Eating right on the road, Chinese Medicine style

March 24, 2011 — 7 Comments

Howdy from Austin y’all! I’ve a mad few weeks preparing for a 3 month stint in the US, beginning with world renown interactive, music and film festival, South by Southwest (SXSW). I’m over in Austin, Texas with Melbourne nouveau yacht rockers The Vaudeville Smash (check ’em out here). Life on the road can be hard on your health, and while partying is a given, me and Big D (aka Daniel) have assumed roles as tour nutritionists to keep us all regular and as healthy as possible.

It’s no secret that I revere breakfast as the foundation of our day. I reckon once you get this right, then the rest of the day (and your digestion) is set up. So the past week we’ve sent the crew off with full bellies, super foods and a kiss on the cheek.

One morning, Daniel cooked up an amazing medley while I lazily stayed in bed, sleeping off the Texas-strong vodkas from the night before (woops!).

"Big D's breakfast"

Daniel whipped up some garlicy spinach scrambled eggs with fresh tomatoes and avocado and marinated feta. Part two was a cinnamon and apple millet crumble drizzled with maple syrup. Simply divine!

Daniel cooking "Big D's breakfast"

While the coconut oil (in the millet crumble) and garlic have anti bacterial and anti viral properties, the fresh avocado, tomatoes, spinach and apple provide fiber and a variety of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients necessary for good health.

It is commonly known that eggs are a good source of protein, lesser known that they treat hoarseness of voice due to their lubricating properties as viewed in Chinese Medicine. Not something you worry too much about in daily life, but ultra important to singers! Also in Chinese Medicine, eggs are a Yin and blood tonic. While the partying and consumption of alcohol is quite Yang in nature, eggs help balance the excesses and replenish what has been depleted. No wonder we crave eggs after a big night!

Singing drummer boy Dan enjoying Big D's breakfast

Millet is known as the ‘queen of grains’ in Chinese Medicine. It strengthens the kidneys and digestion, two incredibly important functions to maintain constitutional energy. It is fluid building, thus moistens dryness that may have occurred from too much alcohol and yang foods such as meat. From an on-the-road perspective this is a great little grain to include in the diet.

Apples are especially beneficial component of this breakfast. Another moistening and cooling food that helps protect the lungs from heating and damage from cigarrette smoke, has a mild laxative effect to keep you regular and expells waste including heavy metals due to the presence of pectin. Drinking that is associated with road life is a strain on the liver. Apples are cleansing to the liver and gallbladder and even help to soften gallstones. On an emotional level, apples help alleviate emotional depression due to low blood sugar levels.

To compliment the dish, adding a light sprinkle of cinnamon adds an warm element balancing the cooling nature of the other ingredients. Adding a dash of maple syrup adds a pleasing caramel sweetness that stimulates the spleen at this time of the day and adds beneficial minerals such as manganese and zinc – excellent for antioxidant action, heart health and immune function.

Manager Kelly happy with the Vegetarian offerings

Earlier we’d shopped up an organic storm at Wholefoods and we whipped up the fancy pants breakfast, adding goji berries into the porridge. I couldn’t find rapadura sugar, so substituted with maple syrup. Since then, Big D and I are making a sweet combo of raw honey, maple and blackstrap molasses, adding a multi-dimensional flavour a whole host of beneficial nutritional properties (including iron in the blackstrap molasses) while satiating the sweet tooth without being too sickly.

Goji berries or the Chinese Wolfberry is known as Go Qi Zi in TCM and are very commonly used for medicinal purposes as a strengthening and longevity food/herb. Goji’s are very yin and enter the liver, lung and kidney channels. The berries are yin and are good for building blood (I discussed about building blood in my previous post here). A good kidney tonic to protect the jing or constitutional qi – especially important while running on jet lag, minimal sleep and road food. Great for the immune system since they also enter the lung channel. In TCM the lungs are responsible for the defensive qi, our immune system. Good strong lung qi will protect the body from picking up a cold or flu.

Medicinal road food: oatmeal with linseeds, banana, honey, maple, cacao nibs and fresh almond milk.

Big D also made the most nutrient dense smoothie I think I’ve ever had! The ingredients were:

  • freshly cracked coconut water
  • blueberries
  • strawberries
  • mango
  • cacao
  • kale
  • almond milk
  • bee pollen
  • honey

Let me start with freshly cracked young coconut water. Different to coconut milk, coconut water is the clear liquid inside the young coconuts that dries up as the coconuts mature. Besides being the most delicious and alive tasting natural drink, it has a whole host of  enzymes to keep the digestion strong. In fact, I’m told that young coconut water has such strong medicinal properties to alleviate food poisoning or digestive problems while traveling to Asian countries (where fresh coconut water is easily found).

No better way to start the day on tour: a morning walk around Austin's greenbelt, then a digestive strengthening drink straight from the coconut

According to Healing with Wholefoods, bee pollen is one of nature’s most completely nourishing foods containing nearly all nutrients required by humans including Vitamin B12 and substances not yet identified! Bee Pollen has numerous health applications and especially considered an energy and nutritive tonic in Chinese Medicine. Whenever you consume bee pollen just be thankful to the little bee; the recommended 6 gram dose takes one bee working eight hours a day for one month to gather!

