When is a Fitness Room Not a Fitness Room — Or — “How to Make Chicken Salad Out of Chicken…” WAIT! I Mean: “…Out of a Complimentary Fitness Room Breakfast”

Spontaneous vacations are a ton of fun for Kathy and me. We love to drive. We also love to drive to wherever the wind — or road — takes us.

On the first day of our trip to Kathy’s sister’s new place in North Carolina earlier this month, we enjoyed a beautiful drive along the unbeaten path of western and southern Indiana. Early evening, we stopped for a milk shake just north of Louisville (hey, it was vacation). We contemplated where to spend the night as we half-planned our itinerary for the following day.

As we left the parking lot, the skies began to cloud up, but we had no idea what was in store.

The beauty and serenity day came to a screeching halt the second (and I do mean the second) we crossed the Ohio River. Buckets of rain and ferocious wind rocked us as we crept along Interstate 65. It was one of the nastiest thunderstorms either of us ever remember driving through. We exited the highway twice to catch our breath. After the second attempt to make meaningful progress, we were ready to find a hotel… STAT!

We landed at a La Quinta, courtesy of the Hotel Tonight mobile app. Wouldn’t have been our first choice, but it became our oasis for the evening. The room was decent enough. It was reasonably quiet, but best of all, we weren’t traveling down the road surrounded by a wall of water and wind.

And they offered a complimentary breakfast.

I approach these complimentary breakfasts with a grain of salt (no pun intended). Hampton Inn has clearly set the standard for the average traveler with a complete breakfast buffet — none of this “continental breakfast” stuff — and the other chains do their best to imitate Hampton, but most don’t even come close.

The La Quinta was no exception.

In their defense, the hotel was under renovation. Their breakfast bar area was completely closed off.

Fitness Room Breakfast 4

Fitness Rule #7: Only one stale, tasteless sweet roll per workout.

 

So they moved the fitness equipment out of the fitness room. That’s where they set up the breakfast bar.

The juxtaposition was priceless.

My photos are awful. I didn’t want to get other guests into the shots and I took them hastily.

The photo to the left shows one of the containers of sweet cereal, the sweet rolls and muffins, sitting under the Fitness Center Rules sign.

Rule 6: Unsupervised use of this facility by children is prohibited.

That’s just way too funny.

 

But the point is that you can make chicken salad out of… well, I can’t say that in a family setting… so… you can make good choices, even at a bad complimentary continental breakfast buffet.

And the good choices are not always as obvious as conventional health and fitness wisdom would lead you to believe.

Temporary location or not, the breakfast fare at La Quinta was rather standard for a non-Hampton complimentary breakfast. So the excuse of not having their usual digs only goes so far.

A more complete view of the "dry cereal and starch bar."

A more complete view of the “dry cereal and starch bar.”

Three cereals. All sweet.

Really?

And if you really need to spike your blood sugar, not only do you get simple carbs with ultra-processed wheat flour, you also get a significant helping of sugar on your pastries.

At least one of the cereal choices was raisin bran (why the cereal makers find it necessary to add sugar to a cereal with raisins is beyond me). Adding milk gives you a nice dose of protein.

So there’s Relatively Nice Choice #1. If given the choice of three sweetened cereals, choose the raisin bran. Low-fat or no-fat milk gives you a decent balance of semi-decent-quality carbohydrate, some fiber, and lean protein.

If you can choose unsweetened Cheerios (or similar toasted oat cereal), either that or raisin bran. What you sacrifice with sugar in the raisin bran, you probably give up in a gram or two of fiber.

Don’t ever forget your fiber!

Fitness Room Breakfast 2

Water, milk, and juice, yogurt (in the container), fresh fruit.

Quick quiz. What’s the best choice here if you have to pick one — and only one — for breakfast?

Water?

Always important, but you need calories.

Juice?

Probably not. All the fiber is processed out of the finished product. You’re left with sugar. And once you drink it, a spike in your blood sugar. Prepare for a quick energy crash. (With the water, you don’t have to worry about an energy crash. You don’t provide your body with any energy to begin with!)

Fresh fruit?

A better choice, but probably not the best choice pictured. Bad: lots of sugar. Good: fiber, which will moderate the blood sugar crash. But no protein.

Yogurt?

Here’s the good: protein. Here’s the bad: added sugar. Fiber: likely minimal or nonexistent.

Leaving us with the best choice on the table…

Milk!

No fiber, but the sugar content is natural, not processed added sugar. You get healthy, lean protein. And if it’s low-fat, you get a little fat, which is also essential in the digestive process.

And then you get your fiber later.

(But… don’t forget your fiber!)

Fitness Room Breakfast 1

The delectable hot food selection, condiments, and some hard boiled eggs!

What do you do with this? Biscuits and gravy, baked or fried potatoes (not sure… probably microwaved), and hard boiled eggs.

