Food For Interpreting

This article was first published on September 12, 2013. Its author is our beloved founder, Maria Cristina. She reminds us of the saying “We are what we eat” and guides us in making healthier, smarter choices that will help us perform better at our jobs. Enjoy!


“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, it is currently 1:00p.m.  We are going to break for lunch.  Please be back in your seats promptly at 2:00 p.m.  so we may continue hearing this witness’s testimony.  Remember not to discuss any details concerning the case with anyone.  This court is now in recess.”

The race is on because there is no time to walk to a neighboring restaurant, do battle with the lunch crowd, order, eat and walk back.  The only choice is to buy something from the vending machines at the courthouse, gulp it down, answer pending messages and emails, and make it back to the courtroom.

Not an optimal option but we rationalize it, buy a ham and cheese sandwich, a bag of chips, a soda and a doughnut for the late afternoon blues which we can have with a coffee to give us some energy later.  This is a situation I daresay many interpreters encounter rather often, which may be compounded by getting home in the evening, exhausted after a long day, and pulling out a frozen meal – “healthy” or not – to save time and rest up for the following day. Especially if we have to prepare for the coming testimony.

In this a short and trite but telling example, we have a listing of some of the worst foods we consume in the United States, on a regular basis:

Processed foods (sandwiches) Researchers have found that the risk of heart disease is 42% higher among people who regularly eat processed meats.

Soda Nearly half of surveyed Americans drink 2+ glasses a day.  An average can contains 10 tsp. of sugar, mostly in the form of high fructose corn syrup and represents many health risks in addition to an increase in obesity, in a country where more than one third of the population suffers from this condition.

Potato chips  In addition to causing you to tip the scales, the regular consumption of potato chips will cause a spike in blood pressure from the high sodium content, a rise in cholesterol due to the trans fats from deep frying and the saturated fat. Other researchers are saying that the carcinogen acrylimide, created during the deep frying process, puts you at a risk for cancer.

Doughnuts  a compendium of trans fat, sugar and refined flour, with a high fat content and around 300 empty calories, to calm a sweet tooth and purportedly increase your energy level.

Frozen meals  do not usually contain enough calories or vegetables, which have lost much of their nutritive value by being frozen.  The meals have a high sodium content that make them dangerous to our health, often exceeding 25% of the daily recommended allowance for same.

Many of the foods discussed here have a high sugar content.  Read this link to understand more fully the drowsiness that sugar creates and what that entails. Another substantial portion has a high sodium content, which causes high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes. For an overview of how these  effects  are produced, read here.

As interpreters, we need to be at the top of our game because we never know what the next assignment will require and our brains need to be able to swiftly collect our resources and deliver them as soon as it receives a signal to act. We cannot afford to be lethargic on the job. Moreover, we are often involved in stressful circumstances which raise our blood pressure so we must try to purge foods that will increase our blood pressure further. Our level of energy and state of health depend to a great extent on the food we ingest.

Read up on what comprises a healthy diet and learn how to interpret the nutrition labels on food. They are extremely helpful in formulating what we include in our meal plans. Strategize what you are going to eat in advance so you won’t be caught off guard by circumstances and have other options.

Let us know if you have any other suggestions for healthy eating in difficult circumstances.

8 Comments
  • Jennifer De La Cruz
    Posted at 01:14h, 13 September Reply

    This is so great! A while back, Holly Mikkelson published an article about exercise and interpreting, and proper nutrition sure is part of a clear head too! Thanks for your post!

    • Gio Lester
      Posted at 09:51h, 13 September Reply

      Oh, and avoid fresh onions, garlic, anchovies… Anything that can cause bad breath!

      Thank you, MC for the practical advice.

      • Susana Hendrickson
        Posted at 10:56h, 13 September Reply

        I wholeheartedly agree, albeit the daily struggle to not fall prey to temptation . I must confess, however, that I love all the bad breath culprits (coffee included) and my taste buds refuse to surrender. So, my compromise is to chew some peppermint gum (ever so discreetly). I thus absolutely know my breath is not an issue and my taste buds stay happy.

  • Rebecca
    Posted at 12:39h, 13 September Reply

    My dentist told me to stop with the breath mints so now I just brush my teeth after I finish my all important second cup of morning coffee.

  • Clarence
    Posted at 16:25h, 13 September Reply

    Yes, it is trite, but so very relevant and on the spot. I enjoyed reading this one because dare I say 80 percent of the time in court when a lunch break occurs, there you have it – that darn vending machine. For me, however, I just look at the machine and when I’m really hungry, I get closer to it and look at what’s available. I then check prices and tell myself: hey taint worth it and get out of here. The best substitute for me is a stroll around the courthouse, especially on a fine day and more so when the courthouse is aged with history.

  • Barbara Espinosa
    Posted at 15:35h, 16 September Reply

    ZIPLOCKS! These are my life savers ! – Whenever my blood sugar goes down, so does my Interpreting… This can happen in the AM or PM. If I eat crap at lunch, then I crash in the afternoon, and with my energy goes my alertness and my performance, too. After experimenting with candy bars, protein bars, energy drinks, sugary snacks, etc.. my best results have been with the simplest, most natural approach. I try to stay away from sugars and starches, and to keep it as healthy and unprocessed as possible. So every morning, I put into a lunch bag (or in my purse) a few Ziplock bags, usually 2 or 3 of the following:
    1) Almonds or Pistachios (Raw, Unsalted)
    2) Grapes (Sometimes I pair them with the almonds in the same bag, making the almonds moist and reducing their “crunch” – if I’m not talking at a given moment and have a chance to sneak one into my mouth because I’m feeling my sugar going down, this will prevent me from making any noise when chewing this wonderful and powerful nut)
    3) Banana (I discard the peel in one of the other zip locks, once they are empty)
    4) Apple Slices
    5) BabyBel Miniature Cheddar Cheese (the little red round ones, wrapped in red wax)
    6) Hard-boiled eggs (1 or 2), refrigerated and with shell – To prevent the eggs from going bad, I only peel them once I am ready to eat them. I softly crush the shell and peel them inside the bag, preventing the mess that this would otherwise entail, and finally, I only eat the white, reducing the smell, strong taste and avoiding bad breath. I leave shell pieces and yolk inside the ziplock, close it and discard it in the restroom.
    7) Grape Tomatoes.
    8) Cuties / Clementines (I discard the peel on one of the empty zip locks)

    • Maria Cristina de la Vega
      Posted at 16:11h, 16 September Reply

      Thank you all for your comments, and especially for the detailed advice by Barbara.

      I often use ziplocks and one of my brothers recently gave me a small “thermos type bag (6″x 4″ X 1”) that I can fit in my purse. It has a compartment for a refrigerant (a more malleable type of ice pack) and you can carry medications or small food items in it that need to be cold.

      • Barbara Derthick
        Posted at 19:39h, 02 April Reply

        I agree with the lunch packers. I usually pack my lunch…which makes eating healthy and quickly so much easier. If you have access to a microwave you can also do hot foods.

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