Chef AJ opened her talk by stating, “The world is not set up for us to eat healthy…Yet!” This could not be more true for Chef AJ. She is a vegan whose diet is entirely composed of whole foods – specifically legumes, fruits, vegetables, grains, and seeds. She neither drinks alcohol nor consumes nuts, oil, salt, sugar, or chocolate. Chef AJ’s food choices are definitely limited when she leaves her home.
To stick to her diet while eating out, Chef AJ has developed tried and true strategies to overcome culinary barriers. She insists that the best way to always make healthy eating possible is by planning ahead. To do so, Chef AJ categories the places outside of her home into groups – places where she has complete control, partial control, and no control of food, so she can appropriately make nutritious dining choices.
Here are some of Chef AJ’s insider tips on how to always eat healthy outside of your home:
Examples of places where you have complete control of what you eat include at school, in the office and at sporting events. You can bring your own meals to these places, and therefore it is easy to make wholesome choices in advance.
Restaurants, other people’s houses and airports are examples of where you have partial control of what to eat. In these cases, it’s important to try and bring your own food if possible. Before you visit a restaurant, look up the menu online to see if the cuisine is within your diet. If there are limited options, you can always request salad with dressing on the side, rice and vegetables. Before you go to your friend’s houses, politely give them a heads up about your dietary needs. If they cannot accommodate your requests, offer to bring a main course or side dish to a meal. When traveling on long plane rides, Chef AJ suggests bringing insulated lunch bags lined with blocks of ice to store multiple meals. Yes, ice blocks are TSA approved while in their frozen state! While on the topic of travel, Chef AJ pointed out that when she is at resorts like The Ranch she only has partial control of what she eats because she does not cook every meal, however the wide array of vegan, gluten free and whole foods at Rancho La Puerta make it easy for her to eat healthy meals.
Weddings, holiday parties and conferences are all places where you have little to no control of the foods served. Chef AJ’s solution for these events is – you guessed it – to plan ahead! If it feels socially appropriate, discuss your dietary needs with the host of a wedding before the event. If you have a holiday party where you know you will be tempted by rich, salty and sugary foods, it’s OK to pre-eat. Fill up on potatoes, rice, beans and kale – foods that will keep you satiated for a long time. Same goes with a conference – Chef AJ suggests that you take along a few wholesome snacks and fill up before you attend.
I left Chef AJ’s class inspired to make healthier food decisions. The biggest takeaway for me was that it can never hurt to ASK – kindly ask Jamba Juice to make me a special dairy-free kale and strawberry smoothie, sweetly ask my hotel to clean out its mini-fridge so that the $3.00 bag of M&M’s doesn’t tempt me at 2:00 am, or graciously ask my friend who is throwing a birthday party if I can contribute a healthy quinoa salad as a side dish. After the talk I felt prepared to plan my food choices ahead of time, and though it will take extra effort, I know it is worth it for my overall well-being.
To learn more about Chef AJ visit http://www.chefajshealthykitchen.com/