Traveling abroad for spring break? Follow these health and safety tips for smooth sailing

Sun and surf are top priorities for many people who travel to exotic locations for “spring break. But health and safety risks may lurk behind the scenes in some countries.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers several tips to help ensure smooth sailing before, during and after spring break.

Before your trip

  • Vaccines or medicines may be recommended depending on your destination. See your doctor or a health care professional at least one month before you depart for an international trip.
  • Check the U.S. Department of State’s travel advisories and alerts by country. Register with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program in case of an emergency.
  • Pack a travel health kit with items you might need on your trip, including prescription drugs, over-the-counter medicines and condoms. If you forget something like sunscreen, you probably can buy it at your destination, but medicine brands, dosage and quality may differ. Bring written prescriptions.
  • Many health insurance plans don’t cover medical care in other countries; check yours. Consider buying trip cancellation, travel insurance or travel medical insurance, especially if you will be going to a remote place.

During your trip

  • Be careful when tasting local food and drink. In developing countries, eat only food that has been fully cooked and served hot: son’t eat fresh vegetables or fruits unless you can peel them; drink bottled, sealed beverages; and avoid ice since it’s probably made with tap water.
  • Use insect repellent and other measures to prevent insect bites that can cause diseases, such as malaria, yellow fever and Zika.
  • Practice sun protection. Remember you can get a sunburn when it’s cloudy. Wear sunscreen of at least SPF 15, a hat and sunglasses.
  • Choose safe transportation, wear a seat belt and be alert when crossing the street. Motor vehicle crashes are the No. 1 cause of death among healthy travelers.

If you get sick or injured while traveling and need immediate medical attention, contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in that country to help find medical services.

Specific health risks

Zika: Many popular spring break destinations in the Caribbean, Central and South America and Mexico have a risk of Zika. Because the virus can cause birth defects and is spread by mosquitoes and sex, travelers to at-risk areas should prevent mosquito bites and use condoms during sex. The CDC advises pregnant women not to travel to areas with a risk of Zika. Check the CDC’s Zika page for information by country.

Yellow fever: Brazil has an ongoing yellow fever outbreak, so travelers should check the risk level at their specific destination. Get a yellow fever vaccine at least 10 days before travel (only certain U.S. clinics offer the yellow fever vaccine; find a clinic near you) and prevent mosquito bites, which is how the virus spreads.

Flu: Many countries have reported widespread flu outbreaks. Get your annual flu shot at least two weeks before a trip. During travel, wash your hands often and avoid people who are coughing or appear sick.

Measles. There are outbreaks in popular places such as Brazil, France, Greece and Italy. Make sure your MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine is up to date.

Norovirus: Outbreaks of this virus, which causes vomiting and diarrhea, have been reported on cruise ships. Wash your hands frequently and practice safe eating and drinking habits during on-shore excursions.

Hepatitis B: Avoid getting tattoos or piercings abroad to prevent infection caused by the hepatitis B virus.

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs): Use condoms to reduce your risk.

After your trip

If you don’t feel well after your trip, contact your doctor or a medical professional. You may have picked up a virus or infection. The CDC provides a list of travel medical clinics.

Don’t let a preventable illness or poor planning ruin your trip or your return home.

Note: The featured photo at the top of this blog post is by Oliver Sjöström at https://ollivves.com. The image is publicly available on Pixels.

What’s a Mormon scone?

Do you know what a Mormon scone is?

I didn’t, but I found out on a recent trip to Salt Lake City (SLC).

My education came from a food truck called Cook of Mormon run by Jordan Christensen.

These weren’t the Irish tea scones I know. Mormon scones (also called Utah scones) are more reminiscent of a doughnut or fry bread. Christensen makes his fried, yeasty treats the traditional Utah way — with mashed potatoes. He serves them with honey butter, peanut butter and jelly or cream cheese, banana, Nutella and maple syrup for $3 to $5 each.

Here’s a video Christensen posted on YouTube about making Utah scones:

When I stopped by the Christensen’s food truck last month in front of the Eccles Theater in downtown SLC, he said he’d had the idea for a while and when he heard the “Book of Mormon” was going to run Aug. 1-20 at Eccles, he rushed to open in time. What better place for the Cook of Mormon to be, right?

Now, Cook of Mormon’s website says it’s open Friday and Saturday nights in downtown SLC. Sometimes it roams the city. Just look for a bread truck painted with Utah and Mormon landmarks in bright colors.

Cook of Mormon punch cards
Christensen created postcard-sized punch cards for regular customers with food facts and related history. (Sheryl Jean)

Initially thought of as a fad when they emerged nearly a decade ago, food trucks have become legitimate alternatives to traditional dining. Entrepreneurs flock to them because they’re easier and less expensive to open than a restaurant, and attracted big-name chefs use them to reach new customers.

But it’s consumers, who like the fun, affordable and variety of choices, who are fueling the industry’s growth. The National Restaurant Association estimates that food trucks will generate about $2.7 billion in revenue this year, or four times the amount estimated just five years ago.

Christensen also sells other quintessential Utah dishes, such as funeral potatoes — diced potatoes with cheese, sour cream and butter topped with crushed potato chips ($4) — and bratwurst ($5).

If you’re in SLC, check it out.

Road trip food: Make cookies from frozen dough

Who doesn’t love a road trip?

Food, however, is always a problem on long drives. There’s either not enough or too much. And although I usually pack healthy snacks, such as fruit and nuts, it’s hard not to pick up candy or potato chips at the first rest stop.

