Pecan and Maple Popcorn + staying healthy while travelling

Hello from Los Angeles! I’m jet-lagged and sleep-deprived and not entirely sure why I’m here or what I’m doing, but very happy to be here all the same — I enjoyed crashing my dad’s business trip to San Francisco so much last November that I decided to do it again. The surrealness of the trip kicked in this morning when, thanks to jet lag, I woke early enough to be able to see the sun rising behind the palm trees, skyscrapers and mountains on the horizon from my eighth-floor balcony.  It certainly beats Oxford in exam season.

It isn’t always easy to stay healthy when travelling, especially when crossing multiple time zones, as you sleep less, eat more, and your internal mealtime clock gets a shake up. Healthy food can also be harder to find, or else astronomically expensive. But proper nourishment is actually really important in helping your body to adjust and feel at its best, given the extra pressure being put on it. That isn’t to say that I think you should be obsessive about it – eating is an essential part of experiencing a new place, and holidays especially should be a time to unwind and not be overly concerned about what you eat. I will be eating my fair share of fried food and baked goods over the next few days, but with the knowledge that I will get the most out of the trip if I don’t overdo it, and balance it with plenty of whole-foods too.


The flight from London to LA is around 11 hours, in which time  I’d ordinarily eat three full meals plus snacks and drinks. Most airlines do of course provide food — Virgin Atlantic seems to dish out something or other every hour or so — but it is pretty nutritionally empty and not the kind of stuff that I want to eat too much of, especially when cramped and seated for such a long period of time. I’ve made a note of a few ways that I try to maintain balance while on the road/in the air.

  • I ate the main meal I was given (lunch), but requested a vegan option when I booked the flight, which from experience means I get mostly fruit and veg (and I also get served first, added bonus).
  • If possible, it’s good to try and have a big, wholesome meal before the journey to keep you full and reduce snacking — I had Greek yogurt with lots of fresh fruit, oats, honey and a large latte in the lounge  just before the flight.
  • I took a big batch of popcorn (recipe below) to ward off hunger — and accompany all the in-flight entertainment — as well as chocolate chip pecan granola bars based on my no-bake flapjack recipe, some fruit, water, and a green juice.
  • I also took some green and peppermint tea bags, and then asked for hot water periodically throughout the flight so that I could make my own tea.
  • Basically, it’s all about preparation and planning – this does mean one more thing to think about, but none of the snacks I made are complex or time-consuming.
  • Try and get a bit of movement into the day where possible — I get up about once an hour to stretch my legs a bit when we’re in the air. An easy way to make this possible is to drink plenty of water – it’s important to stay hydrated but also means you have to get up fairly frequently to use the loo (I always book aisle seats for this reason). I went for a long run before bed the night before the journey, and went for a walk once we’d arrived here, followed by a good stretch out in the hotel room. Walking, cycling or running is also a great way of exploring the local area. A lot of hotels have gyms now too, although I prefer to be outdoors if I’m going to be active.
  • Finally – rest and relaxation is the surest way to stay on top form! Jet lag makes this hard, and if travelling is for business rather than leisure it is not always particularly restful, but getting as much sleep as possible is so important. I always take sleeping pills to make sure I maximise the little sleep I get, which I find really useful for the first few nights while I’m adjusting. However, I wouldn’t recommend prolonged usage.

As for this popcorn, it’s one of the simplest snacks ever. I popped my own popcorn first but you could just as easily buy plain ready-popped stuff and then bake it in the syrup. If you like salty-sweet flavours (like salted caramel) add a pinch of salt.

Serves 2


  • 1 cup popcorn kernels, to pop. This makes 10-12 cups if you’re using ready-popped stuff
  • 150g pecans, chopped
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • pinch salt, optional


  1. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C. Grease and line a large oven tray
  2. Place the chopped pecans on the tray and roast for around 10 minutes
  3. Pop the popcorn in a pan according to packet instructions
  4. In a large bowl, stir together the toasted pecans and popped corn and pour in the maple syrup and salt, if using. Stir until all is coated
  5. Pour the popcorn mix back onto the baking sheet and roast for 5-10 minutes, until it’s crispier and the syrup has dried slightly
  6. Remove from the oven and leave to cool before transferring to a bowl or storage container

1 Comment

  1. Kate 18th May 2015 / 2:40 am

    thank you! I am really looking forward to exploring and eating my way round the city! 🙂

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