Airport Eating

We’ve all done it: You are at the airport, and STARVING. Or maybe you’re just bored and dreading your two hour layover, and feel like eating something. So you head to Pizza Hut for a personal pizza, or McDonald’s, or TCBY for some “healthy” frozen yogurt (topped with Oreo cookie and gummy bears – Ed’s favorite combo).

Really, did you need that slice of pizza at 3:15 in the afternoon? Did you tell yourself that there are no healthy options so you were forced to eat McDonald’s?

Since many of us will be traveling in the next few weeks, I thought I'd give you some tips for keeping your airport visits healthy. We'll be getting plenty of worthy calories at our final destinations where someone is most likely busy in the kitchen creating all sorts of homemeade Christmas treats. Don't waste them on stale airport food!

Here are my suggestions for eating at airports:

The past few times we've traveled, I've packed us snacks. We've had quinoa with chicken, hummus with apples and veggies for dipping, sandwiches, and bags of nuts. It's easy, healthy, saves money, and tastes better than anything you can buy at an airport. This is your best option, especially if you have kids. Christmas is exciting enough for little kids - the very least you can do is give them healthy food to help balance out all of the stimulation Christmas brings!

Quiznos can be healthy if you order a small turkey on wheat with veggies – no cheese or mayo or oil. But that isn’t really an option at most airports. They have a set menu of six subs, each loaded with sauces, oils and cheeses.

Some airports (JFK, for example) have the Cibo Market, which has some natural food bars, fresh fruit and even oatmeal. This is an okay option. However, you will pay $7.50 for that organic food bar, so just be prepared.

Try The Grove. They have nuts and snacks available in bulk. This not only allows you to get a basic whole food that is a key part of your daily diet, but also allows for portion control. Only buy one or two servings of nuts, and eat them as a snack. Once I stopped at McDonald’s and just asked for a honey pack, then dipped my walnuts into it. Delicious! Although I'm pretty sure McDonald's doesn't sell raw honey...

You’ll feel better when you arrive, because you avoided a 1,200 calorie disaster and instead had a 300 calorie snack!

One last thing: Ed & I once had cheesesteaks in the Philly airport during our 7-hour delay. I do not regret this; it was the most delicious sandwich ever and we are still talking about it!!! So if you get stuck in PHL this holiday season, disregard everything I've said in this blog post...


Nuts for the Holidays

I use Twitter. Some people think it’s worthless but it’s not. I try to only “tweet” (or “twit” as my brother-in-law calls it) things that are useful to others. But the best part is following other tweeters. For example, I follow a few of my favorite restaurants in Denver so I know the scoop on happy hour deals and seasonal menu changes. Another example: I got all the latest updates on the Tiger & Elin saga (very important gossip) all weekend long because I could follow the tweets about it. Do you tweet? If so, let me know! I am always looking for good people to follow. You can follow me (@annpierce) here.

I also follow some great people who blog about food and recipes, and this is often where I get my inspiration for the things I cook at home. Today I found a recipe for Maple & Spice Glazed Nuts. And even though I just told guest blogger Jessica that I am addicted to dipping almonds in raw honey and I should really cut back, I went ahead and made these anyway because they looked too easy and too wonderful to pass up. I added a couple of my own ingredients and in 20 minutes I had delicious nuts and a house that smelled like Christmastime.

The recipe is at Jamie Living blog, found here. Jamie has great recipes and usually a good story to go along with it! I’ve copied the recipe below and added my own personal touches.


2 cups nuts (I used pecans, walnuts, almonds and cashews)

2 tbsp 100% maple syrup

1 tbsp raw honey

1 tsp lemon zest (Jamie lists this as optional, however I am listing it as mandatory! The lemon flavor makes these nuts unique and not too sugary tasting)

1 tsp sea salt

½ tsp cayenne pepper (I love the spiciness, but feel free to reduce)

½ tsp cinnamon

Mix all ingredients and bake on a cookie sheet at 300 degrees for 15 minutes.

And as a refresher, here are the all the healthy things you’ll find in this recipe:

Pecans: full of antioxidents, help lower cholesterol, high in vitamins A, E & B1, calcium, potassium, zinc, magnesium and protein.

Cashews: lower in fat than other nuts (contain the same healthy fats found in olive oil), high in copper and magnesium, known to help prevent gallstones.

Almonds: rich in protein, iron, calcium and vitamin B2, help relieve coughing and asthma symptoms, can help lower cholesterol and protect against diabetes, rich in manganese and copper.

