Eating Healthy on the Go
By: Diane Dew, RD, LD, MSC, FAND
TriHealth Corporate Health
Busy, busy, busy – this describes all our lives these days. This busyness leaves less and less time for things like grocery shopping, meal preparation and trying to “eat right”.
First, what does eating “right” or “healthier” look like. A few simple rules of thumb:
- Have at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day
- Eat at least 2 servings of fruits and 3 servings of vegetables every day
- Have 3-4 whole grain items every day
- Stop eating when you are satisfied, don’t eat to the feeling of fullness or being stuffed
- Don’t have any more than 600 calories from a fast food restaurant
- Don’t consume more than one drink per day that provides calories, except milk and tomato juice
Successful eating on the go involves planning. Planning for the situations when you know regular eating is going to be disrupted, when you may have to go through a drive-thru or when you may miss a meal until much later. Here are some suggestions for healthier eating when these situations arise:
Keep food / snacks always with you: Always have a bag of ready to eat food in the car. Items include cereal bars, peanut butter crackers, fig newtons, raisins, healthy chips, peanut butter and protein bars.
Make and freeze food ahead of time: Put food in baggies and freeze so that they are ready to grab and go. Often a small package like this can act as a freezer pack in the cooler and will be thawed by the time it is ready to be eaten.
Prepare food as soon as bringing it home from the grocery: As soon as coming home from the grocery wash and clean all fruits and vegetables. Also, portion into baggies all snack items.
Keep a cooler ready to go in the car: Have ice packs and food ready to go in the freezer. Grab food and freezer packs for the cooler.
Order groceries online so you have healthy food in your home: Order food for delivery or pick-up saving actual shopping time. Many times, we will eat healthier food, but it is not available.
Have a travel bag of snacks:Suggestions: nuts, seeds, popcorn, fruit (applesauce or cups of fruit), vegetables cut and ready to eat, boiled eggs and lean meat rolled up in lettuce.
Store ready to grab foods in the door of your refrigerator: Suggestions include yogurt tubes, string cheese, apples, oranges, grapes, peppers, carrot, hard boiled eggs.
When Eating Fast Food
Start with a protein item: Choose a meat or sandwich. Aim for the smallest portion you can get. Ask for any mayo or dressings to be put on the side.
Order fruit: Most fast food restaurants have at least bagged apples. Order fruit any time you have a fast food meal.
Bring your own crunchy item: Skip the French fries. Instead bring your own crunchy item to have with the meal. Suggestions include healthy choice chips, bean chips, cereal bars etc.
Stop when satisfied: Don’t eat the entire meal. Consider how you are feeling and stop when you are satisfied. Eating until you feel full causes you to eat more calories than your body can burn. This could lead to weight gain.
Order kids' meals: Kids meals can be very satisfying and provide a lot fewer calories.
Water: Have a full glass of water with your meal. Many fast food items are high in sodium which will increase your water needs.
- Choose an app: No, not an appetizer. There are apps such as the Fast Food Nutrition Guide that you can download to your phone that can identify restaurants in your vicinity and give you suggestions for healthy food choices once you have chosen a restaurant. It's important to make your choice before you arrive at the restaurant, as once you are in the restaurant, you are more likely to order what sounds good rather what is logical for you.
- Browse to better choices: Use a website to plan your meals out. The site fastfoodnutrition.org allows you to click on a restaurant where you can choose any of their menu items to evaluate nutrition information. Additionally, you can choose combination dishes and choose the foods you typically add in order to better evaluate choices. Don’t forget to include beverages.