Wednesday, July 9, 2014

What's the Right Fish to Eat and How Travel Healthy When Road Food is Crap

What kind of protein is the right protein to eat? how eat right on the road? does age matter - for working out or eating?

At a recent workshop a variety of colleagues asked me about food. Actually, that's not quite right.
Words like Protein and Calories came up - food not so much - we'll come back to that one.

I have a wonderful email from a colleague asking a few more of these "things we consume" type questions, so i thought, why not share? We've all i bet had some of these questions ourselves, so let's dig in. Here's the note:

What fish is good for protein? All everyone seems to talk about is Tuna and Salmon. As a fish/veggie it’s interesting to see how many blogs etc. are chicken-centric.
Also I meant to ask, I  can spend weeks away from home, what were the greens and protein that you mentioned?

"What fish is good for protein?"

I love that question: there's so much going on in it, isn't there? What i'm seeing is a sense that fish is a good thing, in this case for Protein, and what is good for that? There's a special interest around fish because it seems the person doesn't do red meat - so the only thing in the "with eyes" category of food, would be fish.

So how approach this?
in a word: mackerel  (N. Atlantic, Chub) 
Another word: sardines.
here's why:

The kinds of things going on in my head are
- well yes fish is a whole protein so good stuff - but the reason a lot of people eat fish is for the double benefit of the types of fats in it (omega 3's in particular) as well as protein.

 food colour chart
easy heuristics
to get colours
on your plate
for whole food
Vegetarians have the wonderful opportunity to get a rich variety of protein by combining deep rich colors on the plate - thereby doing better than many meat eaters in getting the phytochemicals we need to help process food and recharge the electrochemical soup that is us.
Quick aside: Various kinds of phytochemicals help the minerals and vitamins in our foods do what we need them to do. They also have cool assistive properties - like Lutein found in spinach - great for eyes (more on phytos here)

Indeed, meat eaters are encouraged to have as many awesome vegetarian days a week as possible. Why? we need more kinds of nutrients than are in muscle meat alone.  And yup, even if you're getting your weekly shots of liver for example most of us still need the phyto mineral vitamin goodness of whole foods whole colour palette.

Colour combinations: An easy way to eat for whole health?

COLOUR (see info graphic here). Take this challenge: what's
the most number of rich colors you ever get on a plate - from the darks of black beans to the rich purples of beats, greens of kale or spinach, whites of cauliflower, deep yellows/oranges - where will you go for these? Focus on colours, striving for that over a day, over the course of a week, the phytos and related come for free. And we're talking whole food here, not processed food with colouring, eh?

Protein by Colour Combination - and yup, if the focus is on optimising colour, you'll get all the protein you need - and it's not the old beans and rice combo you may have thought was essential (overview on whole proteins via veggies and legumes here)

FISH CHOICE! i digress - to the fish choice posed...THAT DEPENDS

Tuna or salmon? if one plans on having more than one meal for the rest of their lives - if fish is a regular part of the diet - it doesn't matter - variety is good.

Salmon - in the wild - may have higher protein per gram than tuna. But again, in a headspace focused on optimising colour and whole food variety, it all evens out.

That said, you'll notice i also said about salmon "in the wild"  - most salmon in the stores in the EU is farmed. (Oh to be in washington state in june/july when wild king salmon is everywhere and dirt cheap). But this is a choice about farmed or chose for not farmed. How make that choice?

It's not clear to me that farmed salmon is ecologically viable or that it has the same bits to it that attracts people to it in the first place (previous post outlining concerns about farmed salmon): we are what we eat; fish, no different - if farmed salmon are getting fed a lot of corn as food (not their natural food source for sure, right?), not only is that odd, it also has physiological side effects: they are not going to be producing the omega3's in their fats in the same way that a fish chowing on algae is. And we kinda need omega 3's to balance all the omega 6's in our lives (more on that balance equation here) So for both the issues around farmed salmon practices and around nutrient quality of farmed salmon personally i tend to avoid farmed salmon.

The other consideration of fish that's netted up out of the waters is mercury levels. What do we know about these? Typically not going over a pound of big oily fish a week is good - in fact the recommendations may be for less, pending type of fish - because of the mercury concerns.

But there is a fish one can have without fear of wrecking stocks or ingesting poison, and so far that's been the little guys like mackerel (from the north atlantic) and sardines. Awesome in the morning to kick off the day with good stuff. Half a mackerel and some spinach, perhaps serve the spinach in a home-made broth (i have to tell you about pressure cookers and broth. oh wow! another time). Wow.

So how's that for the fish/protein thing?

q2: TRAVEL and keeping up decent food values.

As a travel back up when i have no idea what the veggies will be like or the protein source (what to do when the only thing with eyes is farmed salmon?) i travel with supplements. Two in particular: protein powder and greens.


 i like rice based protein powders and i get them from in the US(try code MCS110 if you order for 5% off) or i like sun warrior  in the UK or US.

