The Business Traveler’s Diet Problem: Staying Fit When on the Run
by: Protica Nutritional
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
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
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,
[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
[v] Source: “Travel Statistics and
Trends”. The Travel Industry Association of America.
Copyright 2004 - Protica Research
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.