So, in preparation for a recent road trip, I decided to make a tasty, portable snack that I hoped could stave off a junk food binge. I also wanted to make dessert for lunch guests coming before the trip.

frozen cookie dough balls
This is what frozen cookie dough looks like after spending several hours in the freezer. (Sheryl Jean)

I realized I could bake some cookies and freeze the rest of the dough to make a fresh batch later.

I dug through my clipped recipe file and found a favorite: chocolate chip oatmeal walnut cookies (recipe below). Yum!

On the eve of the lunch, I made the dough, rolling it into little balls. I baked a dozen balls into cookies that night and froze the rest.

To freeze, I lined two baking sheets with parchment paper and placed as many balls of dough as I could without touching each other. I stuck them in the freezer until the dough hardened — a few hours or overnight. (It’s a slightly different process to freeze slice-and-bake or cut-out cookie dough.)

After removing the frozen dough balls, I placed them in a large plastic freezer bag, squeezing out excess air before zipping it closed. Cookie dough can keep in the freezer for up to three months.

When you’re ready to use the frozen dough, simply take as many individual balls as you want out of the bag and place them on a cookie sheet. Add an extra minute or two to the baking directions in the recipe.

Continue reading for the recipe. Continue reading Road trip food: Make cookies from frozen dough

Remember airline food? It’s back for free on some longer Delta flights

Starting today, Californians will be among the first travelers to taste Delta Air Lines’ complimentary meals in the economy class on 12 longer U.S. routes.

Meals are first being rolled out to economy passengers on flights between New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport and the Los Angeles or San Francisco airports. Then on April 24, Delta will offer free food on 10 other routes, including Seattle, New York, Boston and Washington, D.C.

Delta’s food leans toward fresh and healthy. For breakfast, passengers can choose between a honey maple breakfast sandwich, a breakfast medley or a fruit and cheese plate. For lunch, there’s a mesquite-smoked turkey combo, a whole grain veggie wrap (main photo above courtesy of Delta Air Lines) or a fruit and cheese plate. Passengers also will get snacks.

delta-coach-cheese-plate-2017
Starting March 1, a complimentary fruit and cheese plate will be offered to economy-class passengers on some longer Delta flights. (Courtesy of Delta Air Lines)

Most airlines, including Atlanta-based Delta, stopped serving free meals in economy class by 2010. Delta says its change is part of a multi-million dollar investment in its in-flight customer experience, including upgraded snacks, better blankets, new food-for-purchase options and free in-flight entertainment.

When the airline tested the meal service on some flights late last year, its customer satisfaction scores spiked.

There are other reasons, too. Now that the airline industry is quite healthy again, carriers are re-investing some of their profits in products and services designed to retain existing customers and attract new customers in a hyper-competitive market. Free food is a way for Delta to distinguish itself from the competition .

Remaining questions include whether Delta’s free food tastes good and whether that matters to most travelers.

How to stay healthy while traveling

When I arrived home last week after an extended trip, my snuggest pair of jeans still fit.

While I don’t suggest losing weight as a holiday goal, I advocate staying healthy and active while traveling.

One of the great joys of travel is trying new things, whether it be food, drink or experiences. And people are apt to splurge while on holiday. So, go ahead and enjoy that German Schnitzel or trifle, just balance it with some vegetables in between.

The winter holidays bring special challenges because most of us eat more — and perhaps richer — food than we usually do. It’s important to stay active while spending quality time with family and friends. Take group walks before eating dinner and after dessert. Plan group outings, such as hiking, ice skating or sledding.

The fruit option for breakfast on a recent Qantas Airways flight from Sydney, Australia, to San Francisco. (Sheryl Jean)

Here are some of my tips to help you stay healthy while traveling any time of the year:

Stay hydrated: Drink as much liquid — preferably water — as possible to stay hydrated o a plane and on the ground. It’s good for your skin and aids in digestion. Avoid caffeine.

Make smart in-flight food choices: Bring or buy healthier food, such as fruit, salad or hummus, on U.S. flights. On international flights, choose fruit instead of the egg-sausage breakfast and skip dessert. Avoid salt and salty snacks, which will help your body retain water.

Continue reading How to stay healthy while traveling

Is it crayfish or lobster in Kaikoura, New Zealand?

Crayfish and whitebait fritters, and a half crayfish at Kaikoura Seafood BBQ. Fritters are served as a sandwich or on top of rice with salad. (Sheryl Jean)

This post is a homage to the people of Kaikoura, which suffered a 7.5-magnitude earthquake about two weeks after my visit. I was writing this blog post in the wee hours of the morning  the earthquake and tsunami occurred.

The little beach town of Kaikoura is known for whale watching, swimming with dolphins and fur seals, but it’s also the crayfish capital of New Zealand.

Kaikoura means “eat crayfish” in the native Maori language. However, these crayfish aren’t the small critters you find in New Orleans, but what Americans call lobster.

New Zealand salt-water crayfish is a spiny rock lobster. It has a sweeter, more subtle flavor.

Drive or walk down Kaikoura’s Beach Road to nearly the end and you’ll see a road-side trailer called Kaikoura Seafood BBQ. Stop!

The snow-capped mountains descend straight to the South Pacific Ocean in Kaikoura.

You’ll find crayfish sizzling on the grill as well as fritters (like pancakes) filled with crayfish, whitebait (another local delicacy) or other ingredients. It cost $15US for a half crayfish to $27US for a whole one, but prices elsewhere can be twice as much.

Sit to eat at a table facing spectacular powdered sugar-coated mountains descending straight to the South Pacific Ocean.

Another road-side trailer option is Nins Bin, about 12 miles north of Kaikoura on State Highway 1.