TIP for LEAN DESIRE - Even if there is food at the venue, esp if you're trying to cut weight, having a wee protein shake (just protein and water) before going out to dine can let you eat less of the served food and still feel good.


We've touched on the wonders of phytochemicals. Well, veggies/fruits have more happening in them than phytos. So how travel with the goodness of greens? Dehydrate them, of course.

There are all sorts of greens powders where various combinations of various good things have been pulverised to optimise available goodness. In this space, I  dig a particular brand of greens  made in canada and available in the UK and North america - by Enerex.  In the US a lovely company, takes care of distributing and working with Enerex canada. I mean it: these are passionate people. In the UK, you can get the greens from bodykind (i like the ones with mixed berries to change it up, too).

I like this brand because it's been used in research studies. You may have a greens that you like - that's cool - i just like the results on these. so it's the one i recommend - no affiliate ties - nothing - just like the stuff.

WHOLE FOOD FALL BACK - please note - i'm talking about protein and greens here rather than whole foods by way of travel expedient.
The reason that whole food is better more times than not is that it comes prepackaged with all the wrappers of phytos and vits we need to make the most use of what's in these foods. Same with vitamins - these are SUPPLEMENTS to whole foods, gap fillers for occasional use. ANd they're ok too as we learn to get better and more efficient about finding and prepping those whole foods.  In short: go for whole foods in your travels whenever possible - not processed crap served at a buffet or slathered in goodness knows what - but stuff you can identify.

Other travel strategies that i use: stay at a hotel that has a fridge and possibly a stove top and then get some food at a local grocery. Locations of such things can be sourced in advance of travel. Marriott seems to have a variety of hotel types that have the kitchenette options. I like Residence Inn's for these reasons.  And residence inns will go and get your groceries as part of your stay. Just give them the list; the stuff will be in your room.

Folks at PrecisionNutrition have even more strategies for travel - and they also have a pretty durn good plan towards food in general (overview of Precision Nutrition v3) I think they've also recently cut the price in half for PNv4, too. You can check it out for free with these Strategies for Success (43page pdf)

If not into cooking, Just having a fridge can be awesome. You may need to ask the hotel: if the fridge is one of those you get charged for anything you take out? ask housekeeping to take everything out for your stay - they may get a little stroppy about it, but they will do it. Then you have your fridge.

Cans of sardines are also easy to source at most stores, and will keep in the fridge. So will cans of black beans (high ratio of protein).

Other SUPS for travel
i like to take vitamin d, and for vegetarians a b supplement. In fact this is one time a multivitamin may not be a bad idea since food quality may be uncertain.

Ok, i also take zinc and magnesium with me. Zinc can be v.useful when fending off a cold - a constant travel risk - and zinc, magnesium and b6 have been shown to help sleep if you're low on these minerals/vits - and sleep is a toughy on the road. And most of us are low on magnesium. So i use a chelated zinc and chelated magnesium - that means they have proteins with them that let the minerals cross from the gut into the rest of the body.

FISH OIL ASIDE Also, while i take fishoil in liquid form at home, travelling with fish oil pills is awesome.
There's loads of brands - i recommend looking for triglyceride based rather than ethyl esthers purely for absorption rates. Take less of the natural stuff for better return.

If you're looking for a brand, I love nordic naturals again because it's used in a lot of fish oil research. If you're in the states, and would like to try this brand, here's a way you can get a discount
1. go to
2. click on "patients referred by practitioners". for a product and order page.
3. use code 88791 for “patient self sign up” when asked 
4. and i'd recommend hit Arctic Omega Liquid - 8 oz
here's a note: YOU get a discount this way; not me. it's not an affiliate thing. it's just folks coming to this company via me get better than standard retail prices for great quality. 

Here's another geek thing for travel - take a bowl, and possibly a steal travel mug
For bowels i love correll - unbreakable, washable pseudo china. i can travel with a bowl, have little packages of miso soup, and, if there's a fridge i can get spinach or even dehydrated sea weed that blossoms in the hot water - make the miso soup, put in some greens - the hot water blanches the greens and i'm off.
The only thing to ask the hotel about in advance is: can i have an electric kettle put in my room. In canada and the UK this is pretty standard (we like our tea) but in the US, not so much anymore, but usually easy to get.


There's a lot of info here, but the heuristics are simple: get loads of rich colours on your plate and you don't have to think about anything.
Think whole food rather than macronutrients, so asking about fish is great rather than protein, for example, awesome (we eat food not macronutrients - unless we're living on supplements)

NEXT complement to food: having a plan for getting your body jazzed up if there's no gym at the hotel, or the gym at the hotel just has cardio machines. Maybe we can talk about those strategies in the future?


Hope some of these suggestions help.

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