So far the biggest questions that I have been asked about the experience centres around food. To this end I will try and capture the circumstances around how, what and why we have been focusing on this as one of our major challenges here in the US.
Let me be the first person to point out that having been part of the Gen Y population there was a massive American influence on my dietary desires as I grew up. I was all too familiar with several of the larger US based fast food chains and knew about all of the delicacies such as NY deep pan, key lime pie and a myriad of other burger spots that I’ll refrain from listing.
So needless to say this opportunity, albeit a fitness based trip has allowed me to sensibly try some of the food that I always wondered about.
Now I want to point out two things that I believe help the educated individuals in this country make sensible food choices, which we could potentially learn from back on home soil.
E V E R Y T H I N G - here has a very clear and visible caloric (not kJ) energy intake printed of the packaging/menu/website/social media page.
It appears to be standard practice for companies to use high fructose corn syrup, in a successful attempt to entice you back for more whilst keeping their costs low.
So how does this help an educated consumer to make better food choices?
Package scan tip.
By using a simple package scan you can very much tell how beneficial a food product is quickly and easily. Now I’m not saying that we don’t do this at home in Aus, however I do believe that we (fitness) & Allied health professionals could help educate those that want to understand how they can help themselves and their families by using this simple time effective method for checking what goes in their shopping cart. But I feel that this is a bigger topic for another time.
Let’s talk about the experience of trying to survive on fast food and takeaway in the middle of a pandemic on the other side of the world.
After our time travel and aeroplane meals in the first weeks here we found ourselves in a hotel unable to go and get fresh food and relying on good old delivery/ in-house food. Access to food is easy, however in many places around the US where the food you can access comes from a large chain we found that everything was rammed full of sodium and high fructose corn syrup.
To make matters even more challenging, the options of sides that add ‘value’ for money are sweet and large. To give you an understanding of what I mean, at one point we got innocuous overnight oats with fresh berries and a ’regular’ cappuccino for breakfast.
To us that sounded like a safe option right… had we known a regular cappuccino was in fact 600ml of milk with less caffeine than a green tea we may have opted for something else like a double shot espresso for the caffeine fix and the much more digestible caloric intake.
On a side note, second to missing my family and team, barista made coffee is a luxurious, velvety, soul warming experience that is currently out of order in my life and I am already looking forward to my first extra shot flatwhite at Sash Coffee on Sandy Bay road, just down from the studio upon my return.
The other challenge is that the difference between a small - regular coffee is about 25cents. So again quantity over quality reigns supreme, and to wrap it all up, a HUGE serve of overnight oat with a side of sugar crusted (not an exaggeration) fruit bread. Now as this was early in the piece, we opted out of this caloric delight and ate slowly until we were satisfied, not full.
What I thought may have been an isolated incident, quickly dawned on me that it was in fact just a normal weekday occurrence without a kitchen.
Now this all sounds a bit doom and gloom, however we did find some great fresh food options that worked quite well for us. Things like Poke bowls and salads were readily available and fairly easy to access in affluent areas around us. This highlighted an evident disconnect between the have and have nots, but again, a bigger topic for another time.
Luckily we have been here for a month now and we have managed to find some absolutely fantastic spots to eat, both ‘fast food’ and dining. Here a quick non-exhaustive list of our favorites so far:
Bear’s Food Shack, W Atlantic Avenue - Poke Bowls, Protein salads, protein shakes. 9/10
Caffe Luna Rosa, Ocean Blvd - Amazing breakfast, avo, eggs and a decent coffee. 8/10
Whole foods Market, Linton Blvd - Fresh Produce, a little $$$ so Publix is our alternative for everyday items. 10/10
Chick-Fil-a, Linton Blvd - Fast food, Chicken Sandwiches (burgers) we had this after a particularly intense training session at the end of a long week. 8/10
We are only one third through my part of the trip and are yet to begin the internal US travel so I will hedge a bet that there will be a part b. to the gastronomical experiences and I’m keen to expand on this more but for now take note that i'm currently down 5.5kg since arriving in the US, which im putting down to making conscious decisions around the food we eat and moving more regularly with intent.
Three key take always from this:
Access to adequate nutritionally appropriate food options is paramount to good health.
Added sugar be it artificial or from a manufacturing process is dangerous, naturally occurring sugar consumed in its original form not so much (unless you're diabetic, know your levels!)
Marketing has become so effective that we ignore blatant warning signs around excessive caloric consumption, for that quick fix of feel good dopamine over a nourishing meal.
Until part b. of the American gastronomical experience, know your fuel source.