Thursday, April 9, 2015

Are Airport Security Scanners Safe?

I am a big fan of Dr. Andrew Weil. I think a guy who has a medical degree from Harvard and is now the guru for Natural and Alternative Medicine is the kind of healthcare professional I was to listen to. I’ve read many of his books and taken a lot of his advice in the past few decades and I feel as if I live a healthier life because of it. 

In one of my favorite books of his, “Natural Health, Natural Medicine there was an interesting fact I read years ago that I always remember. In Chaper 11, titled “How Not to Get Cancer” he lists sixteen things you can do to protect yourself from getting cancer. The heading of Number Three on the list is “Avoid Exposure to Harmful Radiation”. In this section, he discusses the journey radioactivity and X-rays have taken in western medicine from the 1940s until now, and how much we have learned since the early days (1940s and 1950s) when shoe stores used to X-ray your feet to see how your shoes fit! He goes on to explain how radiation in X-rays leads to cancer by causing malignant transformation of cells, and goes on to mention all sorts of household items that we may not even realize gives off some radiation such as smoke alarms and electronics. But two main bits of advice he mentioned in that section really stuck with me. 1) “There is no such thing as a safe dose of radiation”, and 2) “Do not let doctors and dentists X-ray you without good reason”. 

I thought this was VERY good advice and I go to great lengths to evaluate all the necessary and unnecessary X-rays in my life. EVERY YEAR I have a heated discussion with my dentist about skipping my annual X-rays when it really isn’t necessary. Just because it is covered by insurance, isn’t a good reason to add to my accumulation of radiation. I get dental X-rays every 3 years maximum. The same with other medical X-rays. I can’t say I’ve never had one but I give great thought to whether I really need that CatScan of my head to see if I have a sinus infection (yes, that really happened to me!). Uh, no I didn’t.

So here I am at the Airport watching everyone in the Security line going through this, well, X-ray, called a ProScan and I started to think, “I don’t really want this radiation, do I have to go through?”. The answer, of course, is “No” I don’t have to go through and neither do you. You can “opt-out” of the ProScan line at any airport in America. That sounds like an easy option but TSA agents are not happy about the “opt-out” crowd because it means extra work for them to have to stop what they are doing and come over and pat you down. Many times I have been “punished” by an annoyed TSA agent who has made me and my kids wait for ages before they called someone over to pat us down, just because they were bothered by the fact I did not want to go through the ProScan. Sometimes there was a legitimate wait, like when they needed to find a female TSA Agent (Pat downs have to happen with same sex agents), but usually they just don’t want to do it. While I am waiting for an Agent to come and pat us down, I usually have at least one agent give me a hard time about opting out. They often laugh and say, “You know, there is no radiation in these machines, why don’t you want to go through?” Time and again they taunt me by reminding me the ProScans aren’t X-ray machines. When I inquire exactly what they are, I have never had an agent answer me. Frankly,  I am always shocked that the Agents go to so much trouble to make me feel foolish. But, of course, we are all at the mercy of the TSA Agent when going through Security, and I rather not argue with them, but at the same time I wanted to understand what the ProScan was exactly so I could at least respond to any snide remark with an educated replya. So….I did my homework and researched it, and guess what? The ProScans sure do give off radiation.

There is a lot of information out there about the scanners, but if you don’t want to do the legwork, a good, simple article to read is a CNN article I found called, “Airport Security Scans: What would your doctor do?”. In the article the writer interviewed several medical doctors and asked them if they themselves actually go through the scanners when traveling. The answer is…most of them don’t. Here’s an excerpt from the article:

Doctors who say "no" to the scanners
Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society, takes a pat-down instead of going through a scanner when he travels. He says he's concerned about whether the machines are calibrated and inspected properly.
"USA Today did a piece on how badly TSA maintained their X-ray equipment for carryon bags, and this gave me little confidence," he wrote to me in an e-mail.
Brawley's deputy concurs.
"I do whatever I can to avoid the scanner," Dr. Len Lichtenfeld wrote to me in an e-mail.
He says as a frequent flier, he's concerned about the cumulative effect of the radiation.
"This is a total body scan -- not a dental or chest X-ray," he wrote to me. "Total body radiation is not something I find very comforting based on my medical knowledge."
Lichtenfeld says it doesn't necessarily give him great comfort that the TSA says the scans are safe.
"I can still remember getting my feet radiated as a child when I went to the shoe store and they had a machine which could see how my foot fit in the new shoes," he says. "We were told then that they were safe, and they were not."
(At first I thought Lichtenfeld was making this up, but you can actually see one of these foot scanners at the Museum of Questionable Medical Devices at the Science Museum of Minnesota.)
Another doctor who opts for the pat-down is Dr. Dong Kim, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' neurosurgeon.
"There is really no absolutely safe dose of radiation," says Kim, chair of the department of neurosurgery at the University of Texas Medical School. "Each exposure is additive, and there is no need to incur any extra radiation when there is an alternative."
This was echoed by several other physicians, including Dr. Andrew Weil.
"All radiation exposure adds to the cumulative total you've received over your lifetime," Weil wrote to me in an e-mail. "Cancer risks correlate with that number, so no dose of radiation is too small to matter."
Doctors exposed to radiation at work are particularly sensitive to this issue, as I learned when I got through security that day in the airport and chased after the doctor who'd opted out.
I learned his name is Dr. Karl Bilimoria, and he's a surgical oncology fellow at M.D. Anderson. He says this is a frequent topic of discussion among his colleagues.
"If we can avoid a little radiation in exchange for the two extra minutes needed for a pat-down, then we will," he says.

