When you travel overseas, your diet inevitably changes for the time you are away. Even visiting places that are not so different, like Western Europe, there are foods very similar to what we can find at home, yet not quite the same. The concept of something as simple as salad may be quite different (I couldn't find one without olives, capers, anchovies, and other things I do not eat regularly). After two nearly back-to-back weeks in Milan eating full-fay dairy, meat that has been cured differently (and, in the case of hams, with much more salt), having pasta and wine at almost every meal, my insides feel very different. I now have the daunting task of getting myself right. Here are some guidelines for the gastronomically weary traveler that worked for me during my week between trips, and that will be used by me again in the event that my cold doesn't flush things out.
Getting Back to Basics
First, breakfast has got to change. My hotel in Italy had a wonderful breakfast buffet that was included in my room rate. And every morning I hit it hard. Scrambled eggs (real eggs, not from a carton or reconstituted powdered eggs) with ham and salami and mortadella and strange cheeses washed down with coffee with steamed full-fat milk meant that I hit my body with more fat during that first meal than I typically consume during my normal breakfast and lunch combined. So, my first step is to switch to that most basic of breakfasts - oatmeal.
I'm not talking instant oatmeal or even quick oats. To really get back to normal, you need some dietary fiber. You need Scottish-style steel-cut oats. Add some fruit and nuts (or my favorite - peanut butter) and you've got a good, solid breakfast. If you have limited time for breakfast, make a pot on Sunday and reheat a portion a day. (Here's a link to my recipe). Or, if there's a Whole Foods nearby, they offer it as part of their breakfast bar.
Regulating Blood Sugar
The oatmeal will also help regulate your blood sugar, especially if you have been someplace where wine is just part of the meal. Personally, I don't drink a lot of alcohol or eat a lot of sweets at this point, so the pasta-wine-dessert-liqueur dinners in Italy really got to be a bit much. Amazingly delicious, but just a tad over the top. All the simple carbohydrates left me feeling a bit wonky - restless and night and groggy in the morning. To get your blood sugar right, along with the oatmeal, add fresh juice to your diet for a week.
Again, I don't mean the not-from-concentrate varieties of carton juice. I mean go to Wegman's or Whole Foods or the local food co-op and cough up the $10 for a gallon of orange or grapefruit juice that they have juiced on premises that day. The natural sugar of the juice will help you adjust to the missing wine and dessert that your body may now expect, and the additional nutrients and fiber will help balance out your sugar levels.
Most people shy away from this word for the obvious connotations. If you are cleansing, you are expelling things from your body. Do not be afraid. I have one simple addition to your diet that will make a big difference.
Most cleansing packs that you can buy really overdo things, as do the drinks and teas. Plus they taste terrible. My method also tastes a little weird, but it involves one supplement, not a mighty cocktail. It's chlorophyll.
You can find liquid chlorophyll at health food stores, co-ops, and (of course) Whole Foods. Pick up a bottle and follow the instructions to reconstitute. Drink a glass in the morning when you first get up and one in the evening before bedtime. It does taste a little strange, so I use about a cup of water and I drink it quickly. And brush your teeth afterward. The bottle will most likely carry a warning about staining. This warning is for more than your clothing.
Yes it will flush the system. No it won't make you bloated or gassy or make you sweat or strike at inopportune times. What it will give you is a good dose of plant-based protein, something I was sorely missing in Italy, where most of the vegetables I found were cooked to a mushy hell. (Not to say that they weren't tasty - they were. But overcooked veggies have much of the nutrition cooked out of them). There are a whole host of other purported benefits associated with chlorophyll. Just know that it will make you regular in a fairly unobtrusive way. It's supposedly a blood purifier, so it may also flush out your respiratory system. You won't become a sneezing, snotty mess, but you should keep some Kleenex handy.
My only other advice is to just take it easy that first week back. Eat a lot of soups and salads and fresh fruit. Scale back the dairy and bread and salt. Drink plenty of water and fresh juice. Take a walk whenever you can. Go to bed when the clock tells you to. And remember all those wonderful flavors and textures and try your best to make them at home.