Consuming a nutritious breakfast while traveling can be challenging. With schedule concerns and the time constraints associated with air travel, creative planning can help alleviate stress and provide your body with much needed nutrition.
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It is the meal that is designed to “Break the Fast”. Even with unusual schedules and travel through several time zones, your body must refuel and re-nourish its cells. An actual meal is very important…skipping breakfast or just having a cup of coffee is like being behind the eight ball for the rest of the day. It is nearly impossible to “catch up” with your nutrition requirements. It may be more difficult to make wise nutrition choices when you are starving; you may be more likely to “graze” or grab quick snacks like a donut or sugar laden beverage to curb your appetite when your body is actually requesting nutritious food.
While studies have shown the value and importance of breakfast related to cognitive function and improved productivity, an extensive survey conducted by Kellogg’s reveals that only about one-third of adults and teens actually take time to include breakfast in their daily routine. More people indicate that they would like to eat breakfast, but the hectic morning schedules preclude their desires. Travel can add even more challenges to a person’s already busy morning.
Eating a satisfying and balanced breakfast actually improves one’s metabolism and contributes to successful weight loss and maintenance. In a study conducted by Israeli researchers two groups of overweight and obese individuals were instructed to consume the same number of calories daily (1,400 for women and 1,600 for men); the difference between the groups was their breakfast. One group consumed a modest breakfast each morning, while the other group ate a substantial breakfast (600 Calories, 60 gm carbohydrate, 45 gm protein) and a sugary treat to top it off—yes this group actually had dessert at breakfast. During the first 4 months of the study both groups lost about the same amount of weight, however over the next 4 months, the big-breakfast eaters continued to loose more weight while the small breakfast eaters gained back more than 75% of the weight they had lost previously. What happened? They actually started to cheat and reported feeling hungrier than the big breakfast eaters. It is interesting to note that including adequate protein at breakfast contributes to a greater sense of satiety than at lunch and dinner and including something sweet may result in increased serotonin (the “happy” chemical) that diminishes cravings for the rest of the day. Also the hormones adrenaline and cortisol are at their peak early in the day, which help the body convert food into energy rather than fat. Lead author Daniela Jakubowicz, MD explains that morning is an ideal time to satisfy your body’s nutritional needs as well as your sweet tooth. She summarizes her findings: “If you’re hungry before lunch, you didn’t eat enough protein in the morning, and if you crave a sweet in the afternoon, you forgot your cookie at breakfast.”
Goals for a planning a nourishing breakfast include creating a pocket of time to eat within 1-2 hours of waking up and choosing a variety of tasty and nutrient dense foods in portions that support your overall health. Breakfast is foundational for the day and ideally supplies at least 1/3 or more of the day’s nutrient requirements with a balance of healthy carbohydrates, protein and fat. Try some of the following travel friendly breakfast Ideas: Oatmeal (individual serving packets—easy to pack, or stop at a Starbucks for their Perfect Oatmeal), food bars (Luna, Cliff, Larabar, etc—look for at least 5-7 gm protein/bar); homemade breakfast cookies; a breakfast burrito (pack this the night before, warm it up quick and take it out the door—whole wheat tortilla, scrambled tofu, egg or egg whites with onions, peppers and salsa); the PBJ sandwich (use 100% whole wheat sandwich thins and get the small packs of peanut butter and jelly—note packets are subject to security screen—if in doubt, make the sandwich ahead of time); bananas, apples, oranges, tangerines, grapes and strawberries or blueberries (pack these in crushproof containers), dried fruit; almonds, cashews or mixed nuts are also excellent to go items. When packing food for air travel, remember TSA rules for items in your carry on. You cannot take liquids or gels through security (beverages, smoothies, soup, yogurt, applesauce). Once inside security, you may scout out airport concessions for the best breakfast options.