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A Health Freak’s Vacation Guide

Greetings from up in the sky!

I’m currently on my way to San Juan, Puerto Rico and am so excited to get some sun, family time, and relaxation before the new school year starts. My mother was born and raised in Puerto Rico, so I try to go there with my family every chance I get. While I love it there, the food options for me are not too plentiful—especially in comparison to New York City. In New York, I’m one of hundreds of highly health conscious individuals. In Puerto Rico, I’m one of the few health freaks on the island! But I embrace my title with pride. Here’s is how this health freak keeps her habits in a land full of platanos and lechon (fried plantains and pork).

Come Prepared

A true health freak knows that intense packing is essential, unless you know you are going somewhere that has lots of options. Whenever I go to Puerto Rico, I come equipped with the following:

Dark Chocolate: So that I’m not tempted by flan and tres leches! My favorite brand is Lulu’s, which is made up of nothing more than cacao, coconut crystals, and vanilla bean.

Portable blender: I have a small portable blender (it’s the size of a travel mug) that I always bring with me when I travel. Even if I’m on the road, I can stop at a fruit stand and blend up a shake super easily.

Green vibrance packets: a mixed blend of different greens that replaces the green juices that I normally drink at home. Warning: These taste really bad. But they make you feel great once you’re finished drinking and are essential if you are in a place where there is a dearth of leafy greens. I usually cover up the bad taste by mixing them into a smoothie with almond milk, almond butter, chia seeds, and fruit.

Gluten-Free Rolled Oats: A quick and easy meal that can be mixed with hot water anywhere!

Digestive Support: I always bring extra reinforcements for digestion—swiss kriss herbal tablets, “eater’s digest” tea, tons of digestive enzymes, cape aloe, aloe juice, and natural calm magnesium formula. Digestion is going to be harder when you’re out of your comfort zone, so it’s better to over-prepare!

Double Supplements: When I’m on vacation, my body needs time to adjust—not only to different eating habits, but also to different time zones, sleep schedules, climates, and environmental pollutants. Although your regular supplement plan may protect you at home, you may need extra protection while you’re away. Take double the amount of supplements that you normally would take. Some essential supplements to have when you’re away from home include probiotics, glutamine, chlorella, and NAC.

 

Do Your Research

Believe it or not, there are food options out there for you. Even Puerto Rico has a few great spots for vegans, celiacs, and even raw foodists. If you’re travelling with meat/wheat eaters, make sure to note down where all of the essential health food stores and restaurants are located beforehand. That way, when you happen to be the area, you won’t be interrupting your friends’ day by going to those places. If you’re in Puerto Rico, the iphone Sal app is great for this purpose and will tell you which vegetarian restaurants are closest to you. More generally, happycow.com is a good resource for vegetarians, celiacs, and raw foodists anywhere.  It allows you to check out all the nearby health restaurants in your area, along with reviews from other users on the website.

Cheat Purposefully

You’re on vacation. It’s okay to eat things that you normally would not eat. I certainly plan to eat a few tostones (fried plaintains) while staying with my grandparents. My grandmother makes them better than anyone else! However, you will not see me using this vacation as a free-for-all, where I all of a sudden down all the candy and greasy food in sight.  Stick to those food items that are unique to the place that you are visiting—whether it’s your mother’s special lasagna or a French delicacy—and fill the rest of your diet with whatever nutrient-rich foods you can find.

Get Moving

Since you’re probably going to be eating some bad things, you may as well use some exercise to burn off those extra calories. Use the extra eating as an incentive to participate in some fun local activities. Rent a bike and use it travel to all the tourist sights, take a yoga class in a new language, or go on a hike where you can experience the local scenery.

Compliment Local Food

When I am on vacation, I normally find more pressure to eat things that I normally would never touch. Often I fear offending chefs or well-intentioned friends trying to show me their favorite food or favorite spot to eat. While my family is 100% understanding of my eating habits (my abuela even experimented to create a healthy plantain soup for when I visit—recipe coming soon!) in many cultures it is considered rude to turn down food. Although I want to express my appreciation, eating certain foods wreaks havoc on my stomach. White sugar is probably the biggest irritant for me. So rather than stuffing my face with flan, I’ll take one bite before spending the rest of my time gloating over its taste or presentation. I grab my camera and take multiple pictures. I tell my friends at the table that they must try some, and continually compliment the chef. Make the center of focus on the food, rather than on your choice to exercise restraint.

