5 Secrets for Optimal Energy During Holiday Travel

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5 Secrets for Optimal Energy While TravelingTravel may have some great perks, but weight loss is seldom one of them. And it's pretty safe to say that during the holiday season when we're dashing from office parties to family celebrations, weight loss is definitely not a perk here either. So how do you keep up your energy while traveling and during the holidays?  

Whether traveling for business or pleasure during this busiest month of the year,  here are my 5 Top Travel Tips to keep you strong, slim and energized when you arrive at your destination.

 

1) Sip Smartly

Flying dramatically dehydrates us, so it's critical that you drink regularly in flight. In fact, a scant 1.5% dehydration (which can happen on even short flights) can zap our mood, energy level and focus. Drink plenty of water-still or sparkling- instead of sugar sweetened beverages or alcohol to stay hydrated without packing on the pounds  (unless you feel like walking back and forth in flight for 30 minutes to burn off that soda you ordered?). Or bring along a green or herbal teabag or two and simply ask for a cup of hot water. Add a wedge of lemon or lime for extra vitamin C and flavor.  I always carry a reusable BPA-free water bottle with me, so I don't have to wait for in flight service, or feel wasteful with all that plastic (check out my partner CamelBak's gorgeous options here). Many airports now have free filtered waters stations past TSA-so you can fill up before you fly.

2) Nosh on Nuts

Nosh on Nuts

While it’s tempting to reach for a gooey, sweet treat as a bright spot in a dull travel day, foods high in sugars, salt and fat can backfire, zapping your energy, intensifying your craving for more sweets and having you arrive at your destination ready to take a nap rather than hit the ground energized and with a fresh, clear mind. Not only are they free, and you don't have to prepack them, but nuts significantly more nutrient dense than pretzels. Need more convincing? Recent research our of Harvard University has shown that eating nuts may even help you live longer! The study showed that eating nuts may help reduce the risk of mortality, finding that those who ate nuts daily saw health benefits nearly double. Nuts' trifecta of protein, fiber and heart-healthy fats also unlock sustained satiety and focus. Eating a 1-ounce package for every three hours in flight is a good rule of thumb. Don't like peanuts? Almonds and pistachios are delicious alternatives.

Sabra Hummus3) Protein + Produce = Clean Energy

Stuck in the air for more than three hours? Make the most of your meal by sticking to this easy rule: You’ll likely be snoozing-or need to loosen a belt buckle if you eat a meal rich in low quality, highly refined carbohydrates (like a doughy sandwich). Think Protein + Produce as an energizing combo: in business class, choose that salad with chicken as your in-flight meal instead of the pasta. Pick up a hummus (Both Sabra and Hope Hummus make convenient portable humus packs), and bring along some whole grain crackers or snack-sized veggies from home. I also love Saffron Road's Crunchy Chickpeas, or my partner Kit's Organic Fruit and Nuts Bars.  Or look for  ready-made sushi in the airport. These are clean choices to stay energized to make the most of your flight time rather than snooze-and save your calories for better things, like your grandmother's cherished Chocolate Trifle with Rum.

Snack4) Pack a Snack

It is essential that you have a backup plan in case you are stuck in your seat for longer than expected-which, of course, is something you can expect as throngs of Americans hit the skies in December. Try a mixture of dried fruits, nuts and seeds (I stash a mix of tart cherries, pumpkin seeds and almonds in my travel bag), a Greek-style yogurt or an organic string cheese, an apple or clementine with a PB&J pita, or dry roasted soybeans. In a rush to get to the airport? You can now find many of these items in the terminal before you board the plane.

Walking5) Delayed? Do a Quick Walk

Virtually all of the clients I work with spend hours and hours each day sitting. Collectively, Americans are logging more hours sitting than ever before, and growing evidence suggests all this “sedentarism” may trigger negative changes in our muscle physiology and metabolism. As a general tip, walk by three gates for every minute a flight is delayed. This will energize you and help you from packing on the pounds, and have you landing at your destination refreshed and ready to go.

6 Green Gifts for the Greening Your Kitchen (And Diet) this Holiday

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Green GiftsWhether I'm talking with clients, the media or moms at play-dates, it seems we're all seeking the same thing this season: connection, purpose, and simplicity in gift giving. With that in mind-here are some of my favorite green gifts and gadgets to help anyone on your list freshen and lighten the eco-impact of their kitchen repertoire. Tools they'll reach for again and again throughout the year.  The best part? They entice you to make fresh healthy choices in your diet. What's not to love?

