It may seem as though we live in a land of plenty. Everywhere you look there are vending machines, restaurants and stores offering an endless assortment of quick and cheap snacks and meals. And yet, the reality is every day most Americans live in a constant state of emergency. Either they skip breakfast or they put themselves at the mercy of the local coffee chain feeding them high-sugar coffees and donuts or muffins or scones (which sound like a French health food but are really giant sugar cookies). And then, at work, there are bowls of candy and vending machines full of soda, and on the way home, there are fast food restaurants and convenience stores luring you in. We live in a toxic nutritional wasteland where finding real, whole, fresh food is difficult if not impossible for most people.
What is a food emergency? When your blood sugar starts to drop, you are hard-wired to eat anything (and everything) in sight. To think you can use willpower to control your hunger or cravings contradicts the science of how your brain controls your behavior. The more willpower you use, the more it backfires, eventually. You find yourself automatically overeating and bingeing or just eating whatever happens to be in front of you.
But there is a solution, a simple, practical idea that most of us never think about: planning and bringing food with us.
If you were a Type 1 diabetic, you would not leave the house without your insulin syringe or a packet of sugar. If you did, your life would be at risk. If you had a severe bee or peanut allergy, you wouldn't go anywhere without your EpiPen. One sniff of peanut dust and you could die without your protection.
While you may not die in an hour, you will get sick and fat and live a shorter, poorer life if you regularly find yourself in a food emergency. You will repeatedly choose poor-quality, high-sugar, refined foods and eat more than you need.
Emergency Life Pack -- Your Food Safety Net
That is why I recommend that everyone create an emergency life pack, a food safety net. Each person has to find their favorite things to include, and the choices are almost infinite. You need to stock your home, your travel bag or purse, your car and your workplace with key rations for any food emergency. What if you didn't have time to have breakfast? What could you grab for the car? Or if you get busy at work, what can you find in your drawer to get you through the day? Or what is at the ready in the late afternoon if you start to droop? I definitely recommend including protein snacks, because protein controls your appetite and balances your blood sugar over long periods of time. These are snacks that keep on giving but don't give that quick rush and crash we get from most "snack foods," which leave us even more hungry and tired. If you wait until you are hungry, you will make irrational decisions. Just set yourself up to make better choices by having good things around you.
Here are easy-to-make or easy-to-buy foods that you can grab and go anywhere with. We all travel out of the house frequently, and with a little bit of planning and shopping, we can stay healthy and keep ourselves out of food emergencies. Get a few glass containers with lids and Ziploc baggies to put your snacks in. Buy an insulated lunchbox or mini cooler to put your food in. These are just ideas and you can innovate, but make sure you include food with good-quality protein and fats that are also low in sugar.
Things That Last Forever:
- Canned wild salmon or sardines
- Flax or seed crackers (Mary's Gone Crackers)
- Jerky (bison, grass-fed beef or turkey -- try Krave or Grass Fed Jerky Chews
- Salmon Jerky (Vital Choice)
- Nuts and seeds (almonds, walnuts, pecans, macadamia nuts and pumpkin seeds)
- Nut butter packets (almond, pecan, macadamia nuts -- Artisana makes individual packs)
- Coconut butter packets (Artisana brand is great)
- Whole food or raw food protein bars (Raw Revolution and LÄRABAR are my favorites)
- Artichoke hearts
- Roasted red peppers
Easy-to-Prepare, On-the-Go Snacks:
- Garbanzo beans with olive oil, lemon, garlic and salt
- Hard-boiled omega-3 eggs
- Hummus -- try Wild Garden single-serve packets that last a long time
- Cut-up carrots, cucumbers, peppers and celery in Ziploc baggies
- Apple or pear
- Dark chocolate (70 percent)
- Dried figs
Dr. Hyman's Go-To Travel Food Emergency Pack
When I am on the road, I find it a dangerous place: airports, hotel mini-bars, bad restaurants, food deserts. My health is in jeopardy every time I step out of my controlled environment. So, I bring food with me and make it a rule never to eat on planes or in airports (although increasingly, there is edible food in airports -- you just have to know how to hunt and gather!). I never leave home without these things, and I keep a good stock in my pantry, so I can just throw them in my bag. They take up little space and pack a powerful nutritional punch.
- Wild salmon jerky from Vital Choice or Patagonia
- Grass-fed beef or turkey jerky by Krave
- Packets of coconut butter and macadamia nut butter by Artisana
- Raw Revolution protein food bars
- Organic almonds
- Organic macadamia nuts
- Organic dates
For help creating your own emergency food pack, watch my how-to video here. Remember, with a little bit of planning, you can save yourself from food emergencies and stay healthy and well nourished wherever you go.
Now I'd like to hear from you...
What do you like to include in your emergency food pack?
Have you found some good sources of healthy, whole foods even while out on the road?
To your good health!
Mark Hyman, M.D.
Mark Hyman, MD is a practicing physician, founder of The UltraWellness Center, a six-time New York Times bestselling author, and an international leader in the field of Functional Medicine. You can follow him on Twitter, connect with him on LinkedIn, watch his videos on YouTube, become a fan on Facebook, and subscribe to his newsletter.
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