Please read the article for the full details:

After hearing that many doctors choose NOT to go through the scanners, I felt better about my decision to always Opt-Out. I noticed that this past year (2014) I have been surrounded by a lot more travelers who are standing beside me and my kids at the ProScan stop asking to Opt-Out. I feel in good company now!

Remember, radiation is cumulative, and, as Dr. Weil says, no dose is safe, and no dose is too small to matter.

So, next time you travel, leave a little extra time to go through Security, and Opt-Out of the ProScan and wait for a pat down. You may live longer!


Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Healthy Travel Review: Half Moon Bay, California

Half Moon Bay
In my endless search for great beach towns in Northern California, I recently discovered Half Moon Bay, which lies about 3o miles south of San Francisco. It is a relatively small beach town with a nice, but tiny main street that spans about three blocks and has some cute shops and restaurants.

You never know what you'll find in Half Moon
Bay! This ship was in a cute courtyard with
 small artists booths around selling their creations.

I went to Half Moon Bay for the first time 2 years ago in 2013, where we decided to stay at the Half Moon Bay Lodge because it was reasonably priced, near the beach, and located next to the Ritz-Carlton, so I thought it would be at the best spot in town. It was a nice hotel, nothing special and more like a Best Western,  but comfy and somewhat reasonably priced. The bad news for me was although it was on the beach as the crow flies, it was a 25+ minute walk on a narrow paved road to actually get to the beach access point, which was really too far from the beach for me!  Plus, none of the rooms had a beach view. We ended up having to drive to the beach and fight for a parking spot along with every other beach-goer that weekend.
We went back to Half Moon Bay this year in January 2015 and decided to stay at the only hotel (from what I can tell) that was ON the beach, The Beach House. 

The Beach House

My kids and I headed out to Half Moon Bay on a beautiful Sunday morning in January to celebrate my birthday and made great time getting there until we got into the actual town of Half Moon Bay, where we hit an absurd amount of traffic. We were only 15 minutes drive from our hotel, but we were stuck  in traffic for over 1-1/2 hours. I learned from the locals that this is typical traffic in HMB, especially on a warm, sunny beach day, like the one we had that day. Frustrating. I was hoping to get to the hotel early so we could have the day at the beach and enjoy the pool and jacuzzi as well, but we didn’t arrive there until late afternoon. But I was so thrilled to finally arrive there I just about danced into the lobby excited to check-in, only to be greeted by a lukewarm front desk person. He checked us in without a smile and when he learned it was my birthday, I didn’t even get a friendly happy birthday. Bad start.

Our room was on the second floor overlooking the beach and seemed nice and roomy. We had a little balcony with a table and two chairs and a small kitchenette, which I love to have when traveling, which had a small fridge, two burners, and a sink. I tucked a bottle of organic champagne and a beautiful vegan chocolate birthday cake into the fridge and we headed out to look around and enjoy the beach before the sunset.

Our ocean view room facing the balcony

The view was lovely from our balcony but I must warn you, there is a  nearby foghorn that goes off every 10 seconds DAY AND NIGHT. It wasn’t really a problem for me because I travel with a white noise maker for night-time, but the constant noise of the horn might cause a bit of stress for some, especially at night. 

The view from the hotel rooms are not ocean FRONT, because there is a little bike path
between you and the ocean as well as some beach grass and shrubs. But
it is only a few minutes walk until your feet feel the ocean water.

The moon on the nights we were there was not quite "Half Moon" yet, but lovely just the same

You can view the sunset from your balcony at The Beach House

I found The Beach House a nice place to stay but WAY overpriced for what is offered. It was really nice having a little kitchenette but it wasn't mentioned when I booked the room so I did not bring any food to cook, which would have been nice for breakfast so we didn't have to run out of the room hungry in the mornings.

As far as the hotel's "green initiatives" I did not see that they had any, after checking both the website and the literature in the room.

For LOTS more info on our hotel, The Beach House, please read my VERY LONG travel review on Trip Advisor:

On our way to our hotel we stopped at the MOONSIDE BAKERY AND CAFE in the center of town. Before our trip I did some research on healthy veg eating options in Half Moon Bay and this Cafe seemed to have a few nice veggie choices, including a veggie burger, so we stopped in for a late lunch. It was a bit more casual than I expected and more a Bakery than Cafe. There was a long line leading up to the bakery counter where you can order sandwiches, salads and wood-fired pizzas from a small lunch menu and they give you a number and bring it out to you. 

The Cafe is really a long bakery counter/case
where you order your food and it is brought out 
 The tables are few and scattered and more like a cafeteria than a nice cafe and not a very relaxing place to dine, but fine for a quick meal.  Moonside Bakery is attached to a small indoor mini-mall, and the table we found was out in the small, somewhat dingy indoor courtyard, which was quite noisy and uninviting. Not what I expected after looking at the website (don’t you hear THAT alot!).

The Cafe is small so our table was out in the indoor courtyard

 The food menu was quite pricy for a non-server cafe, but HMB is expensive in general, so I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. One of my son’s ordered a kid’s mac and cheese which was made from a box with powdered cheese and was so unappealing, he did not eat much of it. 

Not so fresh Mac and Cheese
My other son ordered the Garden Vegie (that is how they spelled it) sandwich, which had avocado, tomato, lettuce and sprouts on your choice of bread, he chose french, and is served with a side of fresh fruit. My son said the sandwich was good, nothing special, but some of the fruit was a bit too mushy to eat. 

I ordered the Vegie Burger (yep! spelled like that) which was a homemade patty, which was impressive, and was topped with carrots and cucumbers on whole wheat bread. It was nice, again, nothing special, but I was VERY appreciative to find a vegan option.

