Dec
28
2013

Airplane Food And Airport Food, A Personal Travel Experience

Travelling for pleasure is usually something we eagerly anticipate: it can associate with a long wished for vacation, meeting family and friends, enjoying a different environment, in short: there is a bit of adventure attached to it.

Getting something to eat while you are in transit, however, can be a different story. Let me share a recent experience that my wife and I had on a transcontinental flight.

We had to get up shortly after 4 AM, and knowing that we would be in transit till later that evening we decided to prepare an early breakfast. As we usually do, we packed some plastic bags with travel snacks and stashed them away into our back packs: walnuts, almonds, apples, some cheese, some hard boiled eggs and a chocolate bar (70 % cocoa) for an indulgent dessert. It felt a bit unusual to sit down to a vegetable omelet, enjoy some berries and nuts and fix a cup of Americano at 5 in the morning, but we got over the early hour and enjoyed our breakfast. It was a good start to cope with a three-hour time switch that awaited us at the end of the trip.

After checking in at the airport we were greeted with the pleasant news, that our seat arrangement had been upgraded: we would travel first class, as they could not accommodate us in economy. To complete the sense of unexpected luxury, a full breakfast would be included. We did not expect any gourmet fare, but it was welcome news. After some time the flight attendants started to serve the meal. The choices were a cereal bowl or a scrambled egg skillet southwestern style for breakfast. My readers know already that I do not hold the breakfast cereal in high esteem. Cereal has the undesirable effect of sending blood sugar levels to unhealthy highs and as a result causing insulin spikes, so it is not a prudent choice in the first place. We asked for the scrambled eggs, cautiously enquiring: ‘What is in it?”

Airplane Food And Airport Food, A Personal Travel Experience

Airplane Food And Airport Food, A Personal Travel Experience

We were informed that it would be scrambled eggs with some black beans, green and red peppers, ham, onion and some cheese. It sounded really good, and we felt like a glutton having eaten a substantial breakfast at home and now getting some more! It turned out to be a bit different. The meal arrived. It was a flat skillet dish, which consisted of a thick layer of potato cubes held together by a yellow substance, which could not really be described as scrambled eggs. About half a dozen cubes of peppers were identifiable along with a few black beans. I started mining for onions and ham and tried to dig out the egg. It was virtually impossible! The amount of egg that I could retrieve was not more than 1 level tablespoon, and there were a few tiny specks of ham. My wife had the same experience. Needless to say, the skillets were almost full of potatoes, when we sent them back. The flight attendant came through one more time and offered a basket of croissants and buns to complete the breakfast, which we politely refused. As you see, we did not have any need to feel guilty about ingesting a second breakfast onboard, as this meal was simply unsuitable for anybody who was seeking balance in nutrition. To make it short: it is almost exclusively overfeeding the consumer with a load of dense carbohydrates (potatoes, croissants and buns), neglects a sensible amount of protein, and omits any healthy fat source. Out of sheer curiosity I flicked through the pages of an in-flight magazine that listed the foods that could be purchased on board for lunch. The results were not inspiring. There was an assortment of snack foods: potato chips, pretzels, super-size chocolate chip cookies, a candy bar that I had met before on TV and beef jerky. The meal selection featured three types of sandwiches: ham and cheese, brie and turkey breast, and a “loaded” super Italian affair with salami, which looked like a guarantee to a case of indigestion. The cheese plate was sold out and the fresh fruit plate was gone too. Sorry, no luck! As a matter of fact we were lucky and so were all the other passengers who came prepared with a stash of travel foods. When we got hungry towards noon we dug out our travel snacks, drank some water and were quite satisfied.

