Whenever I use foul language in front of my father, he’ll ask me if there is a better word I could use to describe what I’m saying. In this case, I can’t. I’m writing this from over 10,000 feet on a morning I had to wake up at 5am to catch a flight home from a weekend teaching a P90X certification in Dallas, TX. So, forgive me if my title may sound a little bitter.
As much as I love to find healthy organic restaurants to eat at when I travel, I also think it’s fun to find a restaurant that serves up the local cuisine of that region. In this case, last night my Beachbody Master Trainer team and I decided on a place called Love and War in Texas. Does it get better than that? The menu featured everything from wild boar to Gulf shrimp fajitas and “Texas cavier” which apparently is just a black eyed peas, onions and pepper stir fry. I was really hoping to see some sort of meat eating contest while I was in Texas but the closest I came was seeing a stuffed habanero eating challenge on the menu. We dared our fellow trainer, but he wasn’t up for the challenge that would have got us a free meal if he was able to eat them all in five minutes without water.
As I searched the menu for semi-healthy options that would best fit my food rules, I was hard pressed. The closest I came was a salad with grilled shrimp, with the dressing on the side. As I was eating the shrimp an old familiar taste was apparent. It brought me back to living in Chinatown in NYC. It was MSG, for sure. A nasty chemical ingredient that I know my body is very sensitive to and my swollen, sausage fingers and baggy eyes this morning are a testament to it. MSG is often found in mass produced “seasoning” like the spices on my shrimp. It’s also used in many packaged sauces, soups, meats, and snack foods.
Food manufacturers use MSG, or monosodium glutamate, to enhance the umami (savory) flavor of the food. Certain individuals (including myself), are sensitive to MSG and can have side effects such as headaches, bloating, and general malaise after digesting it. The problem is that it is now hidden in many food additives even though the package may say “No MSG added”. This is because the sodium is not part of the additive and the glutamate can be found in ingredients such as hydrolyzed vegetable proteins, autolyzed yeast, hydrolyzed yeast, yeast extract, soy extracts, and soy and whey protein isolate.
I would advise to avoid MSG whenever possible. Ask your server at any Asian-style restaurant if they use it while cooking and if so to leave it out of your meal. Read every label and do not buy packaged foods that contain the ingredients listed above. Stick to fresh whole foods as much as you can. And when eating at restaurants that use a lot of “seasoning” ask them to leave it out and use the salt and pepper from the table instead. In my case, the day after my mistake, I will drink tons of water, workout, and eat a fresh and high fiber diet of mostly fruits and veggies.
By the way, the restaurant was fun and I would recommend it for an out-of-towner like myself to get a real Texas experience.