Vegie Burger on Whole Wheat

  There were no vegan bakery items but lots of vegetarian options so my sons got a few meringue cookies and a crescent moon butter cookie. The meringues were stale but the butter cookie nice and fresh.

 The bakery items looked really cute and, if you are looking for a lovely treat and not on the healthy side, this could be your place! 

Even though our experience wasn’t wonderful, I might come here again because there are some veggie (or “vegie”) items on the menu and eating choices in this small beach town are quite limited. Next time I will know what to expect.

China House
The last time we came to Half Moon Bay in 2013, we found an awesome chinese restaurant that delivered to our hotel room, The China House. They had a fantastic variety of vegan/vegetarian times on their menu that included vegetarian Bao, which is soooo hard to find, since traditional Bao is pork-filled. For those unfamiliar with Bao, it is a doughy bun with filling, often a sweet pork filling as I mentioned, but China House has a veggie version which I LOVED.  You can also find Bao's with a sweet red bean paste filling, which is REALLY yummy and usually served as a dessert item. 

Our array of yummy veggie dishes.
The veggie Bao is first on the bottom.

The China House had a separate Vegetarian menu, which makes it easy to make selections for healthy eaters. 

We went a bit crazy, ordering the Steamed Veggie Dumplings (Bao), Sauteed Broccoli with Asparagus, China House Vegetarian Deluxe with Tofu, and rice. It was hot, delicious, and reasonably priced. The best!

We loved everything but I think my favorite is the
broccoli and asparagus dish. We ask them to
add some fried tofu.

I was thrilled to find that they were still in Half Moon Bay and they still delivered! 

Saturday, February 28, 2015

UNITED AIRLINES Vegetarian and Vegan In-Flight Meal Review

Summer 2014 San Francisco to London

Here we are again on our semi-annual journey abroad and once again, we booked with United Airlines. As always, we asked for special in-flight meals. My kids ordered the vegetarian special meals this year and I tried to order a vegan meal again but they did not have that on offer. So instead, I chose something called a Vegetarian Asian Meal, hoping it might be as close to vegan as I could get.  I couldn’t think of much dairy used in Asian meals so I thought it was a safe choice. As I have mentioned before, my kids and I always have a big, full meal at the airport before we board our long haul flight (see separate posts on our fav healthy veg-friendly restaurant choices in airports) so we not terribly hungry during the flight and tempted by the in-flight meal. But the journey is quite long, 11 hours in the air if we leave on time, and an hour or two on both ends, so many times we get hungry. We do try to bring a lot of snacks with us but often one of my sons and I will try some of the in-flgiht meal. I limit myself to the items that are wrapped in their original packaging, often bread buns, buttery spreads, jams, etc and I like to try to taste a bit of the entree to review it here, if it doesn't look too frightening. One of my sons often eats a lot of his meal, and my other son refuses to eat any of it at all and just sticks to the snacks we bring.

Since we left in the evening, we were served dinner right away and had the breakfast service hours later before landing. The Vegetarian Special Meal and the Vegetarian Asian Meal (vegan) were exactly the same, except the Vegetarian Meal had a container of plain yogurt on the tray and the Vegetarian Asian Meal replaced the yogurt with a whole grain bread bun wrapped in plastic.  

The vegetarian meal included a tub of plain yogurt

The entree was an Indian dish, with a small helping of Saag Paneer on one side (spinach and cheese--so much for no dairy on the Asian Vegetarian meal!), some Aloo Matar on the other side (potatoes and peas, often with curry sauce), and some Basmati Rice in the center. It was quite tasty, although I decided not to eat more than a bite of my entree.  One of my sons ate most of his entree and found it fine.  He even ate some salad and thought it was fairly fresh. I did eat the whole grain roll because it was protected in a plastic packaging and I had some plant-based butter spread on my tray too, which I spread on my bread and that was good for me! For dessert we were given a packaged “sugar-free” lemon cookie, which my sons both ate and I took a bite of,  but it had quite a bit of an aftertaste from the artificial sweeteners used, so I did not finish mine. 

The Asian Vegetarian meal did not include any yogurt but
instead had a packaged whole grain bun.

For breakfast the Vegetarians had a VERY light meal. We were given a container of Mott’s Apple Sauce, a whole grain roll, and some Smart Balance spread, which is vegan. Nice! All three were factory wrapped, which made me happy! I just could have used a lot more of it! Two rolls perhaps? With some jam as well? In any case, we ate our morning snacks and it was really just perfect.

Breakfast before landing was perfect.
If the plane is delayed at all, I believe it is always best to skip the in-flight meals, since the food often has already been delivered to the aircraft and is sitting in racks on the plane at less than optimal temperatures to keep it fresh for long.

Our luggage and meals being delivered to our plane before take-off.
Our plane was on-time on the way to London but delayed 4 hours
on the tarmac on the way back. We finally got off the plane and had
to spend another night in London.

My perfect airline snack! Some roasted almonds and water.

TO EAT OR NOT TO EAT (the in-flight meal...)
Some claim they died from eating an in-flight meal

Some blame the bacteria lingering all around us on a flight. There was a recent study done blaming the bacteria on the tray table and arm rests (among other places) for making passengers sick: 

"The Tray Table
A study from 2007 found methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), an antibiotic-resistant bacteria, on three out of three planes tested for the "super bug." Specifically, it was found in highest concentrations on the flip-down tray table in front of each seat, with a whopping 60 percent of tray tables testing positive.
“The tray table according to our study had the highest prevalence of MRSA,” said Jonathan Sexton, research specialist at the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health at the University of Arizona, and lead author on the study, in an interview with Healthline. “The tray tables are not commonly cleaned and get used heavily. Travelers eat and sleep on them, which allows for bacteria and viruses to transfer to the table and get passed along to the next traveler in that seat. MRSA can be isolated from many different environments so it was not surprising to find it on the plane. This is a much higher rate of MRSA than in most public areas (save for hospitals). “Other studies that I have conducted found that 3 percent of personal vehicles, 3 percent of work offices, 37 percent of home offices, and 6 percent of public restrooms had MRSA,” said Sexton."