On our return trip, we traveled economy class (no upgrade to first class food or first class seats this time). It was another lengthy trip coast to coast, and as there were two lengthy layovers, the day was even longer. We arrived at one international airport at the East coast by lunchtime. This time we decided to get a meal at one of the numerous eating establishments. After all, just recently news articles had praised airport restaurants having embraced many healthy food choices. So this would not be airplane food but REAL food! We had some time to walk around and explore, and it turned out, that we certainly needed it! We salivated at the sight of a choice of mahi-mahi with a mixed salad at one café. Cautiously we wondered whether this would be grilled fish. No, we were told, this would be breaded and deep-fried! And it would not be offered in any other way. Too bad, this was not really what we wanted! An Asian food outlet offered a buffet-style assortment of food. It did look very good, and we loved the chicken and vegetable choice or the beef and broccoli with mushroom dish. It did look fresh and appetizing. Often Asian foods can contain MSG. We wanted to make sure that this substance would not be in the food at this place. Sorry, we were told, all the meats and vegetables did contain MSG! Monosodium glutamate is not a harmless flavor enhancer. It belongs into the group of excitotoxins. The substance can destroy brain cells. It also has the potential to give you a nasty headache, especially if larger quantities are used. We were looking for food minus a headache, so we walked away once again and looked for more. An Italian bistro offered the usual suspects: piles of pasta and pizza! And there was a bakery with towering-high tortes, cinnamon buns, and muffins. It was overfeeding of the already carbo-holic individual and under nourishing the traveller. Sad!

After this expedition through the terminal we did finally find a meal that would sustain us until the evening. It was a pre-packaged Thai salad. It was certainly nothing fancy, but it contained a large amount of lettuce and other salad vegetables, offered a small but appropriate amount of cooked shredded real chicken, not some processed salty fake meat, and a small container of salad dressing on the side. It was enough to feel pleasantly full without feeling stuffed and good enough to keep us going till the evening.

Yes, we really wanted a touch of luxury for dessert! We thought of the duty free shop and envisioned a square or two of sinfully dark chocolate. Actually, this is not sinful at all! Have a piece of chocolate with over 70 % cocoa content or even 85%. It is not bitter, but an explosion of flavor on your taste buds, and it happens to be a source of anti-oxidants and bioflavonoids. It lowers high blood pressure and gobbles up free radicals, and as a result it can protect you from heart disease. One word of caution: use moderate amounts! Two or three squares only, not more, please!

And there was chocolate at the duty-free shop, lots of it! There were praline selections in large varieties, and there were Lindt and Ghirardelli chocolate bars, two well-known brands! We rejoiced…but too early! There were six packs featuring extra-creamy, sea-salt, caramel, chocolate and chili. As we studied the labels it was very obvious, that this was not at all what we were looking for! One bar in six was of excellent quality with a high cocoa percentage. The rest was a “gourmet mix”, all of them with low cocoa percentage and high sugar content, which really means it was useless. Were we willing to waste our money on half a dozen chocolate bars of which just one single bar was the merchandise we wanted? The answer was no! And of course, the package could only be sold this way; sorry, no choice! After leaving the duty free store with all its high-class brands behind, we found a humble news and magazine outlet. It had nice, entertaining reads to shorten the next leg of our journey. And-what a surprise! There was a stack of chocolates by an unknown European manufacturer with an 85 % cocoa content. Lucky us! An interesting magazine and dessert too! Bon voyage!

Conclusion

We do not think that we are the only health conscious persons on the planet. We hope that someone in charge in any airport or in an airline catering company smells a business opportunity. We are not demanding. We just prefer healthy foods and it would be great to find a meal choice with whole foods such as greens, vegetables, wild salmon, organic chicken, or grass-fed antibiotic-free beef. There is no need for anything elaborate. It’s really back to the basics! Even a mixed salad with a healthy protein portion would fit in very well. It is time that not just a few high class chefs around the world take notice of the new changes of a healthy diet that I summarized in this blog recently: “Buying Into High Carb, Low Fat Myth Makes You Sick”. In case you want to read more, I am in the process of publishing a book, which also contains 7 days of healthy menus at the end of it. It will be published early in 2014 through Amazon.com and is entitled: “A Survivor’s Guide To Successful Aging” (addendum Nov.7, 2014: It has been published March 31, 2014).

Last edited Nov. 7, 2014

Dec
11
2012

What a Wonderful World

Recently I traveled from Palm Springs to the Caribbean and back. There were connecting flights and there was waiting at various airports, so I had lots of time to watch people and to observe what was happening around me.  Louis Armstrong’s song (1967) “What a Wonderful World“ came to mind , and I thought that this would be a fitting title for this Blog. Earlier we had come from Canada escaping the winter. The deep blue sky of Southern California and the sight of palm trees (instead of pine trees) is something that makes our hearts beat faster. The desert is a special place. We had friends join us for a week and we had visited Joshua Tree Park with the grotesque looking rock formations. During the flight it was interesting to see the landscape, as we crossed the desert areas of Arizona and New Mexico, seeing what difference people make when large areas are irrigated and the desert transforms into lush, green areas. It is also very visible, where the desert has taken back the land that no longer is irrigated.

