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It would be easy to eat healthy if you had a chef to prepare your meals and all you had to do was sit down and enjoy the spread. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that for the average person. Most of us lead busy lives with little time to prepare a meal.
Even if you have time to cook at home, there are times when you’re on the go and have to eat on the run. That’s when it’s tempting to let down your guard and pull into the nearest fast-food restaurant to munch on a burger and fries. After all, you tell yourself, you’ll save money if you get the combo.
That’s why it takes a little planning and ingenuity to eat healthy when you’re out and about locally, traveling or visiting another area. We deal this problem all the time but somehow manage to eat healthy even when we’re on the road or don’t have time to cook a meal. You can do the same. Here are some suggestions for keeping your diet clean when you can’t cook at home.
Think Beyond the Menu When You Eat Out
We have a system we use when we eat out. If we don’t see items on the menu that are healthy, we ask the waitstaff what vegetables the kitchen can prepare. Restaurants don’t always list all of their vegetables on the menu but some still have veggies hiding in the back. See if there are vegetables you can substitute as sides instead of potatoes or pasta. Doing that will go a long way towards making your meal healthier without doing anything else.
If you want to avoid meat entirely, ask if they can prepare a vegetable plate. Many restaurants will do that even if it’s not featured on the menu. Tell them to go light on any oil or sauce and lighten up on the salt. Most importantly, make sure they don’t use a margarine or cooking oil with trans-fat on your food.
Here’s an example. A few nights ago we went to a local Italian restaurant. We didn’t want the pasta, so the kitchen graciously prepared a plate of vegetables for each of us including eggplant, mushrooms and spinach and topped it off with a tasty marinara sauce. It was delicious! Find out what the chef can make for you that’s not on the menu. Most restaurants are very accommodating these days.
Think Beyond Restaurants
When you’re traveling, don’t assume restaurants are the only option. Many cities have a Whole Foods Market. It’s a natural food grocery store, but they offer a daily hot and cold lunch and dinner bar filled with healthy options you can purchase by the pound. They even have a place to sit and eat it. Not only is this a healthier option, it’s usually less expensive than dining at a restaurant since you don’t have to leave a tip. Chances are you’ll find so many tasty things to eat you won’t be able to decide what to get, but if you want more options, they also offer a deli case full of entrees and side dishes.
Some regular grocery stores also offer a salad bar or hot bar, but they tend to offer less healthy options than you’ll find at a place like Whole Foods – but it doesn’t hurt to check.
Make Smart Choices
Even some of the unhealthiest fast food restaurants have a few healthier items. Skip the burgers and fries, and order a salad and grilled chicken sandwich instead. If you’re watching your carbs, take the grilled chicken off the bread, cut it up and put it in the salad.
We discovered that some fast food restaurants will serve a sandwich in a lettuce wrap. For example, we order the grilled cod sandwich at Hardee’s in a lettuce wrap, light on the sauce. You could do the same with a turkey burger or a veggie burger, like the one Burger King offers. Burger King is the process of upgrading their veggie burger to make it tastier, and they plan on offering a turkey burger too.
Breakfast at McDonald’s can be reasonably healthy option. They’ll be adding an egg white egg McMuffin to the menu in mid-April that comes on a whole wheat muffin. Total calories? Only 250 and it’s a good source of tummy-filling protein. Dunkin Doughnuts also sells an egg white flatbread sandwich that’s low in calories. Enjoy it with a cup of coffee, but close your eyes when you order so you can’t see the doughnuts.
Subway is another option for a fast meal and they’re almost everywhere these days. You can eat a meal that’s reasonably healthy here with the exception of the sodium they add to many of the items. Choose a six inch sub, not the twelve incher, pile it up with extra veggies, ask for mustard or the light mayo and say no to the soft drink and bag of chips. Stick with unsweetened tea instead. You can get any sandwich as a salad to reduce the carb count.
Bring Something with You
If you’re going to be out and about all day, put an ice chest in the back with cups of Greek yogurt, string cheese, hard-boiled eggs, fruit, cottage cheese or other healthy take-along snacks that won’t send your blood sugar souring. It pays to have healthy snacks with you when you’re not going to be home for a while. It’ll save you from making an unplanned trip to a vending machine.
The Bottom Line?
There’s no doubt that eating healthy is more of a challenge when you can’t prepare a meal – but it’s not impossible. Think before you eat, every time, and you won’t end up having “eater’s remorse.”