyone without exception has some kind of contact with other people’s germs whenever they go to the toilet and grab the door handle, or when they touch seat heads as they walk through the aisle during flight, or when they are talking to a hotel’s front desk staff, exchanging documents and waiting with arms on the counter during the check-in process.’  Dr. Calleja says the simplest way to avoid infection is to wash one’s hands as often as possible.

By the way, it’s wise to monitor yourself for a few days after a trip because symptoms of ailments may not appear immediately.  Continue to hydrate and look for signs such as digestive trouble, unexplained fevers or headaches and skin reactions.

Proximity to others is the primary factor that causes germs to spread. There is a misconception at large that the recirculating air in the aircraft cabin is to blame.  A 2002 study by the Aerospace Medical Association concluded that there was “no evidence that organisms pass from one person to another through the aircraft ventilation system.”  Note that in newer aircraft fifty percent of the air in the cabin is recirculated and passes through filters that remove bacteria, fungi and most viruses.  The other fifty percent of the air comes from outside.  This evidence about the ventilation system was corroborated by further studies in 2010.

A 1997 study in the European Respiratory Journal suggests that low humidity impairs your ability to resist germs because the mechanism that protects against colds slows down or stops when there is low humidity.  This would be your Mucociliary Clearance System which traps viruses and bacteria before moving them from the nose and throat to destruction in the stomach.  When dry, the mucus becomes too thick to be moved by the cilia (little hairs) that normally push it along.  The infectious bodies hang around and you get sick. This is another most excellent reason to stay hydrated. “

Mile High and Healthy: The Frequent Traveler’s Roadmap to Eating, Energy, Exercise and a Balanced Life will be available for purchase from December 7th. To reserve your copy, please click here.


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7 Ways to Make Your Conference Healthier

Frustrated colleagues playing at conference callI’m planning a conference in London later in the year (much more about that in due course). Given that I spend most of my life helping people stay healthy while they’re traveling, I want my event to reflect that. The last conference I attended was in the bowels of a huge property with room-less windows. We had soggy sandwiches in brown paper bags for lunch (the bags were delicious). Breakfast was cheap coffee, sugary muffins, and under ripe bananas. Thankfully we were on our own for dinner and had plenty of good options locally.

Being subjected to artificial light all day while being sustained by sugary foods has a profound effect on morale and energy levels. It doesn’t have to be that way. Here are my tips for making conference experiences healthier, more comfortable and more productive.

  1. Make sure you have healthy dining options at every meal or break. The purpose is not to have delegates gnawing on granola for the sake of it, but to provide foods that will sustain and nourish them, meaning that mid-morning and afternoon energy slumps will be avoided. “Options” is the key word. Some folk will want their cookies and cakes. It’s about making sure that attendees aren’t obliged to eat one way.
  2. Bored business training at officeBook a room with windows. Many conference facilities are tucked away in basements and don’t have natural light. Being deprived of the opportunity to visually connect with the outdoors leads to low energy and morale. Even if artificial light is going to be used, having a room with a view of the outside world will make attendees more productive, less fatigued and more positive.
  3. Allow plenty of breaks. It’s unreasonable to expect delegates to sit for hours at a time and stay focused and attentive. Ninety minutes is the recommended maximum for continued input without a break. People need to get up and move around after sitting and listening for long periods so they can recharge and be ready to absorb information from the next session.
  4. Have stretch breaks. Sitting for several hours will lead to spinal compression and low energy. After coffee, tea, and lunch breaks, have someone lead 4 to 5 minutes of stretching so that attendees feel revitalized for the next session and more aware of their posture. Local yoga and Pilates studios will usually be glad to help out.
  5. Hydrate. Check what kind of water the property is prepared to offer during your event. Mineral water with its high electrolyte content is much better than tap or filtered water for cellular balance, energy levels and overall feelings of wellbeing. Make sure your contract with the venue includes an unlimited supply of mineral water.
  6. Offer opportunities for exercise. If delegates are staying overnight, make sure the property has a decent work out facility (or a nearby gym), swimming pool or safe jogging paths.
  7. Make sure the property is in a safe location, especially for female attendees. My pal Carolyn Pearson, founder of Maiden-voyage.com says it’s crucial to work with a female-friendly hotel so you can take the quality of accommodation and service for granted, leaving you free to focus on your program content and delegates.