Matchstick Herb Garden - Green Gifts1. Match Stick Herb Garden

This is my #1 favorite gift this year – for kids, cooks, gardeners, or even someone with no green thumb whatsoever and just a heart filled with good intentions. At the tip of each match is a wildflower or herb seed mix. Simply tear off a match, plant in any pot or plot, and spread the joy (and green the space). Easy to follow instructions are printed inside. They are the perfect stocking stuffer, party favor, hostess gift or Secret Santa gift.  Easy enough for kids, too!

2. Kitchen Mallet: Oxo Good Grips Meat Tenderizer ($12.51 on Amazon)

Green GiftsEquip your kitchen for lean and green cuisine with this staple you'll use all year long. "It's a perfect tool for people who still eat meat or poultry, but who want to eat smaller portions of it to help shrink their carbon "foodprint", says Jackie Newgent, RD, culinary nutritionist and author of Big Green Cookbook.

By pounding a 3-ounce portion of grassfed beef sirloin or organic chicken breast between two sheets of unbleached parchment paper, the portion will look more than a 4- or 5-ounce portion; it'll also cook faster (since it's thinner) and it will cook more evenly too – creating a tastier finished dish.

Green & Black Organic Chocolate - Green Gifts3. Green & Black Organic Chocolate or Dagoba Organic Chocolate (Fair Trade Chocolate)

How can one go wrong with a company that claims to be "dedicated to chocolate alchemy"? I love both of these companies because they have a strong commitment to sustainability-and as I've blogged before chocolate is one of the most critical foods to choose organic/fair trade when it comes to treating the planet sweetly.

If you can bring yourself to nibble just 1 oz. a day, the health benefits land you squarely in the realm of "where delicious meets nutritious" – the flavonols in high quality dark chocolate are a cocktail of powerful compounds that help keep your blood pressure and cardiovascular system healthy. Try the luscious lavender blueberry bar, or the premium organic cacao powder with chiles and spices for an unforgettable hot chocolate experience.

Immersion Blender - Green Gifts4. Immersion Blender: Bodum Bistro Stick Blender

If you're impatient (like me), pouring soup into a blender is a hot, potentially dangerous endeavor. This handy gadget is super quick, easy to clean and lets you whip up blended soups, sauces, jams (and even that bit of whip cream over the holidays). Why is it greener? It uses less energy than a blender or food processor, and if you puree directly in the pot you'll eliminate the need to wash a pan, a greener move still.

5. Totally Bamboo Cutting Board Set 2-Board Set ($9.95 on Amazon)

Bamboo Cutting Boards - Green GiftsInstead of a plastic cutting board (which is petroleum based), these greener swaps are made of renewable, eco-friendly bamboo that's durable and long lasting in your kitchen. Plus, they're so pretty they can double as a serving platter for cheeses, seasonal fruit, even sandwiches at the next playdate or book club. Another great multitasker that cuts cleanup for the chef.

Another bamboo idea:  Got a sushi lover? Or someone who simply likes a beautiful presentation to their lunch? I LOVE this Totally Bamboo Sushi Gift Set - tuck a Sustainable Sushi Guide inside, and give a gorgeous greenover to your loved one's lunch.

6. Soda Stream

Soda Stream - Green GiftsWhile a somewhat pricier gift up front, this revolutionary gadget will completely slash the grocery bill and eco impact of the die-hard soda or sparkling water devotee.  It turns ordinary tap water into fresh sparkling water in seconds – no bottles or cans, no lugging heavy pallets of brew home from the grocery store (liquids are one of the heaviest items to transport, which requires more gas). According to the company, Soda Stream slashes a whopping 2,000 bottles and cans each year from the average family waste stream, so the cost, and eco savings will add up quickly. Another bonus? They use BPA- free bottles.

Have other must-have tools for your kitchen this year? I'd love to hear about them.

4 Tricks to a Healthy Halloween (With a Bit of Green, Too)

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Healthy HalloweenSure, we know gobbling candy isn't really a healthy choice, but it can be hard to fight the tide of treats that starts rising in early October, and seems to slide well into the Thanksgiving and December holiday seasons (how many offerings of candy corn have you already seen? I am at 8 and counting...). But a new study found that a shocking 40% of our kids' calories are coming from junk food. In other words, nearly half of all the calories our kids are eating are undermining their health. So some limits are clearly in order. What to do? I have a 3 and a 5 year old, and struggle as much as any parent when it comes to the sheer VOLUME I'm up against. But here's my roadmap to having a healthy Halloween:

Trick #1: Treat it as a Holiday.

