We all talk a good game about how to eat, what to eat, and the importance of preparing our own food from quality ingredients. The truth is that everyone faces the same dilemmas from time to time. Whether it's travel, working late, business lunches, social outings, or simply not being interested in cooking, there are many reasons that eating that home cooked meal may not always be possible.
I've decided to pose a series of questions to our members on a weekly basis on what gets them through these situations. You might be surprised at some of the answers and others might be exactly what you expected — either way, I'm hopeful that this will help you navigate your way through the myriad of awkward, inconvenient, or simply lazy situations you find yourself in.
Max Lugavere from New York & Los Angeles
CA: Do you put much thought into where you eat out? Or do you simply go anywhere and try to make do with what's on the menu?
ML: I am a very loyal patron of restaurants that go above and beyond to provide healthy food with high value. That said, they are few and far between, so I stick to types of cuisines that I know are already pretty healthy. You can't go wrong with Greek food — I'm a huge fan of all of the grilled fish and octopus, as well as their preference for using copious amounts of extra-virgin olive oil. I also like Japanese food, and will call in advance to see if the restaurant offers gluten-free soy sauce. I do appreciate a good steak house, particularly if they offer grass-fed beef. On the other hand, I don't always win in the restaurant choosing process. In your average restaurant, I will generally stick to grilled fish, with a large focus on grilled, steamed, or roasted vegetable sides. Things I avoid: Commercial salad dressings (always ask to make sure that they have extra-virgin olive oil and then make your own with a little balsamic vinegar), sautéed dishes which are nearly always made with inflammatory grain/seed oil, and... you knew it was coming... the bread basket..
CA: Most memorable restaurant meal in (or near) New York or Los Angeles?
ML: In New York I love a place close to where I live called Eons which is Greek food served up Chipotle-style. All of their veggies and poultry are organic, their beef is grass-fed, and they have wild salmon, shrimp, and octopus. They also have a strict extra-virgin olive oil-only policy! In Los Angeles, I love eating at Erewhon which has a great organic salad bar, and their grass-fed carne asada with chimichurri sauce has been very good to me.
CA: Most memorable restaurant meal outside of New York or Los Angeles?
ML: I was in Stockholm, Sweden, recently, where I gave the keynote talk at the Biohacker Summit. One of the activities included a meal at Restaurangakademien featuring wild ingredients foraged directly from the nature by master forager Lisen Sundgren. This ignited a strong desire in me to learn more about foraging. Did you know that though there are about 50,000 edible plants on Earth, 60% of calories consumed by humans come from only 3 of them: wheat, corn, and rice? Such a shame!
CA: For people with special diets, how do you suggest they talk with restaurant staff in order to get what they need?
ML: I generally try to educate myself about a restaurants menu before I visit the restaurant, and once there, order foods that would not typically have the components I am trying to avoid, to keep the server and chefs from having to bend over backwards for me. The only time I will raise an issue is if the description of the dish on the menu or by the server is misleading. For example, if a dish doesn't say that it comes with cheese, and has cheese on it. Or if something comes to my table that is fried, when the menu description didn't say anything about it being fried.
CA: Do you prepare an emergency meal when you travel? If so, what do you include?
ML: I will often take air travel as an opportunity to fast, but also will travel with foods in case I end up hungry (which, let's face it, happens). I will sometimes pack canned sardines, canned smoked oysters (which are delicious), grass-fed beef jerky, raw almonds, and low-sugar collagen protein bars when in a pinch.
CA: Your favorite quick meal to prepare at home?
ML: I love grilling fish or making a grass-fed beef burger patty and eating it over a heaping bowl of dark leafy greens, loaded with extra-virgin olive oil. My latest favorite addition is nutritional yeast, which lends a cheesy quality to my salad dressings and goes great with my burger patties. I am also into roasting chicken — both chicken legs, and chicken wings, which are loaded with collagen. The key is to slow roast them for 45 minutes and then turn the heat up for another 45 minutes. This dries them out and makes them perfect (I have a recipe for healthy, gluten-free buffalo wings on my site at maxlugavere.com). Generally, every meat dish I make is accompanied by a large volume of veggies, either roasted or in salad form.
CA: Do you consume alcohol? Explain why you think it is or isn’t a good idea.
ML: I used to consume moderate amounts of alcohol. Now I would say I've largely cut it out of my diet, save for 1 or 2 times per month, if that, and I will stick to Pinot Noir (a type of red wine with relatively high resveratrol content). Alcohol is a toxin, and a recent study with a 30-year follow-up found that even moderate alcohol drinkers (~5-7 drinks/week) had 3x the odds of hippocampal atrophy (shrinkage of the memory center of the brain) of abstainers. That said, the polyphenols in red wine might offset some of alcohol's toxicity. When I do drink I like to drink on an empty stomach. For one, this allows me to drink less of it and "feel the buzz," while allowing my liver to prioritize processing the toxin, without overloading it with fats and carbohydrates from food.
CA: In terms of food, what is your guilty pleasure?
ML: I will occasionally go to town on deserts made with almond or coconut flour, even if they have a little maple syrup or some other "Paleo-approved" sweetener in them. I just try to time my indulgence so that I'd had a workout sometime before.
Max Lugavere is the director of an upcoming documentary titled BREAD HEAD, the first-ever film to explore the impact of diet and lifestyle on brain health. He's become a prominent voice in health after just a short time since launching his Kickstarter for the film which drew support from thousands of people around the globe. He has hosted content for WebMD, Vice, and Yahoo Health and is a recurring "core expert" on The Dr. Oz Show. His Facebook vlogs have garnered thousands of fans where he delivers bite-sized blasts of easily digestible information on health science topics ranging from intermittent fasting to the microbiome. He is a prolific speaker and has given talks ranging from the academic at both the NY Academy of Sciences and University of Illinois' Center for Nutrition, Learning and Memory, to the actionable at Equinox's 2016 High Performance Living Symposium.
In late 2013, he created and hosted Acting Disruptive, a web series viewed by millions online, dubbed “two parts big ideas, one part late night talk show” which featured the entrepreneurial passion projects of A-listers like Jessica Alba, Adrian Grenier, Jared Leto and more. It was dubbed one of the "Best Streaming Shows of 2013" by Entertainment Weekly.
He was a prominent producer and host of Al Gore’s Emmy-nominated Current TV from 2005-2011 and was featured in Gap's "Icons" campaign worldwide in 2008.
In his spare time, Max explores his musical interests, and released an EP called "One Year Later" which can currently be heard aboard Virgin America airplanes nationwide.