By Brian A. Stenzler, M.Sc, D.C.
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For the past two-plus decades, I have been educating, empowering, and inspiring my community to make conscious choices about proactively living a wellness lifestyle. Whether you are a parent raising a child or an individual who wants to live a long life filled with health and happiness, you always have the option to live by choice or chance. That said, sometimes, especially when you are not in your home environment or in your normal routine, making constructive choices can be quite difficult.
My wife Brooke, six-year-old son Zion, and I recently returned home after being on the road for three weeks. I do not think I’ve ever taken a three-week vacation before, and this was no ordinary vacation. It was essentially three very different trips rolled into one.
We started the trip in Park City, Utah where I had a conference to attend, and we stayed at our friend’s home. Then we were headed on a long drive to the wilderness near Crawford, Colorado to meet up with Brooke’s long-time friend from high school to do some major camping and hiking, and then we were to finish the trip after another long drive in the Littleton, Colorado area visiting Brooke’s family.
The purpose of this Wiki is not just to tell you about our trip, but to also let you know how we navigated our way through the woods of not being in our normal environment that enables us to live the D.R.E.A.M. lifestyle I wrote about in my book. Hopefully by the end of reading this, you will have ideas as to how you too can take a trip and not need to leave your healthy habits at home.
Tip 1: Bring Your Staples
Buying food and snacks at the airport (or on the airplane) may not only cost you tons of money, but it can also cost you your health. When we travel by plane, we do our best to bring our favorite healthy snacks with us. Depending on the time of day and length of the flight, we also usually bring a meal with us that contains protein like a turkey wrap or chicken salad; something that is easy enough to travel with, and not too messy or smelly (the passengers around you will be grateful). We brought enough snacks with us that we were also able to enjoy them during our road trips.
I have shared with you in the past that Brooke and I drink protein shakes almost every single morning, so we figured that bringing our protein powder from home would be the first step in setting us up for success for at least one meal of the day. (We previously confirmed with the three different families we were staying with that they all had blenders.)
Tip 2: Plan ahead, go food shopping, and prepare as many meals in the home as possible.
When traveling, especially when staying with friends, it is nearly impossible to plan out everything you’re going to do, let alone figure out every meal ahead of time. That said, the more meals you prepare yourself, the better chance you have of consuming healthier ingredients, not to mention the cost savings.
I am also well aware that most people are not as informed of the negative impacts found in my four deal-breakers (hydrogenated oils, corn syrup, artificial sweeteners and artificial food colors), and I find them plentiful in the homes of almost everyone I visit. Therefore, even when they tell me to make myself at home, I rarely want to consume many of their food items, nor do I want to serve them to Zion. (Avoiding their food without insulting them can be quite tricky at times, but if you do it tactfully and lovingly, hopefully you can sometimes inspire them to make different food choices in the future.) While it may seem uncomfortable cooking meals in someone else’s home, I can assure you that the hosts appreciate it more than you would expect.
When we arrived in Utah, the first place we went to was Whole Foods, and then the Costco in Salt Lake City, which happens to be the largest Costco in the world. While most things in Costco are not what I would consider to be very healthy, they do have tons of organic and non-GMO food items.
Knowing that we would be staying with friends and family over the next 20 days, we knew that the food we purchased would be shared with everyone in the home, and we were more than happy to contribute. Also, because we knew we would be driving to the other destinations, we had no problem buying certain staples and condiments. Whatever we didn’t finish consuming with the family we were staying with, we would either leave it with them or take with us on our next journey.
We bought additional ingredients for our shakes along with eggs, tons of fruit and vegetables, grass-fed beef (for when we weren’t eating fresh Elk), free-range organic chicken, and “healthier” desserts. We even bought our own ketchup for burgers and marshmallows for s’mores during the camping trip, since almost all conventional brands use corn syrup. We also chose to purchase trail mix that was tasty enough to enjoy and filling for our 20+ miles of hiking, but didn’t contain items like M&Ms that include lots of destructive ingredients such as artificial food dyes. (This is why it is very important to know how to read food labels. If you don’t already have my guide to reading food labels, download it for free.)
TIP 3: Investigate Restaurants
Most people know that most restaurants are not very good for their waist or their wallet, especially during these days of crazy inflation. That said, dining out with friends and family is typically an enjoyable pastime, so if you’re going to do it, be prepared.
As obnoxious as Brooke and I may seem at times, we look at the online menu of almost every restaurant prior to deciding where to eat. Not only do we look at the prices and for food items that we enjoy, but we especially try our best to determine how the food is prepared, what types of ingredients they use and what is made fresh versus canned, frozen and microwaved. And for me, I am definitely that guy that rarely just tells the server what I would like… I’m the guy with a million questions. “Are the French fries frozen or fresh-cut?” (Not that French fries are ever a healthy option.) “Does the soup contain MSG?” And if I’m going to indulge in a dessert, “Is the caramel made in house with sugar (non-refined of course), or does it have corn syrup?” I prefer to be a little annoying when ordering food, rather than deal with the potential negative impacts of consuming a ton of unhealthy food.
In summary, it is typically more difficult to stay on course with healthy habits when traveling, but it is certainly not impossible. Just because you are taking a trip, does not mean that you need to leave your healthy habits at home. This is also a great opportunity to teach your kids that they can continue to eat clean food even when travelling. The habits they witness as children will impact the choices they make as adults. In fact, adults are often “reprogramming” themselves from the bad habits that were created as children. For example, Brooke was “programmed” to associate eating popcorn at the movies; and for me, it was Raisinets. It took Brooke years to enjoy going to the movies without popcorn; and I’m still working on it! Many destructive habits are difficult to unlearn.
If we let our kids splurge on junk when traveling, they will associate their future trips with an overindulgence of garbage. Therefore, making good choices at this stage in life is not only a gift for their present, but especially for their future. It just takes a bit of planning and desire; and when you combine that with discipline and knowledge, you will find yourself on the road to success. Happy travels!
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