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

HEALTHY TRAVEL REVIEW: Santa Monica, California

My kids and I were headed to Southern California for the Thanksgiving holiday, and it was going to be a beautiful, sunny week, and I really wanted to stay on the beach. So I did a lot of research on hotels and wasn’t surprised to find they were all very expensive. Malibu Beach Inn was my first choice but their prices were way out of my budget, with rooms starting at $425 and went up to over $1000 a night. I’d love it but not a reality, nor does it seem worth it. So I checked out several of the nicer resort hotels on the beach in Santa Monica. They too were very expensive, but their prices started at $250.00 so we were getting closer to something possible (yet still a splurge). I have always loved the Loews Beach Hotel. I was in a wedding there years ago, and I remember how light and cheery the hotel is and it is ocean front, so it was my first choice. When I checked their website I found out they were renovating their lovely pool, and room prices were a bit lower than usual. So I booked it for 3 nights. A week later, they had a special on Travel Zoo (my favorite travel deal website), so I re-booked at an even lower price!

Loews Beach Hotel

You can beat watching the sunset over the ocean
from your own balcony!
We arrived at the Loews Beach Hotel on Tuesday of Thanksgiving week. The lobby was light and airy as I remembered it and there was a VERY cool real time video  screen of the beach that fills the wall behind the front desk. Nice. 

Loved the real time screen behind the front desk when checking in
Upon c heck-in, we were greeted by Michele, who was cheery and efficient and she kindly upgraded us to an ocean front view room. WE WERE VERY EXCITED!  Our room was on the 5th floor and the view was beautiful….EXCEPT it overlooked the construction crews working on the remodel of the swimming pool area. That was kind of a drag. Also, the noise from the jackhammers during the pool remodel were unnerving, but I knew they would quit by 5:00pm. and I really looked forward to the days end when it was quiet and I could look out at the sunset over the ocean. 

Beautiful view from our room
(if you don't look down at the pool construction!)
The room was great with 2 very comfy double beds, and the bathroom was to die for! There was a beautiful deep bathtub, that I took full advantage of every night! I always bring some Epsom Salts when I travel so I can soak out the stress of long and stressful travel days, if there is a nice tub in the hotel room, which there certainly was here! 

I couldn't resist this lovely, deep tub!
The shower was nice and roomy and in a separate little room from the sink and tub. The GREATEST thing was there was a little TV in the bathroom, that faced the sink and the tub! It was fabulous relaxing in the tub at night watching my a fav show on TV, and my kids loved getting ready in the morning and watching something while brushing their teeth. It was really fun. 

Watching "Hawaii 5-0 while brushing my teeth!
There is no fridge in the room but I requested one and they brought one up for us to use free of charge for the week. On the way to the hotel from the airport, we stopped at Whole Foods Market and got some healthy treats for a quick breakfast snack, so we could relax in the room in the morning, and didn't have to rush out too early in the morning because we were hungry. They also had a Kerig Coffee Maker, which I know isn’t very "green" because of the plastic waste of all the pods, but I found it a bit more convenient and sanitary than a regular hotel coffee maker. Hotel coffee makers are usually pretty nasty and the pot always has a strong coffee smell and taste. It was really nice to have the nice Kerig machine. I don’t drink coffee so the staff brought up several green tea pods for me and I enjoyed them all week long. The hotel was perfectly located ocean front at a nice beach and also walking distance, to the Santa Monica Promenade, lots of nice restaurants, shopping, movie theaters and the Santa Monica Pier. We didn’t have a car and didn’t need one. That was a plus on the “green/eco-friendly” scale. The bath products were sadly low-end and I’d love to see them upgrade sometime soon to Aveda Products or something a little more natural and eco-friendly. The housekeeping staff and concierge were very helpful, friendly and efficient. 

As far as eco-friendly practices, the Loews website states that they use environmentally friendly cleaning supplies, practice trash recycling as well as several other green initiatives. I didn’t see any evidence of this but you should check out their “green” initiatives on their website:

Real Food Daily

In the 1990s, when I worked in Malibu, my favorite vegan/macrobiotic restaurant was Real Food Daily in Santa Monica, and I went there often. So for our first night in Santa Monica, we went there for dinner. Real Food Daily started as a small macrobiotic-friendly restaurant in the early 1990s and still has many macro dishes on the menu. They have expanded the restaurant since then, so now it is twice as big as before, they have also raised their prices, and have added a vegan bakery on-site. Their menu is a little more mainstream than the old macrobiotic menu from a few decades ago, but everything on the menu is vegan and a lot is organic. They have daily specials that are always fresh and tasty. My old favorite though, is the Basic 2,3,4, or 5 where you pick 2,3,4 or 5 different items from a long list of choices to create your own balanced plate. There is a list of grains, beans, proteins, greens, pressed salads and house-made dressings. The house dressing is my absolute favorite and I wish they sold it in a bottle so I could take it home! I ordered the tempeh, greens (collards that night), and rice. My son had the basic two with mashed potatoes and tofu (the white plate!). My other son ordered a special, a seitan club sandwich that he said was tasty and filling. Both my sons ordered a milkshake, one vanilla one strawberry, that they both liked at first but eventually started to have a bad aftertaste and neither of them finished it. The milkshakes are made with Hemp Milk, and if you are not used to the aftertaste, it may not be the right choice for you. I ordered a fresh carrot/orange juice, which was room temperature, which is a little off-putting, but still tasted good. We couldn’t miss out on dessert, which, of course, are all vegan, so we ordered a few to share. One slice of coconut pie, chocolate tofu mousse with cashew creme (a nice version of whipped cream, but thicker and vegan), and a chocolate chip cookie, all which were very nice. The food is always good but I find that it is way overpriced now, but for a splurge and a nice, healthy, vegan meal, you can’t go wrong.

