Jayne McAllister

Travel Wellness Expert and Author


Eating for Energy When Traveling, Tip #1

Start your day this way!

Start your day this way!


I can hear you groaning and see you rolling your eyes. “That’s not a secret,” you’re saying. “We’re always being told to eat breakfast if we want to be healthier.” But the truth is eating breakfast for eating breakfast’s sake is not necessarily going to serve you. And here’s why.
Most breakfasts are nothing but sugar. Consider a standard breakfast of cereal and milk; orange juice; toast or another bread; and coffee or tea with milk.
• Cereal = sugar. Most cereals are boxes of candy.
• Milk = sugar from lactose.
• Orange juice = sugar, the fiber has been stripped.
• Bread = if it doesn’t have 2 or 3 grams of fiber per serving, it’s starch.
• Coffee or tea with milk and sugar = double whammy from the sugar itself and the lactose in the milk.
So what’s the problem here? The typical breakfast means that you’re consuming a lot of refined sugar that’s going to spike your blood sugar to a great height and result in a resounding fall not that much later. Despite having had a bunch of calories, you’re going to want to eat again mid-morning because you’re feeling lethargic, or you’re going to be ravenous by lunch. Quality protein is conspicuous by its absence.
So, by contrast, what if you take the eggs and bacon route? Is that any better? To be honest, some of the components here are fine. The issue starts when you put them all together. You’re looking at a large amount of fat and animal protein, and no fiber or good carbohydrates. Here you’re missing on the energy from carbohydrates which also feed the brain and the central nervous system.
So now that I’ve slammed most popular breakfasts, what do you do? Especially if you’re on the road.
Breakfast is one meal over which you have a lot of control. It’s not like being taken by a client to a fondue restaurant for lunch or dinner. Typically the day’s obligations shouldn’t be interfering with your eating of the first meal of your day.
If you’re at home, you can definitely strike the balance between nutrients to get you on your way and keep your energy level until lunch time. Here are some suggestions and they don’t take long:
• Oatmeal with almond milk, berries and chopped nuts.
• Veggie omelet with one full egg and one egg white. Time tip: chop the veggies the night before. Start cooking the onion while you shower. By the time you’re done, they’ll be ready and you can add the faster cooking veggies.
• Smoothie – get brave with fruit and greens. You don’t taste the greens. You can down a whole day’s worth of fruit and get a head start on veggies before your day has barely begun.
• I add almond butter to my smoothies for extra protein. I don’t usually use a protein powder. I’m more likely to have an egg or a black bean/brown rice patty afterwards. Most people can keep going all morning on a smoothie. I’m an “O” blood type so I’m always fishing around for extra protein.
• Brown rice or quinoa porridge. Yes really, you can add almond milk to cooked brown rice or quinoa and it makes a fabulous breakfast.
• I’m a little odd – I’ll eat brown rice and black beans for breakfast. It’s great, and can be prepared as a batch in advance. That keeps me going for ever.
All of these recipes are on my website. Email me if there’s anything specific you would like.

On the road, if you’re staying in a room that has a microwave, you can prepare a lot of the same stuff as at home. In a hotel, you’re going to find some healthy options, but you’ll probably have to go à la carte. You may even have to give your server some special requests. The truth is, in this day and age, kitchens are used to special requests. They’re used to preparing gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan and vegetarian. So here are some good options:
• Oatmeal with berries and nuts. Try to avoid the sugar. A little honey is okay. I prefer almond milk. Most places won’t have it, but if you contact the hotel in advance, they’ll get it for you. The more people request, the more likely hotels are going to step up and start offering healthier products.
• Eggs. Veggie omelet. As many veggies as possible. No more than two eggs. You don’t need four.
• If you’re having eggs or bacon (and it really should be either or except for an occasional treat), have them with whatever veggies you can muster from the kitchen. At least you should be able to get tomatoes and mushrooms. Sauteed spinach with a poached or fried egg on top is great.
• Avocado and tomato on whole wheat toast is wonderful. Avocado can be mashed to make avocado “butter” and it’s delicious spread on toast, and better for you than regular butter.
• If you’re in a hotel that serves an international clientele, you’ll sometimes find salmon on the breakfast menu to cater to visitors from Japan. That’s a great breakfast with veggies.