Best choice by far: the hard boiled eggs. And yes, the whole egg, yolk and all. The fat and cholesterol content of the yolk is unfairly maligned and actually contains essential nutrients that comprise a healthy diet.

Here’s what I did with this table and the rest of the breakfast.

I started with raisin bran and milk and three hard boiled eggs.

The hard boiled eggs were hard as rocks. Likely overcooked and they tasted like they’d been in the refrigerator for … oh… a month or so (editorial note: just kidding!).

That was a turn-off, but I don’t throw away food unless it tastes like poison (or Brussels sprouts; or chickpeas). So I sauntered back to the hot food and ladled some gravy on top of the eggs, which I had cut into bite-sized pieces.

I was pleasantly surprised at how light the creamy gravy was. I’m sure it was packaged. But it was tasty. It improved the taste of the eggs and filled me up.

None of these items were my first choices. But it fulfilled my objective of getting:

  • lean protein (milk and eggs… oh yeah, and the gravy)
  • starchy carbohydrate (the bran flakes, raisins, milk, and gravy)
  • fibrous carbohydrate (the bran flakes)

I’ll say it again. Do not be fooled by the fat in an egg. It’s good for you.

Not pictured: the coffee bar, which also included some packets of instant oatmeal, loaded with sugar. If instant, plain oatmeal is an option, that is also an alternative to raisin bran and Cheerios. It’s processed, but will generally provide a couple grams of fiber.

All right… Kathy and I are back home again. We survived the Smoky Mountains and more heavy rain on our way there, but nothing close to that first night.

On our trip, we stayed at several Hampton Inns. They do breakfast right, providing a larger variety of food, including cooked old fashioned oatmeal, and some healthy options along with the usual fare. Could be the subject of a separate piece some day…

The big view of a Hampton breakfast buffet.

The big view of a Hampton breakfast buffet.

(Still, I couldn’t wait to fix my own steel-cut oatmeal this morning. I really missed it!)

 

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6 Responses to When is a Fitness Room Not a Fitness Room — Or — “How to Make Chicken Salad Out of Chicken…” WAIT! I Mean: “…Out of a Complimentary Fitness Room Breakfast”

  1. I am a Special K breakfast gal. Although, I do love biscuits and sausage gravy. I try to stay away from that, but I do stray at times. Thanks for pointing out that even on a road trip, there is always a more healthy alternative than processed food.

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  2. Rebeca Jones says:

    This made me laugh, as we just got back from a few days on the road and you described the usual continental breakfast fare perfectly!

    I usually shoot for the strangely colored, obviously processed eggs and a bit of sausage. I know the sausage is too fatty, but at least it’s protein and since I have a propensity to become insulin resistant, I figured it better than the sugary offerings.

    I did notice that Yoplait yogurts are touting a lower sugar content recently. I did down one of those one morning, but usually (at home) stick with low sugar greek varieties. Do those choices sound reasonably healthy?

    Love your descriptions. Glad you survived the storm and made it home to your steel-cut oats! (I haven’t been able to get a taste for that yet, but chickpeas…yummy!)

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    • Glad you enjoyed it, Rebeca. We made it home last night. I was so happy to have my steel-cut oatmeal this morning. Oats, almonds, flax seeds, and fresh frozen blueberries. Oh… and a splash of milk. Yummy.

      I’m not a dietician or a trained nutritionist, but I do like your way of thinking about the little bit of sausage with your eggs.

      Yes, I’d say your choices sound reasonably healthy. The rule of thumb I try to keep in mind is to attempt to eat a lean protein, a starchy carbohydrate, and a fibrous carbohydrate in every meal or to balance out my eating by getting whatever I missed as soon as possible the next time I eat. Not easy on the road without good planning! And that’s a challenge for me.

      I also noticed the lower sugar content Yoplait yesterday at the Hampton Inn in Northeast Louisville. I tried a couple. They weren’t bad in a pinch. I noticed corn starch in the ingredients; don’t think that’s in most full-sugar yogurt. I prefer Greek yogurt, too, primarily because of the higher protein content. More bang for the buck, so to speak.

      Kathy just loves hummus and she teases me about it all the time. I know how healthy it is. I just can’t get past the consistency and taste.

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      • Rebeca Jones says:

        Ooh, I’m with your wife. I love hummus! :)

        Thanks for the input. I’m trying to implement healthier choices that I can maintain over the long haul. I have friends on all of the bandwagons, cutting out entire food groups and losing tons of weight, but I just can’t help but feel that it’s not a healthy, balanced approach.

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      • Rebeca, there are so many fads out there. And there’s no need to jump on one of those bandwagons. Your instincts are right on the money!

        Here’s the secret, and it’s not really a secret. It’s common sense. To make lasting, healthy, physical changes, you need sensible nutrition (see the blog post!), strength training (you don’t need insane bodybuilding, but you do need to challenge yourself), and moderate cardiovascular exercise. And don’t forget to stretch. Flexibility is so important. Especially on and after those road trips.

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