The Business Traveler's Diet Problem: Staying Fit When on the Run
Despite the fact that accurate nutrition information can be accessed by almost anyone with an Internet connection or a library card, the 21st century has picked up where the last one left off: one dominated by poor eating habits.
The reason for this national dietary deficiency is not due to any single source or kind of nutrition misinformation. Nor can it be said that a lack of interest or effort on the part of health-conscious Americans is to blame. Actually, there are more health-conscious Americans than ever before. The problem of poor eating habits is not a strategic, idealistic, or tactical one it is a logistical dilemma.
Americans of all ages live such busy, fast-paced lifestyles, that eating nutritious meals is seen as something of a luxury to be enjoyed on special occasions or when one rarely has a few hours to prepare a complete meal. Seldom is this healthy eating challenge more pressing, however, than for the typical business traveler[i].
The second biggest source for unhealthy food in the life of a typical business traveler begins at the airport. The vast majority of these hubs of transit activity offer travelers a selection of fast foods or snack foods that are usually very high in carbohydrates, unsaturated fats, and loaded with calories.
Yet if the airport or station is the second biggest source of unhealthy eating, then what is the first? Without doubt, it is on the airplane itself.
In the past, the criticism levied against airline food was its sheer tastelessness and lack of variety. Yet as the overall awareness of nutrition - and lack of nutrition - in some food sources has grown over the past decade, a related distress has grown over the nutritionally flawed food that most business travelers are subjected to while en route.
Indeed, according to a study by the American weight-loss program organization Nutricise[ii], the average meal served by airlines in all service classes tops 1000 calories. This high number for a single meal is more than half the daily total number of calories for "average eaters". Yet this problem goes beyond calorie counting. Almost 45% of the 1000+ calories in an airline meal come from fat which is a full 15% more than some experts recommend as the 30% optimum daily fat-from-calorie level[iii].
In response to this challenge, some airlines are offering more eating options for business travelers, including vegetarian and vegan meals that are typically (though not always) lower in saturated fat, calories, and sodium. However, a 2003 study[iv] by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) regrettably noted that of the 10 airlines surveyed, only 1 of the 10 was observed to provide easily available healthy eating choices. 3 of the 10 airlines offered some degree of healthy eating options, though planning ahead was necessary -- something that is not always feasible for business travelers. The remaining 6 airlines surveyed were criticized for providing little or no effort at offering vegetarian (i.e. low-fat, low sodium, low calorie) in-flight eating options.
On top of this, business travelers are faced with yet another eating challenge that those not in the air are not forced to address. Whereas most people "on the ground" can physically leave a restaurant or deliberately choose to purchase food that conforms to a healthy eating regimen, those "in the air" are often forced to accept what they are given. Most business travelers are typically short of time and running from meetings to airports and back again. Therefore, the decision to eat the high-fat, high-calorie, high-sodium, and altogether unbalanced airline meal is often better than the alternative of not eating at all.
While some awareness is creeping into the world of business traveler nutrition, thanks in part to the work of the PCRM and others, this awareness is not spreading quickly enough. Business travel in the US comprises over 200 million person-trips per year[v] and this means that a lot unhealthy meals are awaiting a lot of business travelers who, quite frankly, need more nutritious food.
There have been some attempts to respond to this massive business traveler need, including a halfhearted effort by most airlines to revise menus. There have also been several "nutritional supplement" options, typically in fluid or bar form, that have proposed to help fill this business traveler nutritional gap.
Unfortunately, like the revised airline meal effort, the vast majority of these supplements fall short of providing a high-protein, low-calorie, low-carbohydrate nutrition that travelers need. Furthermore, the handful of products that have in some sense met these protein, calorie, and carbohydrate requirements are usually devoid of essential nutrients.
However, a small number of nutritionally wise products are generating positive feedback from business travelers, both for nutritional value content, and for traveler-friendly fluid containers that can take a great deal of airport bag handler abuse. Furthermore, since these products are liquid, they can be ingested easily without needing to be diluted, mixed, or taken with large amounts of water or other fluid.
Taken as either a supplement or a meal on its own, these intelligent and scientifically validated nutritional products - which offer a complete range of essential vitamins - help business travelers stay healthy in ways that fit into their busy, time-conscious lives.
Founded in 2001, Protica, Inc. is a nutritional research firm with offices in Lafayette Hill and Conshohocken, Pennsylvania. Protica manufactures capsulized foods, including Profect, a compact, hypoallergenic, ready-to-drink protein beverage containing zero carbohydrates and zero fat. Information on Protica is available at www.protica.com. You can also learn about Profect at www.profect.com.
[i] Source "Tips for Eating Healthy Away from Home". BetterHeathUSA.
[ii] Source: "Healthy Eating on the Road". Business Traveler Center Magazine.
[iii] Source: "Fat Lowering Tips". Ask The Dietician.
[iv] Source "Doctors Rate Airline Food for Healthy Options". The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.
[v] Source: "Travel Statistics and Trends". The Travel Industry Association of America.
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