Jayne McAllister

Travel Wellness Expert and Author


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30 Tips for Staying Slim and Sane Through the Holidays: Part 3 (Alcohol and Dessert)

Today we have two sensitive but aptly timed topics for the Eve of Thanksgiving.

Holiday Survival Tip #4: Watch the Wining

Glasses with champagne on shiny backgroundWe’ve all heard that it’s wise to have a glass of water for every alcoholic drink we consume.  This is true for many reasons.  It will help you stay hydrated, slow down the entry of alcohol into the bloodstream, and make you look prettier in the morning. (No red eyes, bags under the eyes or wrinkly dehydrated skin).  My question to you then, is do you actually do it? I know I forget sometimes.  So what can you do to make sure you follow through for yourself?

Make your first drink a soft one in a fancy glass.  Sparkling water works well in a wine glass or a rocks glass.  That way you’re off to a good start.  If you’ve read my previous blogs, you haven’t arrived starving and you have the presence of mind sans alcohol to not go nuts over hors d’oeuvres.

After a glass of water or two, you can sip on a glass of champagne or a cocktail.  Soda water should be the mixer of choice.  The perils of regular soda or diet soda can be saved for another day, so trust me on this.  Nurse and appreciate your beverage so that it lasts.

Keeping your pre-prandial liquor intake light means you won’t be diving for the bread basket or overindulging at dinner.  I’m adamant about enjoying wine with food so wait until your meal has been served before you have a glass and make sure you continue to have a glass of water or two for each glass of wine.

Savoring and appreciating your beverage should mean fewer empty calories.  My inner wine snob would also recommend that, if you’re cutting back consumption, go for better quality.  Remember, “Life is too short to drink cheap wine.”

Holiday Survival Tip #5:  Deal With Dessert

Christmas Buche de Noel cakeOh the cruelty of it!  This is the time of pecan pie and pumpkin pie in the USA, mince pies and Christmas pudding in the UK, and bûche de Noël in France.  How could I have the audacity to say that a sliver of dessert is all you need.    But really, it is. We “need” a few tastes to satisfy our sweet tooth.   Savoring and enjoying a few bites will go a lot further than wolfing down a whole plateful.

Now, we all know that if you ask for your server or hostess for a small portion, they’ll smile benignly at you while piling a veritable mountain onto your plate.  In this case, you have three bites and be done.  Savor them.  Relish them and count them.  Then let it go.  Similarly, if your host is absolutely insistent that you have some of their famous pie or cake, tell them you’re more stuffed than the turkey but you’ll gladly take a piece to enjoy later.  Do not put it in your fridge. Do not eat it in the car before you arrive home. Ditch it discreetly as soon as you are able.

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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.


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Join me in Italy’s Piedmont…

aerial shot of papaveriI spend my entire life working at keeping frequent travelers healthy on the road, and I spend a good amount of my own time traveling too.  It might seem odd therefore that I elect to travel on my down time to take a group of people on a retreat to Italy. Isn’t that a busman’s holiday?

Not really.  My biggest goal with clients is to address their relationship with food.  First of all, I steer them away from processed and packaged foods to the real thing.  Next, we look at other issues that might have them opening the fridge door more often than they would like, such as habits, environment and emotions.

If you’ve lived off fast foods and processed foods for years, there’s nothing like coming back to basics.  In food terms that means getting as close to the source as possible.  And that’s what we do at Cascina Papaveri.  Most of the produce we consume is picked that day from the extensive organic garden.  Any food that isn’t produced on property comes from within a 5 kilometer radius.  Garden to belly time is minimal, taste factor is maximum!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANow consider how you eat.  Are you always on the run, do you eat in your car, or do you scarf down fodder while you’re at your laptop? Do you give yourself time to register whether or not you’re full? We take all our meals at a long communal table, mostly on the extensive terrace so we can enjoy the fabulous views (on a clear day we can see the Alps).  We prepare our dinners together using the freshest ingredients and cooking everything from scratch. Yes, everything.

“You’re making the bread tonight,” says Chef Gino.  Pointing to someone else, he adds, “You’re going to make pasta.  Andiamo!” Panic sets in for a second until you realize that you’re not being left to your own devices but you’re in the hands of a top notch chef who has great teaching skills and, most importantly, a sense of humour.