BTW, The Real Food Daily Cookbook is my go-to vegan cookbook, and I love every recipe! I got a signed copy at the restaurant when the book came out but you can get one on, of course

All vegan cookbook.
Some of my favorite recipes are the Tortilla Soup,
Corn and Bean Salad, and the BEST chocolate chip cookies!

and I just heard that Ann Gentry, the owner of Real Food Daily and author of the book, has just written another cookbook that is available now. I'm going to get one for sure!

Another exciting tidbit... Real Food Daily is the first vegan organic restaurant to open a place at the Los Angeles Airpor!t (or any American Airport as far as I know!) YAY, for healthy airport food! I haven’t tried it yet, but the next time I am in Terminal 4 at LAX, that is my first stop!

Real Food Daily
514-516 Santa Monica Blvd.
Santa Monica, CA  90401
(310) 451-7154

Back on the Beach

Back on the Beach is wonderful for breakfast or lunch. It is located
right on Santa Monica Beach and serves fresh, healthy food.
Our first morning in Santa Monica was a warm, clear and beautiful beach day! We were so lucky to be staying on the beach!  I really wanted to have a walk on the beach and my kids were really hungry for breakfast, so we decided to combine the two and have a nice walk along the water down to Back on the Beach. Back on the Beach is a lovely restaurant right on the beach in Santa Monica, and one of my favorite places.  My family from all over California used to gather here every year to celebrate the winter holidays and we would have a lovely brunch together before we opened presents and then had a winter-time walk on the beach together. So I was anxious to take my kids here during our visit and I’m so glad I did! It was wonderful! The walk from the Loews Beach Hotel to Back on the Beach took about 25-30 minutes, but what a lovely walk it was. 

A lovely walk to the restaurant and you can't beat the view!

You could rent a bike at the hotel and bike down to the Cafe, which would get you there in half the time, but I was anxious to sink my feet into the sand and feel the ocean and enjoy every minute of the beach walk on a warm, fall day, so we meandered up to the Cafe! We arrived around noon and were seated right away. We decided to eat inside by a window rather than at one of the outdoor tables because, believe it or not, it was quite hot!- and we thought we would be more comfy indoors. 

There is plenty of outdoor seating at Back to the Beach
I was ready for lunch so I ordered the beet and black bean burger, which came with cashew cheese and smoked ketchup. Yum! My sons both had egg dishes, one a cheese omelette and the other had a “make your own scramble”, where you pick from a wide variety of veggies, cheeses, and herbs to put in your scramble to make it the way you want it. They both had smoothies too, which were a big hit. We all had a great meal. BOTB is NOT a vegetarian cafe, they have several meat dishes (grass fed beef, cage free eggs and Mary’s free range chicken), but they have a wide variety of vegetarian and vegan dishes and their cooking is clean and fresh. We loved it!

Back on the Beach is a certified green business in Santa Monica, CA

Back on the Beach
445 Pacific Coast Highway
Santa Monica, CA 90402
310 393—8282

STAYING STRESS FREE: Walking or Biking

Palisades Park is great for walking during the day

Exercise to stay healthy and stress free. Beach Bike path from our hotel runs for miles up and down the coast and it is a wonderful way to get in some exercise and take in the spectacular view at the same time. If you want to get your feet wet, you can stroll along the sand instead. If you don’t want to get your feet wet, or dodge bike riders on the path, there is a lovely walking path above the cliffs in Palisades Park, right on Ocean Avenue. The windy path goes through a grassy, well-maintained park that overlooks the Pacific, with beach access (steps and bridges) in a few places, and plenty of benches to sit and watch the sunset. Be warned that Palisades Park has a fair amount of homeless people, but is patrolled regularly by SMPD on foot, on bikes, and in patrol cars.

PF Changs

PF Changs is my favorite chain Asian Restaurant, and always one of our fav restaurants to go to when we travel.  Their food is consistently tasty and fresh, and they offer a wide variety of vegan and vegetarian items. They even have a Vegetarian menu.  So it was definitely on our list of places to eat, during this trip. We headed to the PF Changs in Santa Monica for dinner our second night. It is walkable from our hotel, but a good 15-20 minute walk. The route to/from the restaurant goes through the Santa Monica Promenade, so it is a fun, busy and entertaining walk.  This PF Changs is always very crowded but we were lucky and were seated right away. We ordered some hot tea, veggie dumplings and edamame to start. There were four of us for dinner so we then ordered the Buddha’s Feast with baked tofu and mixed veggies, Ma Po Tofu with steamed broccoli, veg sauce, ginger and chili paste (it’s a little HOT), vegetarian fried rice, a side of garlic spinach and a side of green beans.

Ma Po Tofu with broccoli is one of our favorite dishes
  All were hot (temperature hot!), tasty and reasonably priced. You can’t go wrong here, especially if you are vegetarian and looking for a nice, healthy meal when dining out. YUM!

P.F. Changs
326 Wilshire Blvd.
Santa Monica, CA  90401
(310) 395-1912

Saturday, February 14, 2015

❀❀ Bach Flower Remedies for Travel ❀❀

I LOVE Bach Flower Remedies. They are easy to use and a wonderful boost to emotional health. They are the perfect, natural remedy to take with you when traveling.  