What’s in and out on the breakfast buffet?
In: fresh fruit, whole grain breads, eggs cooked to order, bacon or ham in moderation, any veggies, yogurt, high fiber cereal, almond milk.
Out: scrambled eggs that have been sitting for ages, sausage, biscuits, gravy, any breads with white flour, sweet pastries, juices from cartons, sugary cereals.
A word about eggs: We have been brainwashed into thinking that they are bad for us because they contain cholesterol. The truth is there’s a difference between the cholesterol in food and the cholesterol that is made from saturated fat that is carried into the body and converted.
In the US, if you want to be healthy, you eat egg whites. In traditional Chinese medicine, egg yolks are eaten and the whites are discarded because they are known to be mucus-forming. The truth is there are really important nutrients in eggs. They’re a great source of the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E. Plus, the fat in the egg yolk will help you absorb the micronutrients in any vegetables that you’re eating with them. The whole egg is best to be eaten so all the complementary nutrients can do their job.
The problem with cholesterol in eggs is when the cholesterol is oxidized. That happens when the egg yolk is over cooked such as in scrambled eggs that have been sitting on a buffet line for hours or in an over-medium egg. Soft poach, sunny side up or over easy, soft boiled are all okay.

I’m a big believer in getting where you’re going the night before for so many reasons. Better night’s sleep, chance to exercise, no risk of running late because of flight delays, chance to have a real breakfast. These are all factors which help alleviate stress too. But sometimes you’re leaving home in the wee hours, it’s too early to eat, you grab coffee and run. What do you do in this situation?
You have to take something with you. At least, a piece of fruit, some almonds and perhaps a yogurt, but not if you’re a big milk drinker. Find a quiet corner to eat it. Eating in the car or on the train is not okay. You’re going to eat more because you’re not focused. You won’t even notice the food that’s going into your mouth. Your brain won’t even register that you’re full. That will lead to more hunger later and excess calories.

Let me know how these tips work for you. I’m always anxious to hear travelers’ challenges on the road…so I can help you overcome them.


1 Comment

Rules Were Made To Be Broken

Rules were made to be broken.  Who came up with that phrase anyway? I’ve always said that there’s a reason for cliches and I’m holding myself to it on this one.

My diet is pretty much wheat-free, dairy-free, green smoothie laden and low on animal foods these days.  I certainly don’t expect my clients to eat like me – this is the culmination of over 18 months of integrative nutrition on my part. But, there always has to be a dark side, a yang to the yin, a night to day, blah, blah and THAT is why every now and again, you just have to be naughty.

Today was a naughty day. While some people might go and paint the town red, my definition of being utterly rambunctious was hitting the tastes buds with a  few ingredients they hadn’t had in a while. Like cheese. Like prosciutto. Like pastry. Like chocolate that wasn’t raw.

I have the weekend to myself, a rarity in and of itself, so I was itching to do something a little beyond my usual green smoothie or veggie omelet sans fromage. It’s funny how being on your own and having the ultimate luxury of time all to yourself can turn you into a whirling dervish of culinary creativity. “He’s not here; bring out the cheese and prosciutto.” Well, if he were here, he’d probably be thrilled to see them coming out of the fridge because he bought them in the first place despite my protestations.

I digress.  I love eggs and eat pretty much one a day, usually scrambled or in a veggie omelet. I get my eggs at my local farmers’ market and pay way more than one does for “regular” eggs ($5.99 a dozen), but they’re from pasteured chickens  and are free of hormones and antibiotics.  And a word about the price, I look at it like I get a healthy breakfast for 50 cents a day for 12 days.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo how thrilled was I to see this recipe as an opportunity to go beyond fried and scrambled to en cocotte but with the lovely twist of prosciutto.  There’s even a green veggie in there.  Even better, it takes no time to prepare so it works mid-week.  Switch on the oven when you first get up and bake the egg while you take your shower.

Individual Prosciutto and Spinach Pies

12 servings (Only making one? Amounts are in italics and parantheses)

  • 12 thin slices prosciutto, halved crosswise (1/2 pound) (1 slice)
  • 10 eggs, slightly beaten (1 egg)
  • 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt (pinch)
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (smidgen)
  • 1 cup loosely packed spinach, stems trimmed and roughly chopped (small handful)
  • 1/2 cup grated sharp Cheddar cheese (1 tablespoon)

Pre-heat oven to 350. Lightly butter a 12-cup muffin pan or 12 ramekins. Place prosciutto slices into bottoms and up sides of cups, overlapping in a crisscross pattern.

