Eating My Way Through the Garden State

DSC_0117Many of you know my roots started in New Jersey.  This past weekend I went to visit my 92 year old grandmother for Mother’s day as you never know when it will be your last with your only remaining grandparent.

I was able to more clearly see how moving to California and my current profession helped me escape the clutches of Italian food, diabetes and weight issues.  From the moment I was off the plane, the smells and sights of food were at my every step.

Navigating the menus of pasta, Italian pastries and goodies, I felt the full impact of my clients’ challenges with traveling and eating out.  How did I combine enjoyment with family, and the tradition of Italian food while still holding onto my clean eating?

Organizing your food for travel:

Although there is not too much you can bring on a plane, I always pack a quart-size bag of raw cashews, almonds, and pumpkin seeds so that no matter what I have a go to snack to pull out during the flight.

A few months back I got introduced to Simply Snackin’ – a beef and chicken jerky that is made from grass-fed beef along with limited healthy ingredients.  They are nicely packaged in single servings with approximately 8-12 grams of protein per stick.  I brought a few of these for Jeffrey and myself.

Finally, Jeffrey made 4 hard-boiled eggs and we brought a small blue ice to keep cold during the flight.  These snacks along with a few pieces of fruit and some raw veggies (carrots, celery) brought us to our destination without having to eat the less than optimal airline food.

Having a few items can not only be cost saving, but can leave your system energized and ready to go from avoiding overly salted processed airport and plane food.

Eating Out:

Sitting in a beautiful Italian restaurant on the Jersey shore looking at the ocean and the menus of pasta, pizza and the warm Italian bread at the table I thought about what one of my client’s had told me the previous week:  “Susan, I’m overwhelmed looking at menus.”   So what was my thought process?

  1. Thanks but no thanks – I ignored the pizza, pasta entrees and bread
  2. I looked for the protein dishes, and found a chicken entrée, and a few fish and shellfish options
  3. I asked myself what I felt like eating, what dish was authentic Italian and was there something I can’t readily get in California?

So what did I choose?  I did not really feel like fish and chicken is normally not that interesting but this chicken dish looked tasty and came with broccoli rabe and some other veggies.  When it came, although a bit salty for my taste, it was yummy and I was able to get my protein and veggies.

What did I do to enjoy a little of the Italian food that others were eating?  I got a forkful of al dente pasta with clams from my uncle and one of the porcini raviolis that were for the table.  Both were well worth the bite and all I needed for satiation.  I drank unsweetened iced tea as well as drinking in the view of the ocean and smell of the salt water.

Mother’s Day Italian Fest:

So what was on the menu?  Antipasto salad, cheese, grapes, assorted high carbohydrate appetizers, chicken cutlets, sausage and peppers, eggplant Parmesan, and baked ziti (baked pasta with cheese), in addition to multiple Italian pastries and cookies.

I had a small plate of the salad which, included veggies and cheese.  For the entrée I had one chicken cutlet that had melted cheese on top, a slice of the eggplant Parmesan and a few peppers.

I skipped the pastries and ate half of one of the anise biscotti since it was homemade from my cousin Tooter who taught Jeffrey and I how to make several wonderful Italian dishes we used for A Recipe for Life.

For the rest of the meals, I had asked my aunt Marjorie to buy me plain Greek yogurt, cottage cheese and fruit so I could stay on track with my breakfasts’ and a few lunches that were free of family gatherings.  I went with my young cousin Brennan to this wonderful store Delicious Orchids (a future blog), where I found organic natural peanut butter for snacks with apples.

Flying home today I don’t feel like I have to detox from New Jersey eating.  I ate a bit more than I usually do, but nothing a few days of clean eating and exercise can’t fix.   Traveling and eating at family gatherings is not entirely within your control, but controlling what you can by bringing food and choosing as wisely as possible is doable for staying on the lifestyle track.  The last thing I wanted to feel today was a huge carbohydrate hangover and I can successfully report that did not happen.