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Three Tips for Getting A Good Night’s Sleep On An Airplane – in Economy Class

squashed on flightThis is the first in a series of articles about getting a good night’s sleep as a business traveler. I’m a nine hour’s a night girl so I have to make sure that I sleep well on the road, or in the air as is the case today. The luxuries of a first class cabin lay-flat bed aren’t always available to me. My class of service on an airline is determined by how many miles I have available to upgrade (transatlantic) or on which airline I have status (domestic flights). Needless to say, there are times when all the miles have been used up or I’m flying on very full flights on which it’s impossible to upgrade. Economy it is then. With the people, crammed into a seat with a 30-inch pitch. Here’s what I do to make myself more comfortable:

1. Use Seat Guru. I’m over upgrading on redeyes. I paid for an upgrade from LA to Orlando not that long ago thinking I’d be able to grab a good night’s kip in first class. The flight left at 11 PM so I wasn’t interested in the meal service. Sitting in the bulk head, I curled up, leaned against the window (I can’t do aisles on an overnight flight since I woke up with my head on a complete stranger’s shoulder) and started counting sheep. I drifted off but was wakened by a droning. It wasn’t the engines. My proximity to the galley was the problem. With service over, the flight attendants were seated for several hours, chatting away loudly. They yakked all night. I began to understand why it was a nonstop flight – it was a reference to their vocal cords.

My new trick is to go to www.seatguru.com and check out their recommended seats. For example, instead of upgrading on red eyes, I get row 16 or 17 in coach on an American Airlines 737 in which the middle seat is blocked off. This provides a bit more room and plenty more space for belongings. Avoid seats near the galley (as I learned) and the rest rooms. The queue for the loo can be quite disturbing.

travel_eye_mask-300x2262. Wear an eye mask. The lights in a plane will keep you awake all night, and mess with melatonin levels, which the body produces naturally to regulate sleep. Even if the lights are dimmed, you’ll still perceive that they’re on and you won’t enjoy quality slumber.

Wearing a mask will ensure melatonin production and save you from taking a supplement or, heaven forbid, a sleeping pill. If you really want to boost melatonin levels, consume natural sources such as pineapples, bananas, oranges, oats, sweet corn, brown rice, tomatoes and barley the day before you fly.

Don’t worry about looking silly with a mask. That’s only an issue for ladies wearing lots of make-up which rubs off on the mask and leaves them looking like a startled panda.

3. Eat Before You Fly. True or false? You sometimes eat on planes because you’re bored and service breaks the monotony. If you have the chance to eat before you fly, you’ll be able to make better choices, and maybe even add a salad to improve digestion and lessen the effects of jet lag. A heavy meal will interfere with your sleep patterns even more at 35,000 feet than it does on the ground.

Think about what’s going on inside your body. Cabin pressure is causing gases to expand and blood volume is decreasing from the lack of oxygen. Your organs are working harder to function normally yet you’re seriously thinking of eating everything on that little tray in front of you? On a regular day, your liver goes to work digesting and detoxing typically between the hours of 10 PM and 2 AM. If you’re eating closer to those hours because of inflight service and your liver’s already working harder because of in cabin conditions, it won’t do its job properly. You can say goodnight to dreams of uninterrupted slumber.


The Best Airline Meals You Can Purchase

When was this made?

When was this made?

Last fall I learned that most airline meals – for coach class – are typically made anywhere from three to 18 months in advance.  That includes your breakfast omelet… Since then I’ve always ordered a special meal as I know that my Hindu vegan dishes will be made to order.  It’s not so bad if you’re in business or first as your meal may actually be made the same day, possibly the day before.  If you’re flying up front on Etihad, Austrian or Turkish Airlines, chances are you’ll have a chef on board too.

What if you’re stuck in steerage and you didn’t have chance to pick up anything at the airport?  Some airlines offer food for purchase on otherwise food-free flights, or even as an upgrade to regular offerings.  Here are your best bets:

Delta Air Lines has a new line of healthy menu items from Luvo in the economy cabin on transcontinental flights between JFK and LA, San Francisco and Seattle.  Luvo Inc is an Atlanta-based company committed to providing healthy meals made with natural and sustainable ingredients, no added trans-fats, and hormone and antibiotic-free proteins.  The meals are complimentary for customers seated in Economy Comfort and available for purchase for customers seated in Economy.  Offerings include Luvo Quinoa Crunch Wrap (360 calories), Luvo Grilled Chicken Wrap (400 calories) and Luvo Roast Turkey & Havarti Wrap (440 calories).

