Jayne McAllister

Travel Wellness Expert and Author


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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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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.


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Eight Steps to Dine Out and Lose Weight

Young woman in fine restaurant, she eats a burgerI constantly survey business travelers on the topic of their health and wellness challenges when on the road.  The biggest concern is always, “I can’t control my weight when I have to eat out so much.”  (It’s followed very closely by lack of sleep, in case you’re wondering…).  “Just tell me what to eat,” is the plea uttered by the vast majority of new clients.

Well, I’ve listened and I’m hard at work on the launch of Dine Out/Lose Weight™ but it won’t be finished until October.  That doesn’t help you now, does it?  And we all want instant gratification… So, here are a few tips to get you started.  They are the tip of the iceberg but should keep you going until I can reveal all my secrets in October!

In a previous post, I talked about zoning out with menus.  That’s when your eyes glaze over and reason evaporates. You are suddenly incapable of making decent menu choices, even though you walked into the restaurant planning on having consommé and broiled chicken with a green salad.  Well, click your heels three times and come back to reality.  Here’s how we’re going to address the menu…

Step One

Start by mentally eliminating all unsuitable items from the menu.  I say mentally because it might not be appropriate to whip out your biro and start putting lines through dishes on someone’s elaborately designed menu.  These dishes will have key words like cream, fried, cheese or all three.

Step Two

Look at the remaining dishes and see how you might be able to manipulate them into something healthy.  Look for vegetables, other than white potatoes.  They are going to be the star of your plate, but they might be hiding as a side dish.  Sautéed spinach, broccoli, asparagus or green beans seem to be the most common options.

Step Three

Find some protein to accompany said vegetables otherwise you won’t feel full.  This will include fish, seafood, lean meats and poultry, tofu and beans.  They should be prepared without elaborate sauces.

Step Four

See if you can get extra vegetables and have them instead of potatoes, white rice or other starches.  If you’re a carb lover, then pick the good guys such as brown rice, quinoa and barley, just limit your portion to half a cup.

Step Five

Make sure the dish comes with a green salad, otherwise order one.  Make sure it’s dressed with an olive oil based dressing.  Anything creamy is on the out so adios to ranch and blue cheese.  Sorry, but you’re here to lose weight.  If dressing is on the side, you can pour about half of it on your salad.  This will vary by restaurant.  Some establishments bring you half a bucket of dressing while others will give you a thimble-full.

Step Six

Drink water until you order and ignore the bread basket.  Don’t feel deprived, you’re going to eat as much of the healthy stuff as you like, until you feel full.  Instead of reaching satiety by overindulging on evil, sugary carbs, you’ll get there with the help of the protein and good fats you’re consuming, such as olive oil in your salad dressing.

Step Seven

Once you’ve ordered, now you can include a glass of wine, which you will enjoy with your food.  Drinking on an empty stomach leads to less rationale around food choices and the alcohol enters your bloodstream way too fast.  You may find yourself dancing on the table for your clients, or tearfully telling them about the demise of the pet spider you had as a child. (Okay, guilty.  His name was Incy Wincy.  Not very original but I loved him).

Step Eight

Pick your poison.  If you REALLY want dessert, you can have three small tastes to savor.  Or, you can have a glass of red wine or champagne instead.  But not both.

Try on these steps and see how they work for you.  There’s much more to this but you have been officially pointed in the right direction.  Let me know how you do and please feel free to post questions.