Walnuts: can reduce inflammation and alleviate pain associated with arthritis, high in omega-3 fatty acids (good for bones), help with coughing and chest pain, good for cardiovascular health.

Remember, a serving size of nuts is the equivalent of about one small handful.

The spiced nuts are a great holiday snack that contain so many more nutrients and health benefits than your typical sugary treats, and they just as good!



Since Ed and I both have cancer history in our family (go dads!), I try to find ways for us to eat cruciferous vegetables 2-3 times per week (key word: TRY). One of my favorites is kale. Anyone who has tried kale knows that it’s not the type of veggie you just munch on raw. Here are some of the ways I have prepared it:

• Kale Sausage Soup (recipe to come!)

• Put on sandwiches in place of lettuce – taste blends right in

• Chop into small pieces and sauté with other veggies (I recently used shitake mushrooms), grated ginger, fresh garlic, sesame seeds and olive oil and serve as a side dish

• Chop into small pieces and mix into scrambled eggs

• Mix 1-2 cups into a smoothie – I swear you won’t even taste it, you’ll just see the green!

• Use in a mixed greens salad – when mixed with spinach and romaine, the salad will not have the overpowering kale taste

Try it! Kale provides more nutritional value for fewer calories than almost any other food. That alone should motivate you to try it! Among its many nutrients are large amounts of Vitamins K, A, and C; manganese; fiber; and Vitamin B6. The phytonutrients in kale are what help prevent or fight cancer by suppressing tumor growth and blocking cancer-causing subjects from getting to their targets.

Kale is my favorite cruciferous vegetable, but some others to try are cabbage, collard greens, broccoli, cauliflower, radish and watercress. Cruciferous vegetables are detoxifying and do not allow free radicals to harm our DNA and cell membranes. They are also full of vitamins and minerals and good for things like vision and heart health. So whether you have cancer history in your family or not, I strongly recommend incorporating cruciferous vegetables into your diet. These are especially important and helpful this month to balance out all those sugary delicious sweets we encounter at every turn!

Kale & Kids: Since kale has a tough, chewy texture, it may be difficult to find a way for kids to enjoy it. I think your best option would be a smoothie, or incorporating it into some type of lasagna or pasta dish. If any of the moms out there have any good ideas, please share!

Now back to my banana kale smoothie…



Coffee drinkers come in all shapes and sizes.

There are those who are perfectly content picking up their $0.59 cup at the local gas station on their way to work, and there are those who are positively snobbish about it and order not just one but TWO fancy cappuccino machines from Italy (in case one breaks, obviously) and are even known to bring their cappuccino machines and freshly ground beans on vacation with them (that would be you guys, mom & dad).

There are women who love it sweetened in every way imaginable, from amaretto syrup to honey to cinnamon……and men who will drink whatever is available, even if it’s just yesterday’s leftovers sitting in the cup holder when they get into their car in the morning.

Some treat it more as a hobby or lifestyle, drinking only fair trade coffee and frequenting coffee shops for their local art and music.

And then of course, there are the Starbucks moms, popping in each morning with their post-yoga glow, baristas already preparing the made-to-order latte before they even step foot inside the shop.

Since over a dozen of you have asked me about coffee, I am going to do my best to help you understand the “nutrition” behind our favorite morning beverage, whether you go for a grande extra-hot double-shot sugar-free vanilla skim latte no foam, or just a black coffee.

Let’s start simple. Coffee contains lots of caffeine. Caffeine binds with receptors in your brain that are normally reserved for chemicals that cause drowsiness. This is why caffeine keeps us awake and alert. Our heart rate increases, sugar is released into the bloodstream for energy, and our muscles start receiving more blood flow.

You may have noticed that drinking coffee makes you have to go to the bathroom often. This is because coffee is a diuretic, meaning it increases the amount of urine produced. This can dehydrate the body if you are not drinking extra amounts of water for each cup of coffee you drink (read about the effects of dehydration here).

Caffeine also causes potassium to be excreted from your body, which can cause an increase in blood pressure. Symptoms associated with excess caffeine intake include anxiety, tension, stomach ulcers, reflux and inability to concentrate.

But in moderation, coffee is not all bad. The way one of my teachers described it was that caffeine is okay “as long as you are not a slave to it.”