  • What's Scary: Letting your kids consume vast amounts of candy at multiple parties, trick or treating events, school activities, doctor's offices, and everywhere in between.
  • What's a Treat: I love this particular idea, from my friend Ashley Koff, RD, in a recent blog - Teach your kids that Halloween is ONE DAY, not a Treat-A-Palooza that goes on for days, weeks, or even months.

Take Action:

Having boundaries makes everyone feel better because they know what to expect in advance. In the days leading up to Halloween, talk with your kids about what they can expect; namely, that it's a fun day, they can eat "lots of candy," but no, they won't be allowed to stash piles of treats under their beds to eaten in the days and weeks ahead. Then you can relax on the big day, and let your kids splurge on their favorites without too much worry. I always try to serve some high protein foods at meals and snacks on Halloween day to even out blood sugar, such as eggs, grilled tofu, hummus, Greek yogurt, or chicken kabobs.

You can certainly enjoy multiple festivities, just switch the focus to things that don't involve treats: hold a scary-story writing contest, read a Halloween book by flashlight, create Halloween masks, download the Monster Mash and have a dance party, or organize a costume parade around the neighborhood.

Trick #2: Avoid Scary Sugars.

  • What's Scary: Artificial sweeteners and highly refined sugars (such as high fructose corn syrup). While these ingredients aren't the sole cause of obesity (of course), in my opinion they are ingredients to minimize or avoid in your diet.
  • What's a Treat: Look for naturally occurring sugars (i.e., dried fruit, honey sweetened, etc.), fruit juice concentrate, and organic or fair trade sugars. While all sugars contribute calories to our diet and can lead to tooth decay, these at least are, in my opinion, the best of the bunch as they are more likely to be found in either healthier, or more eco-friendly treats. For instance, I have never found a product that uses organic sugar but also has artificial colors, trans-fats, BHT, or preservatives.

Take Action:Justin's Nut Butter Packets

If you really want to pare down the treats:

  • Give out little boxes of organic teas (my daughter loves these for her tea parties!),
  • Provide packets of Justin's organic nut butters (check with parents to be sure there are no food allergies first),
  • Offer single serving packets of popcorn (a healthy nosh as its 100% whole grain) from Annie's or Lesser Evil
  • Choose stickers, stamps, or other spooktacular things that kids love that are calorie free
  • Check out Green Halloween for dozens of fresh tips of eco-friendly eats kids will love

Trick #3: Keep Treats a Healthy Color.

  • What's Scary: Artificial colors, including Red 3, Red 40, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Blue 1, and Blue 2. Not only are many food dyes petroleum based, most people would be shocked to learn that these have been banned in Europe starting last summer, or must carry the warning label that they "may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children."
  • What's a Treat: Naturally occurring pigments in dried fruits, dark chocolate, or veggie chips, or all-natural added colorings from fruit or vegetable extracts (such as annato, beet juice concentrate, pumpkin or carrot extract). These carry none of the potential concerns for behavior or health risks that the scary ones do.

Take Action:

Read food labels and avoid anything containing artificial colors. Download "Food Dyes: A Rainbow of Risks" if you want more information, not just for Halloween, but for food choices in general.

Candy CornTrick #4: Don't Spook the Planet.

  • What's Scary: Single-serving conventional candy. Conventional candy often contains fillers, waxes, trans-fats, and other unhealthy ingredients.
  • What's a Treat: Chocolate that's fair trade and/or organic. Because chocolate is grown in areas that are typically rainforest-rich, conservation and proper management is critical to making it a greener choice, and these two claims ensure your chocolate is more eco-friendly by a wider margin than conventional chocolate. To reap the true health benefits of chocolate, choose some that contains at least 70% cocao. This is perhaps the "healthiest" of all the choices given that dark chocolate at least provides some cardiovascular benefits, especially in a modest 1 oz. portion.

Take Action:Taza Chocolate

Make it a point to find fair trade or organic dark chocolate when stocking up. Taza Chocolate, located in Somerville, Massachusetts, has a rich history and relationship with their farmers, as well as a wonderful variety of flavors. Trans Fair USA also provides a great online resource to help you locate fair trade certified™ chocolate, in addition to a number of other fair trade products. If you're buying good quality chocolate, then you can even stretch my holiday rule a bit and enjoy 1 oz portions a few days in a row with a clean conscience.

Have any other ideas for keeping your Halloween green and lean? I'd love to hear them!