Combine eggs, salt, and pepper.  Divide spinach and cheese among muffin cups.  Pour egg mixture evenly into muffin cups.

Bake pies 14 to 16 minutes or until just set.  Let stand about 5 minutes.  Loosen pies by running a knife around the edges of each cup, and then lift out of pan with a small spatula. Serve immediately.

Single serving: butter ramekin and line it with prosciutto in criss-cross shape.  Add chopped spinach and grated cheese.  Add beaten, seasoned egg. Bake as above.

When I’m on my own, I like to not have to fuss about meals. If I want to create a magnum opus I can, but if I don’t feel like a performance while flatly refusing to eat something that isn’t made from scratch, here I come. I’d been eyeing up a recipe for an olive and onion tart that I’d pulled out of a magazine. (Can’t remember which one, sorry).

Onion and Olive Tart

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt  had the air of pissaladiere that I’ve had in France. Plus by now, I was deep into a magazine article I was writing and really didn’t have much time to come up for air. Did I have all the ingredients? Frozen puff pastry. Check. Large sweet onion. Check. Arugula or Spinach. Sort of. A bit of spinach (I’d used most of it in the egg recipe) but found kale which is ubiquitous in my house. Olives, because this is an olive and onion tart. Er, the husband has them, along with the spinach but he doesn’t know when he’ll be home. Okay. Ha! Found some homemade tapenade in the fridge, we’ll figure this out.

Defrost the puff pastry but don’t do what I did and leave it for too long so you can’t do anything with it. Since only half is required, I cut the thing in two and rolled it thin. Next time I’ll do it right and read the instructions, just like I never do.

  • 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 (17.3-ounce) package frozen puff pastry sheets, thawed
  • 1/3 cup olive oil, divided
  • 1 large sweet onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 cup firmly packed fresh arugula or spinach leaves
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 anchovy fillets (optional)
  • 1/2 cup fresh white breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup chopped green rip or kalamata olives
  • Fresh arugula leaves (optional)

Preheat oven to 375.  Stir egg yolk in a small bowl.  Place puff pastry on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and cut 1/2-inch-wide strips off each side.  Lightly brush each piece with egg wash.  Place cut pastry strips on top of puff pastry to form raised edges, trimming as needed.  Prick center of pastry with a fork.  Chill 30 minutes.

Heat two tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat; saute onion 10 minutes, stirring frequently.  Reduce heat to low, add sugar and vinegar, and cook, stirring frequently, 10 minutes or until onion is a dark caramel color.  (Take more time with this if you need to.  Crunchy caramelized onions don’t work.  If it takes longer to soften them, take the time). Set aside.

Puree arugula, garlic, and anchovies, if desired, in a food processor.  Slowly add remaining 3 1/2 tablespoons olive oil; process until mixture is thick and creamy.  Stir in breadcrumbs and next 3 ingredients.

Spread arugula mixture over puff pastry, and top evenly with onion.  Bake 30 minutes or until tart edges are golden brown and bottom is firm.  Let cool to room temperature.  Top with olives, and sprinkle with additional arugula, if desired.  Cut tart into squares.  Makes 6 to 8 servings.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA note. My hubby is still AWOL with the olives so, as you can see, I enjoyed my tart with a dollop or two of the tapenade which I spread atop. It would have been lovely with some mixed greens and a homemade vinaigrette, but alas the greens are also in the back of a car somewhere in Indian River County, Florida.

Not to worry, I washed my tart down with a suitably hearty red wine. A tempranillo/merlot/cabernet sauvignon mix from Navarra, Spain.  A wimpy wine won’t match up to the strong tastes of the arugula paste and the olives so be bold. As one should, if one is being naughty.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYou can see how much I enjoyed my dinner…

My final digression was some delicious mango chilli chocolate that said prosciutto- and cheese-buying husband had stashed in the fridge.  It also went extremely well with the wine.  On reflection, even though my other half was away all weekend and not home in time with some of the goods, I did really well working with what he had provisioned.  He can buy prosciutto, pastry, cheese and chocolate more often!