Are you a slave to coffee? Are you dysfunctional in the morning until you get your first two cups? Then maybe you should try to cut back a little. Because once you are a “slave” to your morning (or afternoon) coffee, it means your body is addicted to the caffeine. And that is what leads to all the problems you hear about. You may get headaches until you get your next cup. You may be irritable or tense with your kids or coworkers. Falling asleep each night could be stressful and difficult. All of these things indicate that caffeine addiction is beginning to affect your daily life in a negative way. You should recognize these warning signs and begin to take steps to reduce your dependency on caffeine.

If you aren’t sure if you are a slave to caffeine or not, try going without it for 4 days. If this is easy for you, you may not be addicted and you should cut back while you can. If this is difficult and you feel withdrawal symptoms, it might be time to face the caffeine addiction. I have never had to go through the process of eliminating caffeine because I typically only drink caffeinated coffee or tea about 2-3 times per week (and I rarely, if ever, drink soda). But I know people who have given up coffee, and slow and steady seems to be the way to go. I have heard of diluting coffee with water each morning, starting with just 25% water and 75% coffee, and eventually ending up with 75% water and 25% coffee. You could also try switching to decaf coffee or herbal teas. Traditional Medicinals makes some great herbal teas.

Another point to keep in mind: one cup of coffee is the equivalent of 8 oz., so when you order the “small” size at most coffee shops, you are usually getting 12 oz. or 1 ½ cups of coffee.

The creamy and sugary additions that people add to their Starbucks drinks are a whole separate topic, and I believe some people may be addicted to their morning “sugar”, not necessarily the morning caffeine… let’s just focus on tackling the caffeine for now!


Enzymes, Part Two: Digestion

(Read Part One here).

It’s a few days after Thanksgiving, and you’re hungry. You make yourself a simple turkey sandwich with the leftovers. Bread, turkey, lettuce, maybe a little mayo or mustard. You sit down and take a bite…

Before the turkey sandwich even hits your lips, your digestive enzymes start working. Just the thought of a juicy, leftover-turkey sandwich begins to activate the enzymes in your saliva, called amylase. Amylase is contained in everyone’s saliva and is the first enzyme utilized in digestion. It breaks down carbohydrates while you chew. The more you chew your food, the easier it will be to digest your meal, because you are allowing the amylase to get a good start on digestion before the food even hits your stomach. Occasionally you may take a bite and swallow it with only a few chews. This bite will be difficult to digest because the amylase did not get a chance to begin the process in your mouth.

You may notice that when you eat a cracker or a slice of bread and chew it thoroughly, it begins to taste sweet. This is because the amylase in your saliva is breaking down the carbohydrates into their component sugars inside of your mouth. Try it! If you taste the sweetness, you know you are chewing your food thoroughly, which is a good thing.

Now back to your turkey sandwich…

Your bite travels down your esophagus into your stomach. It lands in the hydrochloric acid that should be in everyone’s stomach (Why? Read about it here). Your stomach releases protease enzymes that, along with the hydrochloric acid and your stomach muscles, further break down the protein from your bite of turkey sandwich. Lipase is another enzyme found here that works to break down fats. If you have plant enzymes in your stomach (from a fresh veggie or from an enzyme supplement you’ve taken before your meal), these will also begin breaking down that bite of turkey sandwich. All of these enzymes work hard to break down your food for about an hour before the food travels on to your small intestine.

Once inside your 20-25 foot small intestine (it lies right behind your belly button), additional enzymes are enlisted to further aid in digestion. Your intestine lining and your pancreas will excrete some enzymes that begin to work on that turkey sandwich. If you have digestive issues such as yeast, food allergies or inflammation, the enzymes in your small intestine can be affected and you may start to experience discomfort (gas, bloating, cramping, etc.) at this point in the digestion process.

Once the small intestine enzymes complete the breakdown of your food, the nutrients are absorbed into your body. This includes vitamins, minerals, proteins, carbohydrates and fats. Anything that is undigested will then enter your large intestine (which is actually shorter at only 5 feet long, but is much wider than the small intestine). Here, water is removed from the undigested food, turning it into solid waste. This solid waste is then excreted appropriately.

Without sufficient enzymes in each step of this process, you will experience digestion problems. Pain or discomfort after a meal could mean you do not have proper enzymes to break down your food, or a healthy stomach or intestinal environment in which these enzymes can work. This is where supplementation comes in. For some people it is helpful and even necessary to take enzyme supplements with each meal.

So next time you dig into a turkey sandwich or juicy burger, chew slowly and thoroughly. It could be the difference between a stomach stuck doing somersaults and a stomach that is calm, full and satisfied!

Can't you just see the amylase enzymes activating in Teddy's mouth as he is about to bite into this bacon cheeseburger??!!