Dr. Edward Bach (1886-1936) was a British Physician and Homeopath who believed that mental health and attitude played an important role in one's overall good health and well-being. Although trained as a conventional doctor, he became increasingly dissatisfied with the limitations of orthodox medicine and it's focus on curing symptoms, rather than the underlying cause of problems and illnesses. In 1919-1922, while working as a pathologist and bacteriologist in London, he met Samuel Hahnemann, the father of homeopathy, and was inspired to find a way to heal patients emotional health using flower essences. He discovered 38 essences, plus Rescue Remedy, all of which are designed to help cope with  difficult life situations, such as anxiety, depression, and trauma and are not designed to suppress negative thoughts but to transform them into positive ones, stimulating one's own self-healing. They are completely safe, have no side effects and there are no restrictions as to who can take them.  I love them!

Here are a few of my favorite BACH FLOWER REMEDIES for traveling:


For stress and sadness, especially if you are separating from a loved one. Also a very good remedy if you are attending a funeral, memorial service, or are in any state of bereavement.

The name says it all, this is perfect for impatience. Waiting in a long line at an airport, hassles going through security, missed a connection, flight delays, stuck in traffic. This remedy will give you the extra patience you need and lower your stress level. If you are easily irritated, get annoyed when something isn't done instantly or correctly to your standards, or often fidgety, this remedy is for you.

If you are concerned for the safety and well-being of a loved one, this is a wonderful. I tend to often worry about my children's safety, health, and happiness while traveling. This is one of my favorites.


This is a great remedy for those who are worried and have fears but are not sure why or what exactly they fear. Sometimes when I travel, I am worried about something...but don't really know what or why. Where is my passport? Did I forget something? Is this area/town safe? This is perfect to help ease that stress.


This one is a staple. A great remedy for stress and sudden changes. My homeopath recommended 10 drops in a large water bottle and sip it slowly throughout the day or evening during travel. 


Rescue Remedy: Put 4 drops on your tongue and swish around for immediate relief from an acute stressful situation. Place 4-6 drops of RR in 8oz of water and sip throughout the day for on-going stress or trauma.
Bach Flower Essences: Put two drops directly on the tongue and swish around and/or 2 drops in 8oz or more of water to sip at intervals throughout the day.

I will add to this post all the time and cover most of the essences and how they are best used.

Sunday, February 8, 2015


My girlfriend and I and our kids like take a few days away together around New Year’s. This year we went to San Francisco. It’s a nice time to visit the city since a lot of the Holiday crowds have died down and often (although not this year) hotels have some discount prices. Around New Year there is still holiday decorations up, after-Christmas sales, and a festive atmosphere everywhere.

Triton Hotel

Many years ago, when the Triton Hotel first opened, it was a hip, modern boutique hotel. I stayed there while on a work trip to San Francisco once and thought it was wildly different and unique. 

Triton Hotel lobby years ago
It is conveniently located in front of the gate to Chinatown, and walking distance to Union Square, and loads of restaurants, shopping, and the Powell Street cable car. It’s a perfect location. Recently, Kimpton Hotels bought the Triton. Kimpton Hotels were one of the first Hotel Chain companies to boast that their hotels are “green”, and they still maintain that ideal. Their website states that they use non-toxic cleaning supplies, recycle, serve only organic coffee, and also give $10.00 of your room fee to the Nature Conservancy. I did not see any evidence of any of this during this visit because I didn’t see the housekeeping cart nor do I drink coffee, so I can’t verify either way, but you should check them out via their website: 


So, I love that the Triton is now a Kimpton Hotel. Years back, I used to try to stay at Kimpton Hotels whenever possible because of their green initiatives, but their hotel room rates have gone up so much, I haven’t been able to stay at a Kimpton in quite awhile. Another thing I remember about Kimpton Hotels years ago is that they were very kid-friendly. When my kids were little we would check into a Kimpton Hotel and right away the front desk person or concierge would give them each a little drawstring backpack with toys, crayons, playing cards, and snacks inside. They loved it. So when my friend said she wanted to stay at the Triton this trip, I said SURE. My kids are teenagers now, but Kimpton still says they have something special upon arrival for every age! We looked forward to it! Triton’s room rates were fairly high, around $160-$180 for a small room with 2 double beds, certainly no deal, but my friend really wanted to stay there so we reserved 2 rooms for the 6 of us.


We arrived at the Triton just after check-in time at 3:00p.m. and there was no street parking available, even to pull over, so my friend dropped me off quickly and I ran inside to check-in while she and the kids drove around the block until a spot turned up. There was one person in front of me checking in at the front desk and when it was my turn to check in, there was some confusion with the rooms (two rooms, two different prices…) and it took quite a while to straighten out. I asked for a quiet room, as I always do when traveling, and she ended up trying to check us into rooms that were already occupied!  Not good. Also, when I asked her about any “special gifts for kids” that Kimpton offers, she had no clue about it. Frustrating. While she was trying to straighten out our rooms I asked her for a dinner recommenation for a vegetarian friendly restaurant on the healthy side. This was San Francisco, after all, and I know they are known for their wide variety of vegan, vegetarian, and healthy food places. She sadly recommend a diner down the street, that was very well known but didn’t have anything close to healthy or vegan, since it was an old-fashioned diner. Lovely and retro but not the place to go for what we were looking for. I decided this front desk girl was not the best person to help us out with this, so I just waited until she tried to find us a room. But…the day was saved when she ended her shift “mid-check-in”, and handed us off to Jason, another front desk person. 


