When you’re home, you are master of your domain. You control what comes into the kitchen and what lands on your children’s plates. But what happens when you’re not at home – when you’re traveling, fighting traffic, waiting at the airport, running late or stuck at the mall and your child is starving?
The fear of drive through and fast food restaurants has been drilled into most of us, but sometimes there’s no avoiding a meal out at a less than healthy establishment. So here are some tips and guidelines for smart ordering and healthy practices when eating out.
1. Fast Food Does Not Mean Fried Food.
In response to consumer demand, it’s increasingly easier to find healthy, convenient alternatives to fried foods on fast food menus. Opt for anything that is raw, steamed, grilled, roasted, or baked, or try an entrée-sized salad. Keep your eye out for vegetarian options or if you eat meat organic leaner cuts of meats like skinless chicken breasts or turkey breast. Other healthier menu options might be bean burritos, a salad or fruit bowl, or a deli sandwich on whole wheat bread.
2. Avoid High-Fat Add-Ons.
Request salad dressing, sauce, cheese, or toppings on the side so you can apply sparingly, instead of drenching your meal in empty calories and through the roof sodium levels.
3. Mind the Portions.
Restaurant portions have been growing in size for years (from large to enormous). In the 1950s, the average size of a hamburger was 1.5 ounces, while today’s burgers weigh in at around 8 ounces. Share entrees between your family or take the other half of it to go!
4. Drink Water.
Soda, sweetened iced tea and lemonades, energy drinks and most juices are loaded with high fructose corn syrup and empty calories. Make H2O the beverage of choice for everyone, and skip the plastic bottles and Styrofoam cups by refilling your own container, like a stainless steel water bottle, with filtered water. Sick of plain water? Try adding a squeeze of lemon or using sparkling spring water instead.
5. Avoid the “Cream”, Opt for the “Color.”
Meal choices with the words Alfredo, a la crème, au gratin, or described as “creamy” will likely be smothered in a heavy, artificially enhanced sauce. On the other hand, foods that reflect the colors of the rainbow are usually a healthier choice. Many kid’s meals end up as a plate of “beige”, all starch, breads, and sauces. Picking a colorful fruit or veggie salad will automatically up the nutritional content of your meal.
6. Make Substitutions.
Don’t be afraid to speak up about the ingredients or preparation of your food if it will make it healthier. Request salsa or mustard, instead of mayonnaise or sugar-filled ketchup for your sandwich. Request sour cream or butter for your baked potato. Ask to have a side salad or fruit instead of fries. Ask for meat to be grilled as “light” as possible. The extent to which servers will go to make you happy might surprise you.
7. Find the Healthy Options!
Use this fantastic tool from Eat Well to map out restaurants in the area that serve organic, local and healthy fare. With a little research and a GPS, you’re instantly connected to restaurants that share your values.
8. As Always, Plan Ahead.
Keep your purse, bag, and car ready for moments when hunger strikes and a healthy snack is in need. Dried fruits, granola, mixed nuts, apples, oranges, and cereals stay fresh and transport easily – especially with the array of cool, non-toxic containers available.