Jayne McAllister

Travel Wellness Expert and Author


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30 Tips for Staying Slim and Sane Through the Holidays: Part 10

Holiday Survival Tip #23: Eat mindfully

Just how much are you eating mindlessly?

Just how much are you eating mindlessly?

Another one that we’ve heard before but we’re all guilty of it.  When was the last time you watched TV or read a book while eating?  And at this most wonderful time of the year when you’re glued to the telly watching Miracle on 34th Street and sobbing your eyes out, you definitely won’t notice how many cookies you’re eating.  The longer you watch TV while eating, the more you will eat.

Brian Wansink in his fabulous book, “Mindless Eating,” tells that people who watch TV for an hour while eating will eat 28% more than those who watch and eat for half an hour.  In this case, it was popcorn and carrots.  What they were eating really didn’t make much difference.

Holiday Survival Tip #24: Distract Yourself When Eating Between Meals

If you’re eating between meals, ask yourself if you’re really hungry or just looking for something to do.  The whole concept of eating five or six times per day is a relatively new, American concept.  Traditionally people have eaten three squares and been quite satisfied.  Then the snack food industry came along and changed all that.

Before you reach for the peppermint bark, sugar cookies or eggnog ice cream, go for a walk around the block, call a friend or play with your Holiday train set.  By keeping your mind occupied, you’ll forget about eating.

One of the same Brian Wansink’s friends commented to him how he lost 30 pounds within a year by eating anything he wanted.  The trick, apparently, was that if he had a craving when he wasn’t hungry, he would say out loud, “I’m not hungry but I’m going to eat this anyway.”  Apparently declaration a voce alta was enough to deter him.  Try it and see!

Holiday Survival Tip #25: Take a dance break.

Get up and dance!

Get up and dance!

I think Christmas is about celebration and, come on, on the inside everyone wants to dance.” TobyMac.

This is the one time of the year that we’re bound to boogie.  If the thought of dancing the night away at the office party isn’t your thing, then I strongly recommend closing the curtains, turning up Mariah and truly dancing like no one’s watching because they’re not.  If you have a dog or cat witnessing you access your inner Lady Gaga, reassurances and treats might be in order afterwards.

Dancing uplifts your energy and mood, burns a ton of calories, and puts you in the festive spirit.  It’s also a good distraction tactic (see tip #24, above).  This time of year is a free for all, so go for it.

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The Minibar/Fridge Dilemma

Snack Mix I always like to make sure I have a fridge in my hotel room so I can stock it with healthy snacks and breakfast provisions.  It makes sense.  You can stock up and save money, and exercise an element of control over what you eat.  It’ s the antithesis of  the overpriced, sugar- and fat-laden delights lurking in mini-bars.  If you care an iota about your health and your pocket, have that bad boy emptied or decline the key.

That said, I’m seeing more and more hotels offer to fill the in-room fridge for guests as a “convenience.”  Beware the promise of healthy fare. (I always worry about institutions’ definitions of “healthy’).  Here’s a quick look at what an upscale Orlando hotel was offering when I stayed there last week.

Lo-Cal Snack Attack.  Quaker Cheddar Rice Cakes, Cheese Nips, Oreos, Chips Ahoy, Apple Crisps and Baked Lays, each at 100 calories.  You get to pick 4 for $6 or 6 for $9. Dude, I can get an apple and a banana for 100 calories and they don’t contain chemicals and trans fats.

The Energizer Bars. Pick any 3: Clif Bar, Nutri-Grain Bar, Nature Valley Granola Bar, Quaker Chewy Granola, or Resveratrol Winetime Bar. $10.  Is this food really fridge food? This collection should be renamed the Sugar Spike and Crash package.  I would like to reiterate my stand on energy bars – they are not real food; they usually contain lots of sugar; they are often fabricated in labs rather than made in kitchens; and – according to my husband – they look like dog turds, which is why I never touch them.

Of course I had to check out the Resveratrol Winetime Bar.  It’s an interesting concept, basically a 190 calorie chocolate bar masquerading as 50 glasses of wine (it contains the resveratrol equivalent thereof).  I’ll take a glass of cab and a piece of 80% cacao chocolate instead, thanks.

The Energizer. Pick any 3: Red Bull, Monster Energy Drink, AMP for $15.  Perfect for any road warrior who hasn’t been listening to me about how to increase energy while you travel.  In my naïveté, I’m always shocked that people still drink these concoctions, but then I’m so much in a bubble I nearly fall over when I see someone drinking a soda.  In both cases, it’s common knowledge that they’re bad for you yet the habit prevails.  Habit it is so let’s not encourage it.  If you want more energy, eat some protein and good quality carbs.

