Tricks of the Trade: Carry a Cooler

Today’s blog is the brainchild of @Eswannyyyy who suggested it.  She said that her and her friends were discussing how hard it is to eat when you are gone all day or busy and can’t keep things refrigerated.  She, like many, finds herself sometimes having to turn to  packaged items that are “healthy” only to find out later they really aren’t.

I feel that everyone’s main goal should be to eat as much real, whole food as they can each day.  As the great Michael Pollan, author of best-selling “In Defense of Food” and “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” states:  “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants”  In order to do that, I carry a cooler any time I leave the house.

IMG_0980[1]I have been made of fun of by friends and co-workers for treating my cooler like  it’s a purse or something.  Leaving a technology committee meeting a couple of weeks ago, a co-worker pointed out how beat-up my cooler is.  My daughter’s (pictured)  is much more fabulous.  I don’t care.

So, while staying within my scope of practice, here are some strategies I use to improve the quality of my nutrition when I am gone for 10 hours a day, or running all over the place:

  • Invest in reusable, BPA-free lunch containers.  This would include something that you can keep a sandwich in, something to make a salad in that will keep it fresh, a Thermos style container that can keep warm-foods warm (soup, chili, leftovers stay warm for 6 hours), and a small ice/frozen pack for things you need to keep cold.
  • Find one day each week (at least) to clean and wash fruits and vegetables.  Those things that can be cut up in advance can be sliced and placed in containers.  Otherwise you can just separate items into smaller portions.  I try to stick almost exclusively to organic fruits and vegetables.   Different kinds of nuts and seeds are also a great option.
  • For packaged items – read the ingredients, not just the food guide label. While many items can provide lots of protein, they can also provide lots of preservatives/junk.
  • Many people turn to granola-type power bars. These can be made very easily at home with a few home-made ingredients that will allow you to leave out preservatives, fillers and sugar.
  • Peanut butter, almond butter, hummus, and bean spreads are great and keep well.
  • Things I try to avoid completely if I am forced to have packaged items:  high fructose corn syrup, soy, food dye, artificial sweeteners, preservatives,  and things out of a can.  That pretty much leaves real food.

Michael Pollan has recently released a new book “Cooked”. A very interesting point he makes is that culturally, we have been convinced that food has to be available and ready on the go so we don’t have to stop, even for a second. Worse yet, our lifestyles leave us feeling that being in the kitchen is such a “pain” when in fact it does not have to be that way. The way I look at it, after spending time with the people I care about, spending time in the kitchen to prepare food is just as important as the time I spend exercising.  I don’t always love being in the kitchen, but I know it’s necessary for optimal health.

Please share your ideas, tips, and tricks!

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