Air France allows you to pre-order an “à la carte” meal up to 24 hours prior to departure on its long haul flights.  You can select from traditional French, organic, Italian, fresh seafood options or an extravagant menu  from the renowned Maison Lenôtre. Prices range from 12 euros for “La Dolce Vita” Italian option to 28 Euros for the Maison Lenôtre.

This is what first class on Iberia gets you - terrible.

This is what first class on Iberia gets you – terrible.

American Airlines offers “fresh breakfasts” (as opposed to the one made 12 months ago), and “light and fresh meals” (also as opposed to the one made 12 months ago) for purchase on domestic flights over 3 hours. Between $6.79 and $9.99 will get you a breakfast sandwich, fruit and cheese plate, or a cobb salad among other offerings.

United Airlines has a Bistro Scramble as a select breakfast on certain flights but there’s no mention of when it’s made, so beware if you’re as leery of eggs on a plane as I am.  On certain flights the Bistro On Board repertoire extends to a chicken stir-fry ($9.99), Asian-style noodle salad ($8.49), and an Artisan Cheese selection ($7.99). Sandwiches include a chicken wrap and a roast beef and cheddar baguette (both $8.99).

Of course this all pales in comparison with Korean Airlines whose very own farm provides organic produce, chickens, eggs and beef for its inflight catering.  The farm was started by the family that owns Korean Air in 1991.  They were way ahead of the inflight catering curve.

Finally, I sought the advice of Nikos Loukas, founder of  www.Inflightfeed.com and consultant to the airline catering industry.  Nikos suggests that you go to the airline’s website and see how much space they devote to inflight meals.  The more information there is, the better off you’re likely to be.  I have to say, my research proved this to be very true.

BonVoyage et Bon Appétit!


30 Tips For Staying Slim and Sane Through The Holidays, Part 1

christmas partyWell here we are, on the precipice of the official start to the Holidays, despite what Target and Wal-Mart have led us to believe since late August.   “They” are here.  Thanksgiving for Americans and Hanukkah for my Jewish friends, melded this year into a hybrid Thanksgivukkah .  Meanwhile, Christmas is just four weeks away. Ooh, wait!  There are parties in between!

This is the time of year when we work ourselves up into a sweat without setting foot in a gym.  The “glow” is a nervous reaction to the thought of eating and drinking ourselves up two sizes.  Mentally, the gate opens, the horse bolts and it sure as heck doesn’t look back.  For those who are still struggling with summer holiday weight gain, the spiral continues.  And then there’s the stress of it all: shopping for the right gifts; the gatherings; the family members we’d rather not see; the office party; the guy from three cubicles over who always asks you to dance too many times; running to the bathroom to avoid slow dancing with said would-be suitor; the potential for family disputes; pretending to like Aunt Beatrice’s tougher-than-cardboard pecan pie.

It’s all too much.  So this year, my Holiday gift to you is 30 or more tips on how to stay slim and stress free for the next month or so.  I’ll be delivering two or three tips per day over the next couple of weeks so you can sail through the season with grace, poise and confidence.  Let’s get started.

Holiday Survival Tip #1: Eat Before You Go

A little snack with fiber, protein and good fat before you head to the party, will stop you from overeating on the dark side.

A little snack with fiber, protein and good fat before you head to the party, will stop you from overeating on the dark side.

Er, Jayne, I’m going to a party and there’s going to be food so why would I eat beforehand?

Showing up ravenous will have you rushing up the middle to score a touchdown at the buffet table. Nothing will be out-of-bounds.  Time-out!  Let’s think about this.  If you have lunch at noon or 1 PM, it’s unreasonable to expect to last through cocktail hour until dinner.  A snack with fiber, fat and protein will tide you over and keep your brain on track so you can make smart decisions about what to eat once you’re at the event.  Good snack choices would be hummus with vegetable crudités, lean protein with a green salad dressed with olive oil and lemon juice, or a cup of bean or lentil soup.

Holiday Survival Tip #2: Go In With A Plan.

Whether you’re heading to a party or a sit-down meal, take a moment to confer with your inner Norman Schwarzkopf.  This could be Operation DESSERT Storm.  You need a battle plan.  There are going to be ambushes and saboteurs everywhere.  What’s your intention?  Are you going to skip the champagne and enjoy a small serving of dessert instead?  Are you going to pile your plate with salad and veggies before sampling the “other” stuff?  Are you going to get on the dance floor or pull up a chair to the buffet table?

Formulate your plan. Write it on a Post-it and stick it on your bathroom mirror.  Repeat your intention as you apply your make-up (okay, Guys, you can do this while you shave).  Stick to your strategy and reward yourself with a soak in the tub or a chick-flick (or World War II movie) when you get home.  You will have won the battle and you’ll be on your way to winning the war.