Jason found us two rooms right away, on the fourth floor facing the street (FYI: rooms facing the alley are much more noisy, since garbage trucks come daily at the crack of dawn to pick up the trash for the surrounding restaurants, etc). I mentioned the special Kimpton surprises for kids and he promised to bring us up some “treats” for the kids and gave us a $10.00 credit toward anything in the mini-bar. Yay Jason! As I mentioned before, The Triton has always been known as a funky, hip, modern hotel and it hasn’t really changed much, even though it is a Kimpton Hotel now. We checked into our rooms and found the furnishings were fun and different.
double beds
coat hooks between the odd place for them.. 
cute retro bench
 The mini-bar was stocked with the usual fare as well as some new, fun and hilarious items such as condoms, aspirin, and rubber ducks! 

The room was small, as I expected, but fine for us and it wasn’t long before Jason brought up a tray full of treats as promised.

Our treats from Jason
That was really great. Nice customer service. There were a few downsides to staying in a funky hotel room. The view of the street was nice enough, but the windows had shutters, which looked cute but didn’t cut out the light in the morning as much as I would have liked. Also, I got really cold in the middle of the night. When I ran over to the closet to look for a blanket on the shelf where most hotels keep extra blankets and pillows for guests, I didn’t find any blankets or pillows, but I did find a yoga mat. Yeah, it’s THAT kind of hotel. But it was perfect for what we needed and I would recommend it for the location and their green practices. Ask for Jason.

See my review of the TRITON HOTEL on Trip Advisor under HealthyGypsyTraveller

Triton Hotel

342 Grant Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94108

(415) 394-0500



After settling into out hotel room we headed out to see a movie at the METERON, a huge multiplex with 16 movie theaters just south of Market, which was about a 10-15 minute walk from the hotel. The theater is very large, crowded and confusing, and there is a bit of a walk from the theaters to the concession stand.  Concessions offered the usual food fare and when I asked how their popcorn was made, they said that it was indeed vegan and they used Orville Redenbacher brand popcorn, which they pop on site, and instead of butter, they offer a popcorn topping that is butter flavored and made from soy bean oil. A large tub costs $6.75.

AMC Meteron Multiplex
35 4th Street, San Francisco, CA 94103
(415) 369-6000


After the movie we were all starving for dinner, so we took a look at Trip Advisor for veg-friendly restaurants near our hotel. (HappyCow is a great site for finding veg-friendly restaurants, but I find it is often limited. Trip Advisor works better for me) I thought we would try E&O Kitchen for dinner since it was very near our hotel and served Asian Fusion fare, which is usually very vegetarian-friendly and kid friendly, and it had excellent reviews. We walked over to E&O and, since it was a Friday night, the place was packed. The hostess took our name and cell phone number and said she would phone us when our table was ready or a place opened up at the bar. She figured about 45 minutes to 1 hour. We were all so very hungry so we walked around a bit to take our mind off our hunger and, well, basically, I’m still waiting for them to call! They never did!  
So after 45 minutes, I gave in to a unanimous vote to go to California Pizza Kitchen (more on E&O Kitchen later!)



My kids love CPKs and it is our old stand-by whenever we travel, but since I eat a HEALTHY plant-based diet, I’ve always struggled finding healthy, vegan options on the menu. To make matters worse, in the past few years, CPK has taken the few healthy, veg. items I really liked off of the menu, such as the Asparagus Soup and the Broccoli Fusilli, so I was not looking forward to dinner there, but I was pleasantly surprised! The restaurant had not wait, although they were busy, and we were shown a table right away. For appitizers/starters there was a nice hummus plate, a lovely healthy vegan option for me, and the others ordered a variety of flatbreads, spinach and mushroom was a favorite. For the main course, the kids, all ordered vegetarian pizzas, of which they had a great selection, plus gluten-free pizzas and extra thin and crispy crust pizzas. They were all thrilled. The next quest was finding something vegan. I am not a big fan of salads but they had 2 nice, new hearty salads, Asparagus and Arugula Salad, and Quinoa and Arugula Salad. I tried the Asparagus and Arugula which had toasted almonds, sun-dried tomatoes and fresh shaved parmesan cheese. I shared it with my vegetarian friend, who loves cheese, and it was easy to take the thin cheese slices off my portion of the salad to give to her to make mine vegan, and hers vegetarian. If I was having it for myself, I would have asked them to substitute the cheese for avocado. They are VERY accommodating about substitutions. My girlfriend ordered the Thai Crunch Salad for us to share, which comes with chicken but we asked for avocado instead. It also comes with edamame and crispy rice noodles on it, as well as peanuts and a peanut dressing.  I don’t eat non-organic peanuts (do you know non-organic peanuts are one of the most toxin-laden foods? ♥︎♥︎ see below…) but it was easy to leave them off my side, and I asked for a different dressing for me. They brought both dressings on the side. Perfect. My kids and I also had the lemonade, which came in a variety of flavors. My son had the raspberry lemonade and I had the peach lemonade. I’m sure it’s made with not-so-healthy flavored syrups but it was fun to try. Refills were free. I will definitely go back to CPKs again.

