It's easy to be tempted when you're eating away from home — especially if
everyone around you is chowing down on unhealthy options.
But eating too much fast food or always choosing high-fat, high-calorie menu items
can drag a person's body down. The most obvious problem is weight gain. But because
the food we eat affects how our bodies function, eating the right (or wrong) foods
can influence any number of things:
Eating on the Go
It's easier than you think to make good choices at a fast-food restaurant, the
mall, or even the school cafeteria. Most cafeterias and fast-food places offer healthy
choices that are also tasty, like grilled chicken or salads. Be mindful of portion
sizes and high fat add-ons, like dressings, sauces or cheese.
Here are some pointers to remember that can help you make wise choices when eating
Go for balance. Choose meals that contain a balance of lean proteins
(like fish, chicken, or beans if you're a vegetarian), fruits and vegetables (fries
and potato chips don't qualify as veggies!), and whole grains (like whole-wheat bread
and brown rice). That's why a turkey sandwich on whole wheat with lettuce and tomato
is a better choice than a cheeseburger on a white bun.
Watch portion sizes. The portion sizes of American foods have
increased over the past few decades so that we are now eating way more than we need.
The average size of a hamburger in the 1950s was just 1.5 ounces, compared with today's
hamburgers, which weigh in at 8 ounces or more.
Drink water or low-fat milk. Regular sodas, juices, and energy
drinks usually contain "empty" calories that you don't need — not to mention
other stuff, like caffeine.
Tips for Eating at a Restaurant
Most restaurant portions
are way larger than the average serving of food at home. Ask for half portions, share
an entrée with a friend, or take half of your dish home.
Here are some other restaurant survival tips:
Ask for sauces and salad dressings on the side and use them sparingly.
Use salsa and mustard instead of mayonnaise or oil.
Ask for olive or canola oil instead of butter, margarine, or shortening.
Use nonfat or low-fat milk instead of whole milk or cream.
Order baked, broiled, or grilled (not fried) lean meats including turkey, chicken,
seafood, or sirloin steak.
Salads and vegetables make healthier side dishes than french fries. Use a small
amount of sour cream instead of butter if you order a baked potato.
Choose fresh fruit instead of sugary, high-fat desserts.
Tips for Eating at the Mall or Fast-Food Place
With a little planning, it's easy to eat healthy foods at the mall. Here are some
a single slice of veggie pizza
grilled, not fried, sandwiches (for example, a grilled chicken breast sandwich)
deli sandwiches on whole-grain bread
a small hamburger
a bean burrito
a baked potato
a side salad
Choose the smaller sizes, especially when it comes to drinks and snacks. If you
have a craving for something unhealthy, try sharing the food you crave with a friend.
Here's another tip for eating while shopping: Don't put off eating until you're so hungry
you could inhale everything in sight. Set a time to eat, then stop what you're
doing to take a break, sit down, and savor the food you are eating.
Tips for Eating in the School Caf
The suggestions for eating in a restaurant and at the mall apply to cafeteria food
as well. Add vegetables and fruit whenever possible, and opt for leaner, lighter items.
Choose sandwiches on whole-grain bread or a plain hamburger over fried foods or pizza.
Go easy on the high-fat, low-nutrition items, such as mayonnaise and heavy salad dressings.
You might want to consider packing your own lunch occasionally. Here are some lunch
items that pack a healthy punch:
sandwiches with lean meats or fish, like turkey, chicken, tuna (made with low-fat
mayo), lean ham, or lean roast beef. For variety, try other sources of protein, like
peanut butter, hummus, or meatless chili. If you don't like your bread dry, choose
mustard or a small amount of lite mayo.
low-fat or nonfat milk, yogurt, or cheese
any fruit that's in season
raw baby carrots, green and red pepper strips, tomatoes, or cucumbers
whole-grain breads, pita, bagels, or crackers
It can be easy to eat well, even on the run. And the good news is you don't have
to eat perfectly all the time. It's OK to splurge every once in a while, as long as
your food choices are generally good.