- Left the house before work with no meals packed and a crazy day ahead
- Time crunched at lunch time and don’t know where to get lunch quick
- Going out to lunch is a team excursion and your team loves unhealthy restaurants
- Just really curious what a healthy option on the go is!
Whether you fit one or all of the above bullets, this post is for you. Healthy eating on the go is not an oxymoron; it can truly be achieved. This post today was inspired by a Head to Toe Facebook follower and I so appreciate your question and request for more information! I hope this helps you navigate some of the choices that surround you daily and gives you some tips to always be prepared for long, hectic days away from home!
During each one of my private nutrition consultations I encourage my clients to practice something I like to call, the “rule of three.” I encourage my clients to eat a minimum of three meals per day with at least three food groups per meal, 3-5 hours apart. Now, I understand that this may not be possible each and every day as many times just plain and simple, life happens. But in my perfect world for you that is how your meals would be.
I can’t stress enough the importance of planning ahead and planning your meals and the success it will bring, but even the best planners have a day out of the ordinary. A Sunday maybe? A black Friday shopping event or a marathon holiday shopping day where we find ourselves at a mall or a shopping center stranded and oh so hAngry (yes it’s a real thing, and it’s ugly).
So my first tip is this: never leave the house without a snack on hand. If you are someone who is often on the go, stock the glove compartment of your car (thanks Mom for teaching me that oh so long ago!). If you take public transportation, stock your purse. If you never have time in the morning to prep, stock your office drawer, you get the idea. Have an arsenal of shelf-stable snacks on hand for any day where an extenuating circumstance presents itself.
- 100 calorie bags of nuts or crunchy/dried edamame packs
- A pre-made trail mix (you make it – include ¼ cup whole grain cereal, 2 tbsp nuts of choice, 1 tbsp of dried fruit, 1 tbsp seed of choice)
- Pre-portioned bags of popcorn (Skinny Pop, Fit Pop, Chia Pop etc.)
- Rice Cakes + Peanut Butter or nut butter of choice
- Protein + Carb combo energy bars: KIND Bars of the Nuts & Spices variety, Quest Bar, Chia Bar, Kashi Bar etc.
- Piece of fruit
If a fridge is available stock some – cottage cheese singles, Greek or Icelandic yogurts, berries, cheese sticks, fresh veggies, hummus and 100 cal guacamole packs.
A healthy snack that has a combination of fiber and protein can get you from meal to meal without a fast food breakdown. In fact, the job of a snack is to help you bridge the gap and re-energize between meals and the combo of fiber and protein together really does the trick.
But if there is a day when your snacks run out and you are in need of some tips on where to stop…here is what I have to recommend to you.
If you are near-by to a grocery store when your hAngry moment hits, there are some fabulous quick pick options within each department.
1) Salads pre-mixed in bags – now Dole has some great chopped salad mixes with kale and lots of veggies. (http://www.dolesalads.com/Products/Chopped) However, the bags have multiple servings in them which is especially important to be true to if you are using the add ins, and they do sometimes come with some heavy dressings so use lightly or use your own dressings if possible. But these salads in a bag have a ton of pre cut veggies, making eating so much easier for you.
2) Ready made salad bowls – Earthbound Farms Organic now has a line of PowerMeal Bowls that use ingredients like quinoa and seeds to mix protein and veggies for a great lunchtime or even snack fix.
1) Deli counter – Grab some low sodium deli meats (preferably turkey) to shred and put on top of the pre-mixed bagged salads, or eat with a cheese stick and a piece of fruit if you are in a pinch for time and ideas. If you order thin sliced, a 2 oz. serving will be about 3.5 to 4 slices and a great serving for you.
2) Rotisserie chicken – if you are going to share or heading home soon after, a rotisserie chicken can be a great option. But you have to promise to remove the skin. Peel the white meat off the bones and top your salad with this healthy protein option, or put some meat between two pieces of bread, or mixed with some quinoa or rice from the pre-made deli salad options or the salad bar (where available).
Frozen Food Department
1) Steam-able bags of veggies –pair perfectly with either rotisserie chicken or deli meats for stores without salad bars. Look for the variety that is frozen with NO dressing or sauce on it.