Honestly, the healthiest, most natural options they had were the Tiny Bubbles (2 bottles of 187 ml Mumm Cuvee Napa Champagne for $20, add hummus with pretzels for $24), the Chilled Republic of Tea Time (3 flavors for $10) and the Hydrators (3 bottles of water (including Smart Water and PowerAde) for $7.25 or 6 for $14.

Is it any less convenient to stop en route to your hotel and stock it with bottled water, iced tea, snacks and, heck, a split of wine or champagne if that’s what you want?  The shopping time will be made up by having a quick and convenient breakfast in your room.  Plus, you’ll have made your own healthy choices and you know that’s what I care about!


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Top 10 Tips To Avoid Travel Weight Gain

Just because you're on vacation doesn't mean it's devoid of calories.

Just because you’re on vacation doesn’t mean it’s devoid of calories.

It’s that time of year again.  Even if you travel year round like I do, it’s that time of year again.  How do I know?  There’s some kind of airport strike in France. This year it’s the air traffic controllers. School’s out or nearly out and you can’t find a transatlantic ticket for under $1,000, and that’s for the last row of economy, next to the loo.   And there’s one more thing: the weight gain that accompanies the opening of the floodgates of permissions that can have you stuffing your face with every fatty, sugary, calorific morsel you spy.

While many of my clients and I deal with this on a year round basis, I’d like to revisit travel weight gain on this summer solstice so you have a little primer to stave off the dreaded excess baggage that might creep around your middle or derriere if you don’t keep it in check. (That was supposed to be a gentle pun about checking baggage – I’m easily amused).

Here they are – my Top 10 Tips To Avoid Travel Weight Gain:

1. Plan Ahead

Planning ahead will keep you in control and take the guessing out of meal decisions while you’re away.  Start by checking out the eateries in the airport from which you’re flying in case you expect to eat before you fly.  Call your hotel and make sure you have a refrigerator in your room so you can pick up breakfast supplies and healthy snacks once you reach your destination.  If you’re flying long haul, order a special meal such as Hindu vegetarian (Yes, really.  I do this every time).  You’ll have a more nutritious meal with more vegetables, less fat and sugar.

2. Eat Veggies at Every Meal

Crowd out your plate with extra orders of veggies and eat them before you touch whatever else is on your plate.  Start your meal with a salad too.  That way, you’ll curb your appetite with the low-calorie, nutritious foods and be less likely to overeat on starches and animal proteins.  Dress your salad with olive oil and lemon juice or a little vinegar.

3. Look For Ways to Exercise

Traveling is not the time to wimp out on your regular exercise routine.  Although if you are committed to exercising daily, chances are you will continue your routine at the hotel or at a nearby gym.  That said, if extra morsels are making their way onto your plate, you’ll have to move more to counter the effects. So, regular exerciser or not, take the stairs, walk a few more blocks or go for a swim.  Or, let your hair down and boogie a bit more than usual.  It doesn’t matter what you do, just keep moving.

4.  Avoid Zoning Out With Menus

Do your eyes glaze over when you look at a menu? Does your brain turn to spaghetti and you forget everything you know about healthy eating as soon as steak au poivre jumps off the page at you? Does the fact that you’re traveling mean that all of the yummy concoctions listed in front of you are just fine to order?  Time to get a grip.  If you wouldn’t eat a double chocolate cheesecake at home, what makes you think it has fewer calories while you’re on vacation?  The same healthy eating rules apply as at home.  Look for simple dishes, maybe two appetizers instead of an entrée and appetizer, and always a green salad.

5. Take Food With You

This is probably the single smartest thing you can do.  Having healthy food with you at all times eradicates excuses and keeps you in charge of your health.  I travel with almonds, seaweed snacks, lentil chips, hummus and guacamole.  If you’re flying, hummus etc are considered creams/lotions and should be in 3-ounce or less containers.  That said, I’ve taken bigger tubs through in hand luggage and not had any problems.  It depends on the TSA of the day!

If you’re driving, take a cooler.  Use freezable foods or drinks as ice blocks.  For example, use frozen high-protein muffins and you’ll have the next day’s breakfast ready in advance.  I’ve been known to check a cooler inside a bag pre-flight for the same reason.  Those of you who know me well, know that I always check luggage.  One of my bags is usually full of healthy food.  I have a bag of oatmeal that’s been all over the place with me.

Other good foods to pack are dates, dried mango, crackers (I recommend Nut-Thins by Blue Diamond), cherries, carrot and celery sticks, smoked salmon, homemade popcorn, and bean salad.

6.  Share A Plate

If you want to let go and have a to-die-for dish or dessert that’s packed with calories, share it.  Don’t deprive yourself – you’ll end up feeling resentful and put yourself at risk for bingeing as a result.  Have a few bites, relish it and appreciate it.  You’re worth it but respect your self-worth by not polishing off all of it.

