An apple a day...

Incorporating healthy eating habits

As the saying goes, "An apple a day keeps the doctor away." Knowing how expensive healthcare can be, keeping away from your physician can be a cost saver as well as a life saver. But there is another way an apple a day can save you money: Reduced fuel burn. What? Has Sackier completely lost his mind? Nope. The amount of avgas we consume is related in part to the load aboard, and if you reduce your personal gross weight, you will burn less fuel. So, let us once again address ways to eat in a manner to keep weight under control. Simply put, this new generation will be the first to live a shorter lifespan than their parents; eating too much and poor foods is the culprit.

When I was in medical school in England (no jokes about gas lamps and pre-TV please), we were horrified to hear that maybe two in 100 Americans had diabetes. Shocking. Now, a few decades later if you factor in metabolic syndrome or pre-diabetes, that number has rocketed to one in three! Why is this? Simple, poor diet and bad lifestyle choices.

On our recent webinar about reasons pilots get denied, one attendee slammed me for preaching about making healthy choices, but the simple expedient is this: The single biggest thing one can do to improve lifespan and healthspan, (the length of one’s life where disease is absent), is eat well and exercise. So I shall continue to preach!  

Astonishing as it sounds, while your mother was right about many things, she was not correct about a few related to food. For example, “Don’t talk while eating” is actually a bad idea—if you engage in conversation you will eat less because your stomach will have time to signal your brain that it is full. (Additionally, you will bond with your family and build memories to share). She also told you to finish everything on your plate and she was 100 percent out of order—leaving some food is the culinary equivalent of controlled flight. Not drinking while dining? Wrong! Consuming water also reduces one’s caloric intake. Each time you sit down to eat responsibly just think of all that go-juice you will be saving! And as for sitting down, here’s another trick: Do not eat while watching a TV show or movie about airplanes, or anything else for that matter; that is a great way to consume while distracted and you will eat more. Don’t drive drunk, don’t dine distracted.

Ever notice how the baggage hold is just big enough for everything you stuff in and the little slot for papers on board is always full? Same goes for dinner plates and bowls: Try getting smaller crockery—you will, out of necessity, serve smaller portions.

I do not cut my food into bite size chunks all at once. Setting your cutlery down while chewing also slows the rate of consumption and ensures the meal is mentally, as well as nutritionally beneficial.

Mum also told you not to “spoil your appetite”—I positively encourage you to do so! For instance, a mid-morning or afternoon snack of some almonds and celery sticks will ensure your trip to the pizza restaurant leads to one, instead of five slices. And those two foods are among my favorite to take on board to keep my hunger at bay. 

Your mother encouraged eating regular meals but while there is some social sense in that, eating when not hungry merely to fulfill an obligation is harmful to your health. If circumstances demand you must join a crowd of people who are going to eat, explain you dined earlier and beg their forgiveness but don’t eat to gratify someone else! 

Here are a few other useful tips: 

  • Eat more fruit: A breakfast of granola and a bunch of berries and banana with soy or almond milk will set you up for the day. A snack of an apple really will keep me away, and the dentist as well!
  • Limit red meat consumption and have smaller portions—3 ounces, for instance. Surround the meat with all sorts of delicious vegetables.
  • Drink water instead of carbonated beverages. It does not have to come in a fancy bottle—in most places in the United States, water from a public water source is just fine. For that matter, some of the bottled waters also come from a public water source!
  • When cooking, spice your food up with herbs and spices instead of salt and butter.
  • The older cookery books will say that there is no food that is not improved by adding butter and cream. My cardiologist friends rub their hands together at that pronouncement. Use those items very sparingly and replace with low-fat sour cream.
  • Cut down sugar intake. We consume way too much in America, and packaged and fast foods contain massive amounts of sugar.

So, if you don’t like my preaching, at least consider that this may save on your fuel bills. And we can all drink to that!

 Not an AOPA Pilot Protection Services Participant? Learn more about the program here.  Ready to enroll? You may do so here.
Jonathan Sackier
Dr. Jonathan Sackier is an expert in aviation medical concerns and helps members with their needs through AOPA Pilot Protection Services.

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