After a week-long stay-cation in a local San Diego hotel with my close and extended families, I was reminded yet again, why educating yourself (and anyone else that cares about health and wellness) is so important. We all chose to stay in a well rated hotel that, like almost all of the 3 to 5 star places, offer a complimentary breakfast and occasional snack and light dinner. Babies, toddlers and young children flooded the lobby slash cafeteria, filling their bowls with multi-colored fruit loops, fluffy Belgium waffles drowning in syrup with whip cream and powdered sugar, and a tall glass of chocolate milk. Their parents pilled heaps of bacon, sausage, biscuits with gravy, and scrambled eggs with cheese, accompanied with juice and coffee on the side. All families glued their eyes to their own technological gadget or television monitor during the entire meal. I realize that vacations are meant for families to relax and eat foods that serve as “treats” and throw in the towel to calorie counting and there is no such thing as too much T.V. The sad part is, however, there is scary reason why the majority of people in the United States are overweight and more than half are obese. It’s not because of seldom “vacations with free breakfasts.” It is because most people are not aware, educating themselves, and are not actively executing a healthier way to nourish and feed themselves and their families the right types and amount of foods. It is because the level of physical body movement is almost non-existent for a large amount of people, and it is because of the strategic marketing, agricultural and political agendas placed upon the people by big powers such as oil, pharmaceutical, governmental, agricultural and insurance companies that have helped people of the United States pay top dollars for healthcare, only to become sicker and more obese than ever before. I realize that the people who are reading this article could be outliers and the exceptions to sedentary and our convenience food eating culture, but even for the crowd that shops at local farmers markets and sprouts their nuts. We all need to do our part to spread the awareness outward and live more self-less and inter-connected and helping lives.
My family decided to take a trip to Sea World and enjoy the orca whales and marine life. I grew up in Florida and next to Orlando, where amusement parks, carnival foods and all-you-can-eat buffets were the trends. I was saddened to see that almost 3 out of every 4 family I saw there enjoying themselves were overweight and holding a large plastic cup of what looked like soda, eating a huge bag of cotton candy or popcorn or noshing on some kind of treat (churro, for example). I have a great habit of bringing my own foods to wherever I decide to go (even to the park down the street). I feel that if I prepare my home and my cooler that is always on the go with me and my children, the desire to eat when my body signals hunger is taken care of, and healthy and inexpensive choices can be made quickly. When we fail to prepare ourselves, especially at the onset of screaming and hungry children, stress may take over and we succumb to anything that will suffice (most people opt for fast food that is not the healthiest choice).
Don’t get me wrong. I have definitely given in to convenience food, and try to select the healthiest option. I am very delighted to see most popular amusement park eatery places like LEGOLAND, Disneyland and children museums carry fresh vegetable sticks, probiotic yogurts, fresh fruit and assorted nuts as healthier options for children, kids and adults. I love the fact that fresh “made to order” salads are the growing trend in these places, as well. It really helps give people options, especially to those who are really trying to eat consciously and more intentionally.
As for the best options for breakfast in hotels, amusement parks and restaurants:
1. OATMEAL or QUINOA: I find that a good staple to have is oatmeal or quinoa. Most places serving breakfast will have a giant vat of oatmeal (steel cut is best). If you have a kitchen in your hotel, or pre-cook a large serving of quinoa, you can have it for breakfast and it tastes very satisfying. Buy a bag of either and keep it for you quick-go-to healthy energy option. Opt for topping the oatmeal with either fresh (organic if possible . . . you may have to bring your own) berries or bananas. Second best is 100% maple syrup or raw honey. Oatmeal is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, folate and potassium. Add wheat germ and hemp seeds on top for extra vitamin E and selenium.
2. FLAX/HEMP WAFFLES/PANCAKES: You may have to search the frozen food section for these and bring them into the hotels yourself, but these are way better than the overly processed white flour traditional ones. Omega 3/6, fiber and extra protein are all reasons why you should choose (if you are lucky enough) this type of breakfast.
4. SPROUTED GRAIN BREAD/CEREAL: Best accompanied with a small glass of cold almond, flax or hemp milk, nut butters (almond or sunflower) and fresh fruit. This is a super-fast and easy-to-take-anywhere meal for any time of day.
5. GREEK YOGURT: Extremely popular now is the Greek yogurt trend, but most companies are over loading these protein power babies with sugar and food coloring. Opt for no sugar added and organic brands and put your own berries and fruit on top.
6. NUTRIBULLET GREEN SHAKES: My favorite every morning meal (after my warm lemon water and probiotics, of course), is my green shake made with the amazing NutriBullet. I simply put a handful of kale, spinach and micro greens into a NutriBullet (like a small blender). I add half an avocado, half a banana, 2 tsp. of almond butter, a few gulps of almond milk, water and a scoop of vegan protein powder and blend for 30 seconds. It is truly the best “fast” food that will keep you satiated, and energized for hours!!! I never skip a day without it, even on vacation. Flavor choices are endless. Play around with different recipes. Costco sells NutriBullet sets for around $50.
7. ORGANIC COFFEE AND TEAS: Most people do not know that coffee and teas are two of the most heavily toxic and pesticide tainted drinks. Depending on where it was grown, harvested and packaged, most coffee and teas have been blasted enough to bring antioxidant levels close to nil. Always choose to travel with your own organic coffee beans and ground them fresh before consumption, or organic teas (Matcha is best). If you do not like caffeine and need instant energy, try chomping on a fresh organic red apple, or eat a ripe off the vine grapefruit.
8. FRUITS: Opting for fresh (organic when possible), is always one of the best options. Fresh fruits are almost always unprocessed and contain lots of vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants. Best fruits are ones that are easily digested, are in season, and are picked locally. Canned and in syrup oranges, peaches and pineapples are not the best options. Bananas and apples are always great default fruits because they are very transferable and keep well. Watermelon, cantaloupe and citrus fruits picked ripe off the tree are great choices as well. Berries, though sensitive to moisture, are power foods and should be eaten regularly.
Takeaway: If you are laughing at this list saying to yourself, “Yeah, right. . . .There is no way hotels and restaurants and vacation spots will serve these types of foods,” or even better, “Yeah, right, no one in my family nor will I eat these absurd items,” you may be right! The key is to make yourself aware of choices and options, even on vacation! Even when FREE (in bold and uppercase letters) BREAKFAST seems like a great draw to stay or eat in different places, know that over time, it is probably not keeping your family’s health options in mind. PRE-PARE and PRE-PLAN meals and snack options before you leave the house or on any type of trip. You and your family’s taste buds will begin to shift and prefer the healthier options. Start by switching up small unhealthy snacks for the better option and eventually, after learning more and more about the better options for you and your family/friends, it will dawn on you, too. For those who claim eating healthy is expensive, even the 99 cent stores carry fresh, organic fruits and vegetable items now. We don’t, as a nation and culture, have to eat junk, processed, and sugar saturated foods to have fun. We can do it while drinking green smoothies (a bit of humor for my green smoothie phobic friends).