California Pizza Kitchen
53 Third Street
San Francisco, CA  94103
(415) 278-0443

♥︎♥︎ One of my very favorite books of all time is called: “ Diet for a Poisoned Planet: How to Choose Safe Foods for You and Your Family” by David Steinman. It was my “food bible” for many years back in the 1990s when I became vegan (from a vegetarian diet). In the book, Mr. Steinman, who grew up in Southern California where I did, discusses what pesticides and toxic residues are found in a huge array of foods, then rates all food by three colors (like a traffic light). Green Foods, which are fairly non-toxic/low pesticides, Yellow Foods, which has some toxic/pesticide issues, so recommended to eat infrequently, and lastly the Red Foods, which are the most toxic and pesticide laden of all, and recommended to not eat. In the book, peanuts are listed as one of the few RED foods. Here is what it states:  
“Peanuts take the grand prize for the most pesticide-saturated food in the American diet based on results from the Total Diet Study. Peanuts had 183 residues in sixteen samples, representing 17 different formulations on their environment metabolites. Most frequently detected pesticides were chlorpyrifos, diazinon, dicloran, dieldrin, phonons, HCB, Malathion, pentachloroaniline, penta, quintozene, tecnazene, and toxaphene. Less frequently detected were BHC, chlorpropham, DDT, heptachlor, and tetrachlorobenzenes. Eating an average of slightly less than 2 ounces of dry-roasted peanuts a day over a lifetime would result in a risk of as many as twenty excess cancers in one million persons. A naturally occurring carcinogenic mold, aflatoxin, grows on peanuts, adding to the potential risk of this food. Look for organic brands that are sun-dried in the field to prevent aflatoxin growth. Arrowhead Mills organic peanut butter is made with peanuts dried this way.”  

P.S. This book is fantastic and was my 
“food bible” for many years. I love it! Read it!



Right next door to the Triton Hotel, was Caffe Presse. The front desk girl at the Triton recommended it for breakfast when I asked them for a healthy-type restaurant with veg options recommendation (and you remember how accurate she was with her dinner recommendations…this was no different!) and since it was so convenient, we went there for breakfast our first morning. What a mistake! For starters, there is not much terribly healthy on the menu, it is a menu of butter and sugar. Sadly, there is nothing vegan to eat at all except for a fruit plate, but they have several vegetarian options such as buttermilk pancakes, croissants, egg dishes and omlettes, and a yogurt parfait. One of us ordered the french toast, that arrived so buttery no one could eat it so I sent it back asking for them to please serve it dry. It came back just as buttery/greasy so I assume they just have a nasty, oily griddle that they cook it on, or they just ignored my request. 

Very buttery French Toast

My son had the same buttery-ness on his pancakes, but he didn’t mind and ate most. I suppose since they are a “French” cafe they think that French means butter, butter and more butter. When really, it just means it’s gross. 

A few others ordered the vegetarian omelette, which had spinach, tomatoes and feta cheese. The omelette came with the veggies inside raw, which was a bit unappealing, but perhaps that was just a personal taste. I think it would be a lot nicer to saute the veggies first, before folding them into the omelette.

spinach, tomato, and feta omelette
They were also terribly rude and pretentious in the restaurant. When we first entered the cafe, we were met by a most unfriendly host, whom I found out later was, sadly, the manager. I went over and asked for a table for us and he glared at me and asked if I had made reservations. What? Really? Reservations for breakfast? Ah, no. Perhaps reservations for Sunday Brunch at the Four Seasons, but for a small Cafe, uh, no. He shook his head (tsk tsk) and told us to wait. He strolled over a few minutes later and showed us to a small table, all by itself in a nook in the back of the cafe. No problem, we loved it. We endured more unfriendly encounters with the manager, that I won’t go into the details here because it really has nothing to do with HEALTHY TRAVEL, but we did not enjoy our experience at Cafe Presse at all. 

Most items are not on the healthy side but 
a lot of choices for vegetarians
No vegan choices
Stressful, crowded, noisy, pretentious atmosphere

If you would like to read more about our experience at Cafe Presse, you can read my review on 
Trip Advisor under HealthyGypsyTraveller.


E&O Kitchen

Remember earlier I mentioned we came to E&O Kitchen our first night for dinner and they took down our name and cell phone because it was an hour wait and, yes, we are still waiting for the call! I was really disappointed because I was really looking forward to trying this place, so the following afternoon we stopped by for lunch. It was a Saturday mid-day and not very crowded at all.. The atmosphere was dark and not too cheery in the daytime and we were seated in the back. We started with an order of WOOD ROASTED EDAMAME BEANS with Shiso fumi furikake and maldon salt (??), yeah, I wasn't sure what that meant either, but it was tasty, although a little burnt (gotta watch those carcinogenic burnt black toxins!). 

Edamame appetizer

There really wasn’t very many vegetarian options that looked appealing, so my friend and I decided to try a few small plates. My friend ordered the BUTTERNUT SQUASH DUMPLINGS with Thai red curry lemongrass sauce, and basil oil, which truly was a “small plate”, and I ordered the SHIITAKE MUSHROOM DUMPLINGS with Soy butter pan sauce. They were both yummy but each small plate, which is more appropriate for a starter, had 4 dumplings on it and cost $13.00.  

dumpling small plate
OUR kids all ordered the PAD THAI, that came with white prawns, tofu, egg, bean sprouts, preserved radish, peanuts, roasted chilies, and lime. We asked for it without the prawns, which they accommodated, but still charged us the full $18.00 for the dish. WOW! I really never understand why vegetarian/vegan options are not cheaper, and often more expensive than the food with meat.  Such as Starbucks charging extra for soy or almond milk but not for cows milk. $18.00 for noodles with prawns is understandable, but without the prawns it should have cost significantly less.The food was very tasty, but $120.00 later we walked out hungry. I would not come back here for lunch or dinner again, especially with the family, as it is not as veg friendly as I had hoped. I can’t imagine what it would cost if we ordered enough food until we were full! It may be a nice place to come for drinks and a small plate if out for the evening with friends.

E&O Kitchen
314 Sutter Street, San Francisco, CA 94108
(415) 693-0303