We came to Dallas Fort Worth and the sky was clear. We traveled on to Miami and the sky was showing signs of pollution, although it was a sunny day. After our take-off from Miami we saw the ocean. I have flown over that region many times before, but this time I detected oil slicks on the surface of the ocean of the Gulf of Mexico, leftovers from previous oil spills. So, the Armstrong song of a “wonderful world” came back to me in a different context. I looked at the landscape and what industries can do to it. Erroneously we had just seen several BP commercials while waiting for our plane at the airport where BP was congratulating itself for the role it plays in cleaning up the environment having spent several billion dollars. But there are still oil slicks…

What a Wonderful World

What a Wonderful World

I looked at the people around me in the plane. More than 35% of them were obese; many of their faces looked sagging and prematurely aged, particularly in women. Males, even middle aged ones looked like they were pregnant (abdominal fat) and often their hair was receding, thinning on top and quite a few were bald. All of the texts I had read about anti-aging medicine came back to me. Too bad that people were eating the wrong foods and obviously did nothing to counter their built-in aging clock from depleting hormones as we age. I looked at the menu of the airline (I won’t mention the name of the airline, but I can assure you that 10 different airlines would have almost the same menus), but there would only have been one chicken salad that I could have eaten. In the past I tried to order this and I was told that due to popular demand this item was sold out. Instead they wanted to offer me potato chips, cheese and crackers. My wife and I had anticipated this scenario and we had bought a chicken salad and water before we boarded the plane. We also had packed healthy organic energy bars and a trail mix consisting of nuts and raisins to use as snacks during the trip. While travelling we stuck to the same principal of cutting out starches, bread, rice, pasta and only eating fresh vegetables, salads and lean meat (chicken, grass fed beef, ribs, lean pork and veal), which we always do since the fall of 2001.  We also avoid all alcoholic beverages and sugar containing sodas. When we returned to Southern California we were delighted to see that our body compositions when measured with the body composition scales were identical to what they were before the trip.

I think we can all contribute to this wonderful world, if we participate in whatever we can do such as these steps.