7.  Drink Wisely

If you’re going to indulge, whether traveling for business or pleasure, beware the perils of overindulgence.  I’m not talking about obvious hangovers, but the lack of energy, blotchy skin and weight gain.  If you’re trying to lose weight, there’s little room for the empty calories in alcohol, I’m afraid.  If that’s not an issue, avoid drinks that have soda as a mixer.  The diet stuff is poisonous and the regular is full of sugar.  Spirits mixed with soda water are okay. A glass or two of wine enjoyed with dinner are fine.

If you’re on vacation, the pina coladas and daiquiris that seem so appealing when you’re sitting out in the heat of the day might be regretted later for more than their high calorie content.  My recommendations are to avoid drinking in the mid-day sun (even though I’m English and married to a mad dog) and – my number one rule – always always have food when you drink to avoid the alcohol entering the blood stream too quickly.  You’ll also be less inclined to end up in embarrassing situations.

8.  Start the Day Right

Rushing at the start of the day and avoiding breakfast sets you up to fail.  That said, I’m not a fan of breakfast for breakfast’s sake because your typical cereal, juice and muffin are full of sugar.  After your initial high, you’ll be asleep at the wheel or, on a plane, dozing with your head on the shoulder of the stranger next to you. (I’ve only done that once – it wasn’t pretty).

A blend of fruit, and oatmeal or eggs with sautéed veggies, especially spinach, get my vote.  If you have access to a green smoothie, great!  If you’re driving, throw the Vitamix, Magic Bullet or NutriBullet in the back of the car and go for it.

If you skip breakfast, you will end up snacking heavily, stuffing yourself at lunch, and you won’t have the energy to function properly.  So there!

9.  Keep It Simple

Lobster Thermidor might sound delightful but it’s full of hidden fat and sodium.  By contrast, grilled lobster with salad will not contribute to junk in your trunk.  A piece of grilled fish, chicken or meat with a medley of vegetables is far better for you than a dish comprised of a bunch of ingredients as long as your arm.  A simply composed plate will have fewer calories and be easier to digest. The more complicated the recipe, the more room there is for hidden nasties and extra calories.

10.  Keep Your Regular Sleep Patterns

A good night’s sleep goes a long way in so many respects, not least in relation to fat burning.  If you don’t get enough sleep, you could find yourself reaching for fatty, sugary foods to help you through your energy slumps the next day. Not getting enough sleep also means that your metabolism won’t function properly and weight loss will be impaired. So, avoid caffeine in the afternoon and evening; skip heavy, fatty foods at dinner; and pack your eye patch and ear plugs to drown out strange noises.  Bonne nuit!


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10 Healthy Travel Snacks

Probably more than anything, I’m asked what travelers should take as snacks on their trips.  It’s a good question because there are so many fat- and sugar-laden options at airports (and in supermarkets for that matter…).  Here are my go-to favorites:

Mixed NutsAlmonds. I always have a bag of almonds with me in case disaster (i.e. hunger) strikes.  Fat, fiber and flavor. Quick and easy.  Around 21 almonds equals an ounce and that should more than suffice.  I generally limit myself to ten.

Goji Berries.  What?  The most nutritionally rice berry-fruit on the planet. They are a complete protein source as well as being full of vitamins and minerals. Gojis contribute to longevity and healthy hormones; improve vision; boost the immune system; and they contain a huge amount of hydrogen so are excellent for countering inflight dehydration. You’ll find them at your local health food store.  And, you can get chocolate-covered goji berries but I didn’t tell you that.

Fresh fruit. Flying dehydrates you horribly and fruit is full of the best quality water there is.

Hummus. Even airport shops sell little tubs of hummus nowadays. It’s a yummy blend of protein and carbohydrate, and the fiber helps prevent inflight bloating.

Boxes_CoconutRaw chocolate.  Chocolate is a super food but not when it has soy fillers and artificial ingredients.  Raw chocolate is the real thing and it’s delicious. My favorite is www.vitachocolates.com.  I’m addicted to the coconut flavor.

Organic sweet potato chips.  So much better than the processed snacks you may or may not get on board.  These days I’m addicted to Late July’s products.  www.latejuly.com.

Raw veggies.  Looking for crunch?  Get adventurous.  Carrots and celery are yummy but find your inner radical and bring slices of fennel, jicama and radish with you.  Even better with the hummus!

Chips and salsa. Of course!  Salsa is made from fresh, raw vegetables.  Pair with gluten-free chips such as Late July (mentioned above) or lentil chips (www.mediterraneansnackfoods.com).

Jerky.  I’m including this for the meat lovers and carbo-phobes among you.

Seaweed snacks.  My favorite!  They weigh nothing so I always have a packet in my handbag. Seaweed is a super food and it’s a great protein – excellent for leveling blood sugar. A whole packet is 60 calories but you have to check your teeth afterwards for green bits.