It was dinner time on the flight home from visiting family for two weeks. The stewardess offered the usual beverages … juice, sodas, coffee.

"Anything to eat?" I inquired. "Chips … M&M's … Chex Mix," she offered.

Note to self: Next time remember to bring nuts and dried fruit for in-flight hunger pangs.

As we bounced over the Rocky Mountains toward home, I was reminded that changes in routine often require flexibility, especially with food. Maybe orange juice and Chex Mix isn't the best "dinner" I've ever had.

But in the wise words of sixteenth century bishop St. Francis de Sales: "A habitual moderation in eating and drinking is much better than certain rigorous abstinences made from time to time."

Moderation in eating and drinking. What an interesting concept.

My mind went back to the previous week's "Doggie Dash." It's an annual event hosted by my daughters-in-law in their small midwestern town.

Dogs of every size and breed walk with their owners while the local radio station plays songs like "You ain't nothin' but a Hound Dog" and "How much is that Doggie in the Window?" When they arrive at the sponsoring veterinary clinic, the dogs are greeted with bandanas and bowls of fresh water and the owners receive T-shirts and hot dogs.

"Isn't this a conflict of interest for you?" one of the veterinarians asked me as she eyed the lunch fare.

Not really. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the most important focus of a healthful eating style is our "overall pattern" of eating. "All foods can fit within this pattern," says the Academy, "if consumed in moderation with appropriate portion size and combined with regular physical activity."

In other words, eating a hot dog once a year at the Doggie Dash is a different "overall pattern of eating" than eating a package of hot dogs every week. In addition, it's the balance of nutrients from a variety of foods over time that determine "good" and "bad" eating patterns, experts say.

Case in point...my son-in-law's great-aunt, Flo. Approaching her 100th birthday this year, she walks faster than me and stands as lean and straight as any 20 year-old. When I asked for her secret, she just laughed.

What does Flo eat? You name it. Throughout her lifetime from Nebraska to Hawaii and back, she has enjoyed a wide variety of foods ... in moderation.

I am reminded that swimming pools work the same in other towns as they do at home; you have to get in an swim or they don't do much good.

And yes, rocking a new grand-baby is good exercise as well ...