August 5 2008 by Neal Mueller
I've spent a lot of time on the road, sometimes for adventure, sometimes for business. I've visited all 7 continents. I even visited the only continent where Best Western doesn't have a full fleet of hotels (Antarctica). One year I traveled so much that I actually spent 250 nights in hotels! One of my favorite parts of traveling is sampling the local cuisine. Sometimes I splurge (like chocolate mousse for breakfast in Paris), but more often than not I just want a healthy breakfast that will keep me going all day long. I put together a list of tips for all of you who are at the hotel continental breakfast bar wondering what is best to eat.
So next time you're on vacation don't let your nutrition go on vacation too. This list will help you decide what to eat and what to leave for the next guy.
- Choose a whole grain cereal with low-fat milk (I like Cheerios in the morning). I avoid sugary muffins, sweet-rolls, and pre-sweetened cereal. High carbohydrate/sugar snacks such as these may improve my mood for a short time, but all that sugar makes me sleepy. Being sleepy is no good if you're the driver on a road trip or if you have a big day planned.
- Load up on the fresh fruit for vitamins and fiber. The eggheads over at the American Heart Association and the National Cancer Institute recommend we increase our fiber intake to 25 grams per day. Most Americans eat about a third of this amount. This grim fact may in part be responsible for America's high rate of heart disease, colon cancer and obesity. These diseases are practically nonexistent in places with a high intake of whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Try an apple and whole wheat toast for starters.
- Yogurt or hard-boiled eggs are good sources of protein. Each has 5 grams of protein. Jimmy Dean sausage links have a bit more protein (7 grams) but also twice the saturated fat and twice the calories. My advice is to leave the links for the next guy (despite their yummy greasiness).
- If you are on a weight-loss regimen, avoid the condiments altogether. Condiments such as cream cheese, butter, jelly, and peanut butter are high in all the bad calories that you want limit such as simple sugars and saturated fats. Breads taste just fine all by themselves when toasted; try it. I do this for a few weeks prior to road bike season and it shaves pounds very quickly without requiring me to change any of my other nutritional habits (and vices).
- Juices have vitamins but water is a better hydrator for you if you're thirsty. I tend to avoid the juices in continental breakfasts because I am never quite certain how much sugar is in the juice. Another upside to drinking more water is that sometimes the water is very good, especially in rurally located hotels where the water comes direct from the well.
- With regard to coffee, the Brits have a hot tip. Wired Magazine recently found that steady infusions of coffee throughout the day are better than sucking down a 20-ounce French roast first-thing in the morning. Test subjects reported that periodic and small infusions of caffeine made them feel clearheaded and calm, which increased productivity. Larger caffeine jolts reportedly caused frenetic productivity followed by a crash. For optimal brain power, several small cups of coffee or tea, as is the favored tea-time practice in the UK, are better than one oversized cup first thing in the morning.
- If you don't find it, don't be afraid to "hack" that breakfast bar. You probably have a few little things you absolutely love, we all do. Sometimes I bring little ingredients with me to make my continental breakfast complete. For example, I really like morning oatmeal and sometimes they don't have it. So I bring packets with me and use the hot water from the tea-station to make it on the fly. Everything else is there for me, and best yet I don't have to do the dishes.
- My grandfather always told me to, "Eat like a king in the morning, and like a pauper at night". This wasn't his invention, and has become a sort of nutrition rule, especially among early risers. The more I follow this rule the better I sleep and the more productive I feel in the morning. Eating like a pauper, meaning small light meals, in the evening allows us to sleep on an empty stomach. This nightly fast allows the body to focus on repair and rejuvenation of your cells, rather than on nocturnal digestion. Best yet, that slight feeling of hunger will help you get up and at 'em in the morning.
Talk to us. Tell us what you do to make continental breakfast delicious.