As a health conscious person, I try to take food with me everywhere I go, but that’s not always an option when traveling. There is nothing I hate more than being H-A-N-G-R-Y-yes, hunger + angry- and having limited food choices. So, I have learned over the years to make the best of a fast food situation. Here are some tips and tricks on eating healthy while on the go.
· Think in terms of macronutrients-protein, fat, carbohydrate. Most fast food joints have the last two covered, but you have to pay attention to get healthy nutrients. Look at the menu to choose ahigh protein content with not a lot of fat. Dietary fat is not bad for us, but most fast food places don’t sell healthy fats.Fast Food Example: Wendy’s- a bowl or cup of chili is a great option here. High in protein, but low in fat and nothing is fried. Add in a side salad and you’re good to go.
· Vegetables are your friends! When ordering out, remove the starchy carbs; keep the protein and double the veggies. Fast Food Example: Chipotle salad- say no to the tortilla strips and sour cream, add in chicken, steak or tofu and ask for double veggies and a scoop of guacamole- remember: healthy fat!
· Always order your dressings on the side. Those babies have more fat and calories than anything else on the menu. You can still have a small amount without adding to your waistline. A method that I like is to dip my fork in the dressing and hen take a bite of food. This will ensure that you still can get the flavor of the dressing, without every single calorie in that little cup. You will be surprised at how much dressing you DON’T eat.
· Replace added fat and empty calories with flavor! One of my favorite places to eat fast food is Taco Bell. I know, it’s crazy, but let me tell you why. A few years ago Taco Bell created a new section to their menu called “fresco style.” That means if you order a bean burrito “fresco style” they will take off the cheese, sour cream, etc. and replace it will Pico de Gallo. Guess how many calories are in Pico de Gallo- not very many! You still get the spicy flavor without loading up on unhealthy fats.
· When in doubt, find a grocery store. Every summer our family travels to a small town in Idaho to visit my husband’s grandparents. There are not very many eating options to begin with, especially for a strict vegetarian. I usually head on over to the local market and pick up some apples, berries, Greek yogurt, ready-made salad, protein bars and veggies. Not only is this usually cheaper than a fast food restaurant, but can usually last me more than just one meal.
· The “extras” will add “extra” weight. Many times fast food joints will tempt you with a special price on fried cheesecake bites, making your meal a combo, or plopping a huge scoop of sour cream on your salad. Don’t be afraid to say NO! Also, I have been in the situation where the employees are in a hurry and put something on my food that I didn’t ask for. I politely ask for them to remake it the way I like. After working in the food service industry for years I know that a polite request and a smile can go a long way.
· To survive a sandwich or burger joint, pick lean meats, add extra vegetables, skip the mayo (add mustard or avocado), ask them to wrap your sandwich or burger in lettuce and skip the chips-hello empty calories.
· Just say no to:
-Fries, even sweet potato fries-they are still fried. Food for thought: many fast food chains do not change their frying oil frequently, sometimes only once a month.
-Soda-go for water…it’s free!
-Anything with the words creamy or crispy. This mean it’s either loaded with fat or has been fried
-When it doubt order a salad, a fruit parfait, or a broth based soup
Next time you are far from home and have to eat out, don’t stress! Remember these tips for getting the biggest nutritional bang for your buck.