I wrote about the benefits of almonds in this post here, and even posted a recipe for almond milk. Try it for yourself, so simple while uber effective, tasty and healthful!

Cacao, kale, berries combined contain a truckload of antioxidants, necessary to rid the body of free radicals, which I wrote about here in my post on Virgin Coconut Oil.

My only qualm with this smoothie was that the Big D broke one of the eating principles and used frozen berries and mango which made the smoothie quite cold. Foods and drink that are too cold – especially first thing in the morning – are tough on the spleen, which, in TCM is the primary organ for digestion. In addition, cold is the temperature that correlates to the kidneys and too cold with hinder it’s function. After my first sip I could feel the cold go directly to my lower back. Kidneys are very important to protect, sitting so close to the surface, but also protector of your jing or constitutional qi…especially important to preserve while experiencing late nights and a few too many drinks.

While roaming around Wholefoods Market‘s flagship store here in Austin, I feel like I’m in foodiecure heaven. Here you’ll find the largest selection of biodynamic and organic fresh produce, bulk items, meat, seafood, clothing and personal items among others all in once funky, down to earth friendly atmosphere, where the check out guys and gals have tattoos and peircings, long hair and groovy outfits. This is not only a grocery store, here you can get any type of food to dine in or take away. The self serve bain-marie is charged by the pound so you can pick and choose your own meal from a large selection at any time of day. Dotted about the expansive store are cuisine and diet specific made to order food bars, like islands amongst the harmonious interior design. Food movements such as the raw food diet and veganism are well catered for with a large variety of pre made meals and products to choose from. New to this visit are informaiton kiosks where you can search recipes, health information, dietary advice, vitamin and supplement advice on a computer of which I was able to print out interesting articles. Not all towns sport a Wholefoods Market, but if you’re lucky enough to find yourself on a road tour in the US, make sure you check one out. You’ll know there’s one in town by the locals thronging there at all times of the day to enjoy a healthy quick feed, use the free wi-fi, catch up with friends for coffee or do their grocery shopping.

The band's first encounter of Wholefoods. They were just as thrilled as I am by it!


World’s Healthiest Foods

TCM Health Info

Healing with Wholefoods, Paul Pitchford

Wholefoods Market paraphernalia


7 responses to Eating right on the road, Chinese Medicine style


    I am one of the band members that was privileged to take part in Becki and daniel’s experiment (although they knew it’d work so experiment is probably the wrong word) and can honestly say that the super breakfasts helped keep us healthy and vibrant during the week and 6 shows at SxSW. Thanks a million guys!


      Hey Lucchesi! How’s NYC? Thanks for your comments. It is probably honest to say we were experiementing on you guys. We’re getting things down pat here and happy to report we’re all “regular” and nourished. Probably the first time I’ve felt this good while travelling, so I can say first hand it pays off to eat a good breakky. Looking forward to some news of your time in NYC. x


    I love this post! Now I want to find out more about you…who are you and what is your TCM background?! I can’t wait to read more of your posts. I’ll gladly share them with my community of patients, friends, and colleagues. I stumbled upon this post via Google Alerts.

    I’m a professional musician and acupuncturist, specializing in back pain, addiction recovery, and performing arts medicine. Acupuncture and physical treatment & prevention modalities are my forte. I really like that you’re a vocalist who has insight into TCM nutrition. I’d love to network with you and perhaps pick your brain. If you get a chance, please tell me more about yourself, especially in regards to music and TCM. I’ll soon be adding a Resources section to my website and would like it to include a link to your blog &/or website. You have great insights that would benefit my patients/students/colleagues. Thank you for sharing this great info with your virtual audience!




    Oops, I forgot to mention that my previous message was meant as a private message rather than something to post the blog. I’d be glad to write another message for the blog if you desire. Great blog!



      Ha ha that’s ok Linda – I love comments and thank you for them!!! I’m not so much a vocalist (other might disagree with love of the use of my voice!!!) as been surrounded by musicians my whole life. I study Chinese Medicine, but have a big love for food and travel and my goal is to link all my passions in together.
      Regarding travel: my biggest problem while on the road is eating right and I have found that setting up your day with a proper breakfast to get a bunch of nutrients and especially fiber helps if you can’t always find the best food elsewhere in your travels. Because of this I think it is a great way to travel and hang out with cool creative-types while being able to practice what I love; nutrition from an integrative nutrition angle. When I finish my course, I’d be definitely bringing acupuncture, cupping and massage into the therapy on the road.
      I’ll give your blog a look and yes, it’ll be great to be networked with like minded people. I’m sure I can learn a lot from you too!
      Stay in touch! Becki


    hey Love your words of wisdom / blog / lifestyle etc.


    trying to find out if coconut water is cooling in TCM? I need to avoid all cooling foods, however I feel great when I drink it (at room temp)

    Any idea?


      Hi Zoe! Thanks for your question. I always turn to Healing with Wholefoods – if you’re into dietary therapy, I can highly recommend it. It will list sooooo much information about many foods. And yes, coconut is cooling.
      It’s a bit hard to give advice without knowing your history, but I’m sure in moderation coconut water will be fine….especially since you’re drinking it at room temp. If you start getting loose stools and undigested food in your stools, then try adding a little bit of bashed ginger to “warm” up your drink.
      Otherwise, I think it’s a GREAT drink…so good for digestive enzymes.

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