Monday, July 21, 2014

LIVING HEALTHY ISN'T EASY - MY NUTRITIONAL RANT

LIVING HEALTHY ISN'T EASY
Don't ever let anyone tell you that living a healthy lifestyle is easy.  It isn't!  Why is it so difficult?  Because when you want to be healthy in today's world, it appears that you're the exception...not the rule.  I've been living a healthy lifestyle for many years and I no longer deal with indulgent "temptations". You could shove a million tasty desserts in my face and I'll never budge.  Eating healthy has simply become a way of life for me.  But, for those individuals who are newly embarking on their health journey, it's such a struggle to stay on track when you're surrounded by possible derailments.  Every gathering or function that you attend usually involves food.  When I attend such social situations, I simply bring my own food without a second thought but I realize that not everyone is comfortable with doing that.  I've been to plenty of events where the only thing available for me to eat is a bowl of fruit (which is usually surrounded by larger bowls of sweet treats).  When you go to a restaurant, are you overwhelmed with healthy choices?  Um, no.  It's usually the other way around...overwhelmed with high-calorie foods with maybe one healthy choice, or two.  Sometimes, you have to request modified dishes since there is nothing healthy to eat on a menu.  I don't recall the last time I was able to order a food item off of a menu without requesting some type of modification.  Why does it have to be this way?

A HOTEL BREAKFAST BUFFET
I just spent two weeks vacationing in Michigan.  On our way up there, we spent the night at a hotel that offers a breakfast buffet in the morning.  The breakfast options that were available were very disappointing.  There were about five different coffee flavors available which was fine, despite the fact that I don't drink coffee.  However, the coffee station took up quite a bit of real estate on the buffet which didn't allow much room for many food items.  There were three different cereals from which to choose...Lucky Charms, Raisin Bran, and Cheerios.  Good Morning Sugar!  On that same table, they offered orange juice and skim milk.  No thanks, I'll pass.  They had a table of breakfast pastries...bagels, toast, huge muffins, croissants, and waffles.  Yeah, I bet those were all FULL of nutrition.  Not!  Oh wait, is that a bowl of fruit over there?  Yeah, but the fruit was swimming in some type of syrup.  No thanks!  There was a "hot" station off to the side and do you want to know what was included?  Something labeled as "Breakfast Sausage" (I don't even want to imagine what those were made of) and a cheese omelet made from Egg Beaters with a square piece of imitation cheese placed in the center.  Geez, I really struggled to find something healthy to start my day.  So, what did I end up having?  There was a pot of oatmeal simmering in the corner so I filled a small bowl.  I also grabbed a banana (the only one that was somewhat ripe).  I needed some protein so I asked the hotel attendant if she had any hard-boiled eggs.  Fortunately, she did so I added one to my plate.  But, that was it.  There was nothing else I could eat.  I wanted to add a little healthy fat to my breakfast so I used a small packet of almond butter that I had in my handbag (I mixed it into my oatmeal).  Putting this "healthy" breakfast together was a challenge.  I'm used to whipping up something healthy on a whim but why are there countless unhealthy options while I have to go out of my way to assemble something that actually contains nutritional components?  If I were new to my health-conscious journey and if I didn't have my almond butter, what would I have done?  Succumbed to crap (literally!) that was available?  It's disappointing that the breakfast options weren't full of fresh, healthy, whole foods with perhaps a few indulgent pastries versus the other way around.



THE RESTAURANT MENU
A couple of days into our trip, my mom and I were running errands and before we knew it, it was time for lunch.  Do you think it was easy for us to find a place to eat?  Of course not!  My mom will eat anywhere.  I am, however, a little more...selective.  There were countless fast food restaurants.  One right after the other.  As you may have guessed, I don't eat fast food.  We finally came across a chain restaurant that I recognized so I reluctantly agreed to it and assumed I would find something to eat there.  We sat down and I started to peruse the menu.  Not surprisingly, there wasn't anything that I could eat!  There were plenty of pastas, sandwiches, pizzas...item after item contained fried food or refined carbohydrates that I don't eat.  Finally, I came across a menu item that looked like a possibility.  It was described as "chicken with garlic, spinach, and roasted potatoes".  Yay!  A seemingly healthy option!  Hooray!  When it came time to order, I explained to our server that I wasn't allergic to anything but that I was very conscious of what I eat.  So, I pointed to the menu description and asked her if there would be any "surprises" on this dish.  Lo and behold, there were!  Apparently, the grilled chicken is also breaded...and covered in a sugary glaze that is drizzled on top.  I requested plain ol' grilled chicken without the added crust and asked for the glaze to be on the side (even though I had no intention of eating it).  Not surprisingly, when the food arrived, there were still some surprises.  The potatoes were not roasted.  They were mashed...and they appeared to have been altered because I could barely tell that they had originally been actual potatoes.  Oh, and the spinach?  Yeah, there were five (yes, only five) wilted leaves resting underneath the grilled chicken.  The glaze that was put in a separate dish raised an eyebrow as well because there must have been about two cups of the stuff in that dish!  Hopefully that's not the portion that they usually use when drizzled on the chicken!  Happily, I noticed some whole cloves of garlic that had been roasted and were resting nicely on the chicken.  I love garlic and if it hadn't been for those wonderful little things, I would have given up on the meal entirely.  So, in the end, I ate one grilled chicken breast with a handful of whole garlic cloves and spinach leaves.  Not exactly filling.

SO TYPICAL!
These types of situations happened over and over again during my two-week vacation.  Unfortunately, these were not isolated incidents.  I encounter similar challenges nearly every time I travel, eat at a restaurant, or attend a social function.  My point in telling these stories is to express my annoyance with having to go out of my way to find healthy things to eat!  It shouldn't have to be this difficult!  I understand that "healthy" is defined differently by everyone.  Foods that I avoid may be completely acceptable to others.  I follow a mostly-Paleo diet which some may find too restrictive.  That's fine.  But, at the very least, I want to be able to find unprocessed foods that stay in their original form without added crap.  And I want said foods to be readily available...everywhere!    

I'M ALMOST DONE COMPLAINING...

Please note that I don't want to take indulgences away from others.  I understand that everyone likes to "live a little" (as I'm told often by my friends and family).  I understand that the occasional treat can be enjoyed by all.  I just want it to be easier for those of us who want to eat healthy on a regular basis...and not have to alter every little detail of a menu...or be stuck chewing on a naked salad because that's the only food item available...or have to drive 45 minutes out of our way to find something that is available without added preservatives and other junk.  Okay?  Okay!  Rant over.

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