This past weekend, I went home (to Humboldt, Iowa) for my mom's birthday weekend. I love coming home and visiting my family, friends and petting my furry babes! However, it's no secret that eating healthy in Humboldt is HARD! Menu 'staples' like meats, booze and fried foods make it difficult for a person wanting to eat healthy actually stick to their goals. So, what's a person to do, in a town where ordering a "salad" usually means getting a bowl of iceberg lettuce, with cheese, croutons and ranch?! I've compiled my suggestions, as well as a couple of specific menu items I ordered, while there.
** Before moving forward, I want to point out that these thoughts are my own. My no means am I speaking ill of any of the lovely Humboldt establishments. I'm from Humboldt, I love Humboldt. However, the main takeaway from this post will be this: eating at home is always going to be easier (and usually healthier) because you have complete control of your ingredients.
Setting Yourself Up for Success
I made an Instagram story about this, a couple days before driving to Humboldt. A lot of food I consume daily isn't sold in small town Iowa. I struggled with the same issue when I actually lived there, a couple of years ago. Instead of using that as an excuse to NOT eat healthy, it's important to set yourself up for success, and PACK some essentials!
Aside from regularly hitting up Whole Foods and local co-ops, I love purchasing a lot of 'staples' online, from Thrive Market. Thrive allows you to shop for pantry-essentials, online, for wholesale prices. Another added bonus? Assisting low-income families. With Thrive, you purchase a yearly membership, for $59.95, and then they sponsor a free membership for a low-income family. Click here to get 25% off your first order!
I packed three bags, when heading to Humboldt for the weekend. *Please note I didn't actually eat all of the food I packed, but it's important to be prepared.
Some (not all) foods, in each bag included:
- Vital Proteins Beef Gelatin and Collagen Beauty Greens
- Tea (raspberry, nettle and peppermint) Click here for 25% off your first order, here!
- Fish Oil and my slew of supplements (I'll blog about this sometime)
- Apple Cider Vinegar (however, this is sold in Humboldt)
- Magnesium (I use Mag Calm Pro AND Natural Calm Calmful Muscles - Watermelon flavor)
- WholeMe (I actually took over their Instagram story, that weekend)! Use Promo Code: "Kate20" for 20% off!
- Sparkling water (good for tummy aches)
- Simple Mills Sea Salt Crackers and Pancake/Waffle Mix (Click here to get 25% off your first order)!
- Lakanto Sugar-Free Maple Syrup
- Lemon and cranberry juice
- Cans of pumpkin and coconut milk (to make a custard)
- Trader Joe's Almond Butter
- Kite Hill yogurt and cream cheese (all vegan)!
- ORGANIC arugula (pesticide-free is the way to be... at least following the Dirty Dozen).
- Siete Cassava & Coconut Tortillas
- Coconut Cult (delicious, but good for tummy aches)
- Leftovers (shrimp, spinach and chickpea noodles)
- Stuffed Grape Leaves
- Homemade kombucha (why buy it when you can make it?!)
Starting the Day Right
This is big for me - always! And traveling is no different. Especially when you're in a setting where you might be eating abnormally, make sure to fuel your body WELL, first thing in the morning! Each day, I wake up and drink 8 oz. of room-temp water, another 8 oz. of water with 1 TBSP ACV and then create a warm drink with water, lemon juice, magnesium and beef gelatin. By doing this, my body gets woken up in the best way, and I automatically feel energized! TRAVELING IS NO EXCUSE! In the same sense, starting your day with a good breakfast is important, too!
I made a point to eat breakfast at home, each morning I was in town. This was an easy way to start the day off right! Now, weekends are for waffles (in my opinion), so I did whip up some Simple Mills waffles (which still are healthier than any other waffle you could find in town)!
It'd be easy to go out to eat for breakfast, but I recommend eating it at home, whenever you can, just so you have control over the start to your day!
It's All About Those Decisions!
Aside from eating breakfast at home, the rest of my meals were eaten at a restaurant (and this is something I really am not used to). Below, you'll find the locations I ate at, and the choices I made:
Friday Night-Time (Ninja Sushi & Steakhouse) in Fort Dodge:
This is a new-to-Fort Dodge restaurant and my friend, Courtney, and I decided to check it out. Like typical sushi restaurants, there were LOADS of sushi options!
Options: Steaks, seafoods, sushi, etc.
My choice: A tuna roll and a cucumber roll (tuna and avocado, wrapped in rice and seaweed paper; and cucumber rolled in rice and seaweed paper).
Verdict: My stomach felt a bit queasy after eating here (sushi is HARD, especially when you're eating gluten-free). Unless it's marketed as a 'Gluten-Free restaurant' it probably contains a bit of gluten.
*Recommendations: Sushi that contains things like cream cheese, tempura and sauces is going to be filled with more calories. I always choose a healthy side, like edamame and sushi rolls that are simple.