I hope these tips help you on your next vacation. !Buen provecho!

Taking some chlorella on my way to the airport. Chlorella is a great detoxifier because of the similarity of its composition to human blood and because of its unique ability to bind to and sweep out heavy metals from our system.

 

Eating On-the-Go

The biggest complaint that I hear from those trying to eat properly is lack of time. I am too familiar with this problem. I first decided to start changing my eating habits when working as an associate teacher at a high stakes charter school. My day started at 7:30 AM, so I’d leave my place in a rush and skip out on breakfast. I couldn’t leave the school for lunch (first year teachers were put on lunch duty) so I either didn’t eat or ate whatever food was around—wheat-thins, high sugary/additive processed foods, etc. But once I started getting sick from all this food (which by the way, speaks to what we’re putting in our children’s bodies everyday, but that’s another post) I decided to start making eating healthy a priority.  In doing so, I learned that the key to eating properly at work is to really utilize your workspace. Here’s how I did it:

Leave Food at Work

For breakfast, store some breakfast that can be made quickly. Keep a mix of gluten free rolled oats, chia seeds, flaxseeds, almonds, and cinnamon in the office. I eat the mixture with almond milk, but if you don’t have access to a refrigerator, you can cook the mixture with hot water.  This can also be a great before-work breakfast; just throw the mix in a tupperware bowl with some almond milk to take with you on-the-go.

For lunch, keep avocados and flaxseed crackers/gluten-free bread at your office to make an on-the-go sandwich. If you have access to a fridge, add lettuce, tomatoes, olive oil and vinegar so you can throw together a salad in a few minutes.

Have Snacks on Hand

Even when I stocked the fridge while teaching, sometimes I didn’t even have time to run to the kitchen to put together my lunch. That’s how crazy the day would get! So you should keep emergency snacks on you at all times, especially if you have a job where your lunchtime hours are unpredictable.

Here are some of the snacks I like:

Lara bars–perfect if you have a little bit of a sweet tooth.

Almonds/individual packets of raw almond butter– extremely filling and provide an excellent source of good fats to keep you focused throughout your day!

Roasted soy nuts– good for energy and a complete source of protein.

Green Vibrance–super greens that can be mixed with water to make a green-juice type mix. It don’t taste too great, but gives you tons of nutrients and energy to keep you full and on-your-feet. It also provides a huge source of green vegetables in one serving!

Organic, Cage-Free, Hard Boiled Eggs–although I generally try to stay away from eggs, a hardboiled egg or two can replace a full meal for my non-vegan friends. Boil a bunch over the weekend so that you can throw some into your bag in the mornings.

Exercise Your Right to Take a Lunch Break

If you’re in New York, chances are that you have a boss who tries to make you work through your lunch break. Guess what–that is not legal (at least in NY). Many Unemployment Insurance judges have even held that employees quitting due to their bosses’ repeated failure to grant a 30 minute (uninterrupted) lunch break were entitled to unemployment benefits!  Bottom line–always take your lunch break–it’s your right!

Prepare Smoothies—Before Work and At Work

Drinking smoothies is the best way to satisfy hunger with minimal effort. If you have a few minutes in the morning, throw some spinach, chard, banana, and mango with water in a blender and put it in a to-go cup before getting to work. If you don’t have time in the morning, invest in a portable blender –I got mine for only $15—and keep it at work so that you can make a two-minute smoothie once you get to the office or during a short break. This may seem a little strange, but it definitely pays off. Even the judge that I’m currently interning for in the S.D.N.Y keeps a magic bullet blender in his chambers!

Water, Water, Water

Sometimes when we’re busy, we forget the most important thing—WATER! You need to keep a huge water bottle with you all day. I have a friend who keeps a gallon of water in her classroom. Keep a large water bottle (at least one liter) with you at your desk (or in your classroom, postal bag, etc.) and make sure to drink at least half of it before lunch and the other half after lunch.

Eating on-the- go may be tough, but it’s not impossible. With preparation and dedication, you can find yourself eating healthy at work without interfering too much with your schedule. Happy eating! :)