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5 Perils of Prix Fixe Menus

chambery menuI’m just back from a month in France and Italy (definitely not looking for sympathy) and with the impending launch of Dine Out Lose Weight, I was more conscious than ever of trying to make the right choices when eating out since I can do a lot of damage in a month.

I’ve always loved fixed price menus, particularly at lunch time.  For a relatively low price, you get to pick an appetizer, main course and dessert.  Some even include a small carafe of wine.  What could be better?  When you add up the individual cost of these items, your bill would total a lot more than the typical 14 to 20 Euros.

Do this for a week or two during your trip, and you’ll see a cost to more than your wallet.  Here’s why:

1.  Menu choices are limited to what the restaurant wants to sell that day.  A lunch in Limoux, France, gave us selections of sausage in brioche, a tablet of melted cheese, or eggplant/aubergine parmesan as a starter!  Holy fat calories, Batman!  What happened to a simple salad?

2.  If you’re trying to cut back on animal protein and fats, there might not be an option for you.  Our main course choices that same day were rabbit, sauerkraut with pork and sausage, steak and, you guessed it, sausage. (Actually andouillette, a coarse-grained sausage made from pork, intestines and seasonings).  There are typically no substitutions for prix fixe menus.

3.  You end up eating dessert whether you’re full or not.  Plus, they’re often sublime and who’s going to pass up on chocolate mousse or lemon tart unless they’re seriously deranged?

4.  While European dessert portions are typically smaller than those in the US (read “no mountain of chocolate cake”), many of us are in the habit of sharing and having just a few spoonfuls.  If you get your own teeny, weeny, seemingly smaller piece of pie, you may be tempted to scoff the lot.  Of course, you can have a couple of bites and leave it but it’s harder when sharing prevents you from, well, having more than your fair share.

5.  Prix fixe menus are definitely great value but only if you want to eat three or more courses.   I found more often than not that a salad or a plate of pasta would have sufficed, and would actually have cost less than the menu.

In all fairness, some prix fixe menus give you the option of having an appetizer plus main course, or a main plus dessert. But still, what if all you need is one plate?  It’s easy to be led by the seeming value of a prix fixe.  And, they’re becoming more prevalent in the USA.  Actually, they’ve been around for a while under the guise of early bird specials!

Full disclosure: I have a dinner reservation at Bouchon in Los Angeles this week because I was attracted to the $40 prix fixe menu.  This is not a cheap restaurant but the fixed price offers great value.  My plan is to listen to what my body really wants and if a simple plate of salmon tartare will do it, I’m not going to feel obliged to wade through several courses for the sake of it.

Watch this space – I’ll report back in the comments or a separate blog.

To learn more about Dine Out, Lose Weight, visit www.dineoutloseweight.com.

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A Hotel Brand for Health Conscious Travelers? Enfin!

EVEN Hotels_Guest RoomI spend my life helping business travelers stay healthy on the road and much of that involves coming up with ways to make a hotel stay more congruent with our communal goals. From making sure there’s a fridge in the room, to stuffing healthy snacks into every possible orifice in hand and checked luggage, to pre-qualifying menu items from the hotel’s restaurants, to investigating work out options (Is the hotel gym an afterthought? Is there a yoga or Pilates studio nearby?  Is it safe to jog there on one’s own?), I do it all. It’s my life.

So imagine when I heard that InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) announced that they are introducing a new brand especially for health conscious travelers.  A hotel brand that has done my work for me and where I can confidently direct clients.  English girl happy dance was in order as I learned of the inception of EVEN Hotels.

We are talking hotels with state-of-the-art workout rooms that aren’t dark, dank, and squirreled away at the end of a corridor; substantiated health claims on menus, by which I mean people who know what they are doing have checked the ingredients and health claims rather than sticking a star on a menu item like pinning the tail on the donkey; ease of business transactions and connectivity to keep unnecessary stress at bay; and every little comfort and thoughtful touch to make sure you get a good night’s sleep.

I can’t give it all away, but I have the best way for you to find out all the details.  I first learned of EVEN Hotels a few months ago and I’ve been following their progress with interest. So much interest that I had the good fortune to connect with the brand team and have the pleasure of interviewing Adam Glickman, Head of EVEN Hotels, for the upcoming Healthy Travel Summit. Please join us to learn everything there is to know and more.  The Summit starts the week of September 9th, and registration is free. Click here to register.