2) Luvo frozen meals – If these are available at your local grocery store, they are a fantastic option for a meal. All under 500 calories and contain less than 500 mg of Sodium per meal (perspective: if you ate roughly 5 slices of regular (not low sodium) deli meat you would likely get to 500 mg of sodium, without the addition of bread and condiments!) – these meals use ingredients like quinoa and kale for a super delicious and quick solution for on-the-go needs. Check them out: http://luvoinc.com/our-food/healthy-frozen-meals/
1) Cottage cheese – with roughly 20g of protein per serving, cottage cheese can be a super quick and super satisfying option. Pair it with fruit and be sure to look for the unsalted or low sodium varieties.
2) Yogurt – if you follow my Insta-gram you know I am obsessed with Siggi’s Icelandic Yogurt. With more protein than sugar (something many other yogurts cannot say!) their delicious yogurt is super satisfying and filling. Pair with some fresh fruit and maybe toss in some nuts or seeds for a quick meal. If Siggi’s is not available, look for plain Greek yogurts to pair with your fruit and nut combos.
Now, there will be a time when you are faced with nothing but fast food options.
When this happens – try and remember a few basics. It is true that some of the salads that are loaded with “stuff” could have more calories than a big mac and fries. This is due to the “stuff” being dried fruits in large quantities, heaping servings of nuts and seeds, plus cheese, plus higher calorie ingredients like avocado – in the wrong portion, bacon bits, croutons, too much protein (remember your serving size is the palm of your hand) and higher fat dressings. A combo of all of those together can be 1,000 cals or more. (http://www.shape.com/healthy-eating/diet-tips/12-salads-worse-big-mac)
When choosing a salad out – when ordering use language like grilled protein & dressing on the side. Try to choose a salad with only one “extra” – either nuts or cheese or croutons. At restaurants they are likely not breaking out the tablespoon to properly measure your ingredients like you know to do at home, and those extra tablespoons can make the difference. Choose salads that are full of raw veggies and lots of colors and do not forget to add a source of protein to that salad, the protein is what balances any of the carbs in the meal and will keep you fuller longer.
It is important when ordering away from home to always remember portions and what your plate should look like. For a quick review, your proteins should be about the size of the palm of your hand (and the thickness of your hand too), you should cover ½ your plate with veggies and then enjoy a ½ cup or fist sized amount of whole grains or a ½ of a potato. So whatever you order, if it is more than any of the servings listed above, take some home.
For sandwiches – stick to non-mayo proteins, order whole grain breads or wraps when available and choose options that load up the raw veggies. I stress raw, because many times restaurants using marinated veggies may use extra oils adding extra calories we don’t consider. Also, if I told you above, that a serving of turkey is about 3-4 slices, think how big the sandwiches you get from a deli typically are. So eat half.
If there is a turkey or veggie burger option, I would suggest eating either half with (or without) the bun or remove the bun and pair with a side salad. Fish is always a great choice when grilled and shrimp is a great lower cal option to add to a salad (which many times seems to come in a pretty good serving size). Try ordering the broth based soups or a soup and half sandwich option where available.
If you are really faced with only true “fast food” options, go with something off the kids menu or the junior sizes. While doing some research for this post I stumbled upon an article that had some really great suggestions on this topic so I wanted to share: http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20630037,00.html
There are some really great tips for ordering at some of the most popular fast food restaurants. However, I hope after reading this post you will never get caught in this situation!
Finally, many restaurants now offer guiltless or lighter fare menus. These typically have about 500 calories or less when ordered exactly as they are on the menu. If you make edits to the cheese or the dressing or the type of protein offered, just remember your calories are going to change. But when able try to order off of this menu. If this menu is not available, order a regular meal and remember your portions. As a rule of thumb eating half is typically best. And if you happen to be near a Bloomingdales with a 40 Carrots, you hit the jackpot. Their menu has amazingly delicious and light options for a quick boost of energy to get back to the shopping frenzy quick without undoing your day!
I could go on for pages about this topic, but don’t want to bore you! If I didn’t cover a specific area of this topic that you are still questioning, feel free to leave a comment and I will do my best to answer right away! But, I do hope this helped to narrow down some of your eating on the go questions, remember some of these tips when that hangry moment hits and you will make a better for you choice!
Be prepared and plan ahead to have the happiest, slimmest and healthiest holiday season yet!!
- Jenna A. Stock, RD