When our days are packed full of errands, meetings, kids sports and play dates, it’s hard to plan ahead. It would be nice if we had tons of low cost, portion-controlled, healthy, and tasty options to pick up along the way. Well, that’s not the case: The reality is that things get much trickier when we need to grab meals while out. Here are some of my tips to help when you’re on the go — so you won’t lose control.
This may seem obvious, but having some healthy options stashed for your grab-and-go convenience can make a world of difference. Whether it’s a bag of baby carrots, almonds, a cheese stick, Greek yogurt, or protein bar, a pre-made emergency kit can stifle the hunger pains that often lead you to make poor food choices. Keep a few of these snacks in the fridge at work, in your car, and in your bag too. You’ll be glad you did! During the winter time I keep pre made protein shakes in my car and in the summer I do Power Bars.
Have a Game Plan
Whether you’re headed out to a lunchtime business meeting or to catch up with an old friend, be sure to check out the restaurant’s menu ahead of time, so that you know exactly what you’re up against. Look online to decide on a healthy option beforehand. That way, when you get there you won’t be swayed by the plates of calorie-laden foods going by.
If you didn’t glance at the menu ahead of time, it’s important to be able to recognize what to avoid. Words such as fried, creamy, or crispy are obvious offenders, but make sure to stay away also from foods described as au gratin, alfredo, béarnaise, and battered.
A lot of restaurants these days are jumping on the healthy bandwagon by offering lighter-fare menu options. I applaud those places — and the eateries that clearly display the calorie counts next to each item. (Trust me, you WILL stop and think hard before you order when you see some of the shocking calorie totals.)
If you’re not at one of those establishments or you’re still having trouble finding something healthy on the menu, ask the waiter whether the chef can make substitutions. Request sauces on the side, grilled chicken instead of sautéed, meat broiled instead of pan-fried, and veggies steamed instead of drenched in butter and salt. When in doubt, just ask whether the chef can prepare something simple for you.
Yes, momma was right when she tried to get you to eat your veggies. But did you know that this healthy habit is also a good way to up your fiber intake and fill you up before the main course?
Load up on the veggies in your salad — just don’t ruin your hard work by adding a creamy dressing on top. Steer clear of fatty dressings or ask for them on the side, then dip your fork in before spearing the lettuce. You’ll get just enough flavor to satisfy your taste buds. By the time your main course comes, you probably won’t be tempted to clean your plate.
Skip the Sandwich
Sandwiches may be considered an easy, all-American lunch option, but these days the sizes of those babies have been growing and the fatty topping options are endless. Forgo the typical sodium-and-nitrate-filled deli meats and mayo-packed tuna or chicken salads and ask for grilled chicken breasts or fresh-roasted turkey, skip the cheese and creamy condiments, and even ask that they prepare it open-faced with only a bottom roll or bread slice. If they don’t have any of the above, opt for fresh veggies on a whole-grain wrap with hummus on the side.
One and Then Done!
Buffets and salad bars share one thing in common: that dangerous all-you-can-eat attitude. For a low price per pound, you can eat and eat and eat. If you find yourself overly tempted by the options, just take your time so you can choose carefully: Grab a smaller-sized plate — just one! — and remember to NOT pile on the food.
Skip the pasta section and head for the protein. Proceed with caution: Many sauces that the dishes are prepared with (and sitting in) are loaded with sodium and calories. Look for the leanest protein you can find and throw it over some lettuce or veggies. As you’re eating, try putting your fork down between bites. It’ll help you slow down and give your body a chance to register how much food you’ve actually eaten. Your meal isn’t a bargain if you end up paying for it on the scale or in the gym later, so make sensible choices you won’t regret. Believe it or not I recently ordered the breakfast buffet at the Brown Hotel. I stayed away from all those fancy bowls things with lids on them. Anything fresh and healthy was sitting out uncovered. I also waited till my guest received their meal to prevent the possibility of going back for un-needed seconds.
Make Smart, Fast Choices
I understand that sometimes you may be limited and find yourself at a fast-food restaurant for lunch. You can STILL make a healthier choice. Keep all things fried on the other side of the counter, along with greasy cheeseburgers, processed chicken chunks, thick shakes, and over sized sugary sodas.
Choose the grilled chicken sandwich without the top bun and the sauce, and ask for extra lettuce and tomatoes. Think a salad is the way to go? Probably not: Fast-food salads tend to be iceberg lettuce “loaded” with all kinds of crazy toppings like crunchy Asian noodles, tortilla strips, chili, nuts, cheeses, and creamy dressings — which add up to a lot of calories.
Hopefully these tips can help you out as we are all, always on the go and not putting enough thought into our health.