Saturday Brunch-Time (Bridal Shower):
Options: Muffins, Chocolate-Dipped Pretzels, Fruit, Orange Juice, Mimosas, Coffee and Water
My choice: A bit of fruit (items not on the Dirty Dozen) and water. I refrained from the alcohol because I know my body: alcohol mixed with sugar isn't good for me, and 'starting early' would cause me to get a headache.
Verdict: Felt good!
Saturday Lunch-Time (Pasquale's Pizza):
Pasquale's is a Humboldt staple, right?! You'd be nuts to not get it when you're home! Pasquale's does offer a gluten-free crust option (I think it's something similar to Udi's). I thought it was funny when the server asked us if we wanted to order a side of cheese bread or cheeseballs, to get before our order. HA! See?! Fried food options, EVERYWHERE!
Options: Every pizza under the sun! BBQ topped, ranch-topped, taco, all-meat, veggie, etc. Spaghetti, lasagna and sandwiches are offered, as well. Salad options include taco and a regular side-salad. Appetizers like cheese bread and cheeseballs.
My choice: I ordered the veggie pizza, added chicken, on a gluten-free crust, without cheese.
Verdict: I actually had a stomach-ache after eating this. In the past, this wasn't the case (since this is my usual order), so I'm guessing my body wasn't used to the more-processed food.
**Recommendations: Pasquale's is delicious and my mouth literally waters every time I'm in the restaurant and see their regular pizzas. I know it's a splurge, so I recommend not going often, but when you do, choosing a leaner-type of meat, or asking for less cheese. And say no to the appetizers!
Saturday Dinner-Time (Cinco De Mayo):
This is the newest restaurant in town and we had to check it out! Mexican is one of my 'go-to's'; just because corn is gluten-free and usually an easy option. The place was packed and the servers were busy!
Options: Boozy drinks, chips and salsas, guac, queso, tacos, burritos, fajitas... you name it!
My choice: I ordered a small house margarita on the rocks, and the pork "Mexi Tacos", which are authentic tacos, containing no cheese or sour cream. I ate chips and salsa, on the side. *I asked for no cheese on my rice/beans, and still got cheese, but I didn't end up eating any of this anyway.
Verdict: My stomach hurt a bit after this, as well. Again, I'm guessing it was due to me not being used to eating out.
**Recommendations: It's easy to order a large marg when at a Mexican restaurant, AM I RIGHT?! I'm not saying this is a 'no-no', I'm just cautioning you to re-think your other choices because of it. Maybe if you order an alcoholic beverage, choose something with less calories (no sweet and sour or added juices). However, unless you're ordering a shot of tequila, any beverage here is going to be high on the sugar and calorie-scale). If you're eating chips, don't eat tortillas, too; and choose rice OR beans... not both. This is just a carb-overload reminder!
"Wanna hit up the Pine?" is probably one of the top-ten most popular questions asked by any Humboldt (or past-Humboldt) resident. Weekends spent at the bar, in a small town are fun! It's a time to gather with some of your friends, catch up and have a good time. However, it's very easy to go overboard; and I'm typing this based on experience! I'm currently working on a blog post ALL on alcohol, so stay tuned to that! For today's post, I'm just going to say this: alcohol contains empty calories, which can quickly add up; and it's hard on your liver. Make good choices; and focus on healthy substitutions. Vodka with water (or sparkling water), light beer compared to the heavy-kind, fruits instead of syrups.
Keep Your Tummy Happy
Remember when I said my tummy hurt after eating out? I believe this was because my body was so used to eating at home; cooking with simple ingredients. Your body becomes used to what you feed it; it tells you when it's not into what you're putting in it - especially when you feed it well.
Lately, whenever I experience stomach pains (after eating), I like to drink a bit of sparkling mineral water. This helps the 'gassy' pains. Then, I enjoy a couple spoonfuls of The Coconut Cult yogurt, which contains a high-amount of probiotics. This seems to be the magic combo, and my stomach feels normal soon after. While in Humboldt, this was my 'night-time cocktail of choice'!
We're all going to have those situations when we find ourselves out to eat, unsure of how to make the 'healthy choice'. A couple recommendations:
- Don't eat the entire entree in one sitting; get a to-go box and save some for later!
- Order water, instead of sugary beverages
- Go easy on the apps, or just don't order them (or order a healthy, non-breaded option)
- Ask for a veggie on the side, instead of a starchy one; this can especially be helpful if you're ordering something like a burger
- I know we all love cheese, but go easy on it!
- If you DO order a salad, ask for the dressing on the side, so you have control of how much goes on top
- Decide on an alcoholic beverage OR dessert; not both
- Don't beat yourself up, if you go overboard! Sometimes, it'll happen. Remember tomorrow is a new day!
My nutrition isn't perfect, but I've finally reached a point to where feeling good feels better than eating something tasty, if it makes me feel gross. Take one step at a time; focus on moderation; starting each day right; and remember, YOU are always in control!