IMG_1479Before you know it, you’re massaging flour into perfect eggs that are used specifically for making pasta. The yolks are as orange as the dress in my profile photo!

Are you gluten free?  Dairy free? Vegan?  It doesn’t matter.  Gino is an amazingly talented chef and you will not be left behind in the taste stakes because of any dietary limitation.

All this real food is washed down with local wine.  People who don’t drink red wine because of the sulfites have no issue here.  Appetites increase, wine is quaffed and no one puts on any weight.  Is this Utopia?

Actually  we have a secret weapon.  Cascina Papaveri has its own fully-equipped Pilates studio.  We start every morning with a mat class on the roof overlooking the vineyards.  After breakfast, duets and trios are taught on the oddly named Pilates equipment; the Reformer, the Cadillac, the Wunda Chair.  There’s even a 12 meter indoor pool to enjoy.IMG_1388

Truth be told, my favorite activity at Cascina Papaveri is watching the world not go by.  And that’s okay.  You don’t have to cook.  You don’t have to do Pilates.  You don’t have to go on the excursions to Asti and Alba.  You can just be.  Or you can do.  You can do it all or not at all.  That’s why I love the place.

This year’s retreat is from September 9th to 16th.  Limited space is available.  Email retreats@jaynemcallister.com if you’re ready to jumpstart your way to healthy living.

Cascina Papaveri is in the town of Costigliole d’Asti in the Piedmont region of Italy.  Milan and Turin are the most convenient airports.  If you’d like to join me, you can select from a 7-, 4- or 3-night stay.  retreats@jaynemcallister.com.


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Vino Volo – Taking Airport Food (& Wine) to New Heights

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIf you follow me regularly, you know that I have a bit of a beef with airport dining.  That said, I’m thrilled that more and more airports are elevating their options so we may actually get to the point where it’s worth checking in early or not suffering through a long layover.  I’m all in favor of eating before boarding so you can have more control over what you consume, but I want to see more than cinnamon rolls and soggy pizza on the menu.

Imagine my delight therefore when I had the opportunity to try Vino Volo at JFK recently.  Since I became self-employed, I  no longer have airport lounge membership.  It used to bother me but now that I’ve discovered Vino Volo, I really don’t care.  This is way better!

What’s all the fuss about?  While you’re waiting for your flight, you can indulge in a flight of a different kind, a wine tasting flight.  Vino Volo’s thoughtful and extensive list has something for everyone whether red, white or rosé, Old World or New World.  The Italian Stallions get my vote, a macho flight of Valpolicella, Barolo and Rosso di Toscana that perfectly complemented the cheese plate.  Even my sommelier husband was impressed…

But, Jayne, you’re all about being healthy on the road… That’s right, I am.  First of all, I’d rather see someone consume a glass of red wine rather than a soda any day.  The former – in moderation – is way healthier than the latter.  Secondly, wherever there is good wine, there is usually good food.  That principle certainly applies in Vino Volo’s case.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe menu is small but well-planned.  You can order as little as cured olives or marcona almonds to enjoy with your wine (I really recommend that if you’re not having anything else to eat – please don’t ever drink on an empty stomach).  Or, you can select from three plates and three sandwiches and salads.  These all come in half portions, which I wish more places would offer, so the calorie counts are very reasonable.

The smoked salmon rolls are 270 calories for a half portion; chickpea and chorizo chili a mere 200, penne and cheese for the non-carb phobic weighs in at 330 calories for a half portion.  A fabulous roasted chicken breast salad has 310 calories for the half, and 510 calories for the full size.  Sandwiches are similar in energy values, and you can choose between the tuscan chicken or the brie and prosciutto.  Not too shabby!

Plus the setting is stylish and comfortable, and, in my humble opinion, more interesting than an airport lounge.  I can people watch and I’m less likely to be subjected to other folk’s cell phone conversations.  Most importantly, the wine and food options are better!

Vino Volo has 17 airport locations, including JFK, Dallas, San Francisco, Washington Dulles, Newark and Philadelphia. For exact airport and terminal locations, check out their website at http://www.vinovolo.com.  Now if they would just open one in the American Airlines terminal in Orlando…

Bon Appetit!