  1. End wars because on the long-term they do not lead anywhere to solve conflicts (in my lifetime I am thinking about the Vietnam war, long-winded Ireland crisis, the Korean war and the German reunification at the end of the Cold War). Right now there is the Middle East conflict, which screams for a peaceful solution. As we are conscious about the devastation that is caused by wars, we have to start with ourselves. We have to resolve our own conflicts that may be present in our own lives. Tolerance, acceptance and forgiveness are the tools.
  2. Pollution needs to be addressed by the US and all of the world’s countries (including Canada where I live most of the time). This means that anti-pollution devices need to be installed in industrial plants and chimneys. Recycling needs to be done on a larger scale. China and India and other emerging market countries need to be taught how these new anti-pollution measures work. This is an ongoing project, but we need more co-operations between government, industry and countries all around the globe. Also we have to start with our own behavior: we can become more aware of reusing and recycling instead of creating more waste in our landfills.
  3. What can we do to make us part of this wonderful world? We need to become better caretakers of our bodies. Instead of looking at quantity we must look at quality in choosing  natural food wherever possible. Growing up in Germany after the Second World War in the 1960’s and early 1970’s made me witness that high consumption of fat, sugar and starchy foods (potatoes, pasta and bread) caused people to age prematurely and get heart attacks, strokes, high blood pressure, arthritis, obesity, diabetes and cancer. At that time the “Wirtschaftswunder” (translated into English it means “economic miracle”) had propelled Germany into a nation of  high consumers. During the war they had been poor and often went hungry, they were slim and heart attacks were at an all-time low. After the war they made up for times of deprivation and overindulged:  pretzels, buns, bread, butter, French fries, sweets, cakes, cookies, jams, chocolates, pralines-everything was consumed with gusto!  What happened to Germany in the 1960’s and 1970’s is happening again right now in front of our eyes with the obesity wave in the US, Canada and all the other civilized countries around the world. Food companies have been very successful with their advertizing through the media. Already kids get hooked to the wrong foods! Hyperinsulinism will ensure that we get hungry every two or three hours. Refined carbs and extra calories are turned into fatty acids by the liver and stored as fat. It shows that we have to resist the wrong food temptation and cut out all refined carbs. It is healthier to stick to salads and vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, and spinach and eat a small piece of lean meat with it. Have probiotics as plain yoghurt (0% to 2% fat). If you need a sweetener, use a small amount of Stevia, which is a natural sweetener that leaves your body chemistry untouched. Have some fruit as a dessert like blueberries, cherries or strawberries. Eat an apple, the occasional grape. Drink lots of purified water or mineral water.
  4. Buy ORGANIC food whenever possible. Most of the vegetables and fruit have been treated with insecticides, which contain residuals in them. When these are ingested, they act like estrogenic substances causing breast cancer in women and prostate cancer in men. The safest in our society is to stick to organic foods. More expensive, but the best insurance against future disease. Question politicians whenever possible to make yourself heard. You want unadulterated food and water. And as I’m writing about water, have a water filter under the kitchen sink with a carbon filter or have reversed osmosis to get rid of chloride or fluoride from the city water. This is what you use to cook your food. You may want to take an iodine tablet once or twice a day to counteract the negative effects of chlorine from having a bath or shower (chlorine gets absorbed through the skin). Why? Because chlorine and fluoride can displace the iodine of the thyroid hormones and make you hypothyroid.
  5. Exercise every day. Nobody gets fit in their muscles from sitting in front of the TV for hours or from spending hours and hours of computer work. If you have to, counterbalance this with an exercise program of 1 hour per day. Walk 30 minutes on a treadmill and do 30 minutes of weights or use specific exercise machines in a gym to strengthen your upper and lower extremity muscles.
  6. Did I mention hormones? Yes, I did above when I mentioned depleting hormones as we age. It is known now for some time that each hormone of the body has its own peak in life and then it declines in production as we age. Or should I rather say, we age when these hormones decline? I like the latter way of wording it, because we can measure hormone levels and when one of the hormones is too low, we can replace it with a bio-identical hormone and the person’s energy comes back and whatever function was missing is restored. This is in essence what anti-aging medicine does. Many conservative physicians and clinics do not like to hear this. Big Pharma does not like to hear this, as I am talking about replacing hormones in the body with bio-identical hormones, not with patented cheap copies that are mass manufactured, sold at inflated prices, but are no fit to the hormone receptors in the body and therefore are dangerous. The artificial drugs cause heart attacks, strokes and cancer as the Women’s Health Initiative has shown in 2002.
  7. What should have been done with the people I watched on the plane? They should have been hormone tested by their physicians. Many of the overweight or obese patients would likely have had high fasting insulin levels. The extra fat does not just sit there; it is a hormone producing factory for inflammatory compounds and estrogen-like substances. This causes heart attacks and strokes in women. It causes prostate cancer and hair loss in males as well as impotence (“erectile dysfunction”). What I said under point 3, 4 and 5 would help these people that I met. When fat is lost through changes in the diet and when an exercise program is started, the body mass index slowly comes down as fat melts away. The estrogen production comes down, the inflammatory substances abate. The person feels more energetic and may even think straighter. One special test is a saliva hormone test that looks at 5 steroid hormones: DHEA-S (storage form of DHEA), testosterone, estradiol, progesterone and cortisol. Every man and every woman needs a certain balance between these hormones and this test should be done when there is a change in energy or appearance (hair loss) somewhere when we are 35 to 40 years. In women it is important that the progesterone level is 200 times fold higher than the estradiol level (progesterone/estradiol ratio) or she is at risk of developing breast cancer and other cancers (ovary, colon etc.). In a man it is important that his testosterone to estradiol ratio is higher than 20 to 1. This protects him from cancer of the prostate or other cancers. Whatever is missing can be prescribed by the physician or a knowledgeable naturopath who is familiar with the use of bio-identical hormone creams. This program can prevent diseases like osteoporosis, diabetes, cancer and arthritis. It also prevents disabilities.

So with a view towards a new year (2013) and with a sense of leaving 2012 behind, I am looking forward to the time when more people can see Louis Armstrong’s vision of a “Wonderful World”.

More information on:

1. Pollution: https://www.askdrray.com/protecting-yourself-from-environmental-toxins/

2. Obesity: https://www.askdrray.com/stop-obesity/

3. Processed food: https://www.askdrray.com/caution-processed-food-ahead/

Last updated Nov. 6, 2014