You’ve managed to keep your New Year’s resolution to eat balanced, healthy meals at home, yet your schedule has you meeting friends for lunch, feeding your kids drive-through food on the way to after-school events and relying on airport food while traveling for work.
Sticking to a sensible diet is certainly easier in the comfort of your own kitchen, but that doesn’t mean you need to kick your New Year’s diet resolution to the curb when you are on the go. Here are some delicious and nutritious strategies to keep you eating healthy meals at restaurants, airports and more.
Dine out wisely
Even though at many restaurants a single meal can feed a small family, eating out doesn’t have to mean diet disaster. Some restaurants have not only scaled-down portion sizes, they also have diet-friendly choices listed on the menu.
However, when in doubt, go to eateries armed with these tips:
- Order an appetizer (from the non-fried options, of course) instead of an entree. Appetizer portions are usually smaller.
- Skip the pre-meal bread basket or chips and dip.
- Share an entree with a friend or box up half of your meal to enjoy for lunch or dinner the next day.
- Start with a salad and low-fat dressing or clear broth-based soup to fill up before the main course.
- Choose vegetable- or lean protein-based entrees instead of rich, carb-heavy meals.
- Have fruit for dessert or share a single dessert with your tablemates.
Regardless of the where or what you eat, be sure to slow down and actually taste your meal; you’ll enjoy it more and likely eat less.
Skip the dollar menu
On those days when your kids won’t take no for an answer, and you don’t have time to stop anywhere else, heading into a fast food drive-through doesn’t mean you need to skip a meal. It does, however, mean looking past the dollar menu, where most of the cheapest items are the highest in fat and calories. Choose a salad with low-fat dressing, the smallest single-patty burger sans mayo and cheese, grilled or broiled chicken sandwiches, tacos or wraps (skip the heavy spreads and go light on the cheese) or small rice bowls with stir-fried vegetables and lean protein such as chicken or fish. Avoid all fried foods and soft drinks, and if you need a sweet, opt for a small frozen yogurt or fruit parfait instead of a chocolate brownie sundae or giant cookie. Best yet, visit the websites of the fast food restaurants you frequent and download their nutritional information; you’ll be able to find the healthier, lower-calorie foods before you even drive up.
Navigate convenience-store fare
You’re late for your next appointment that will run through lunch, and the only place to grab a bite is the neighborhood convenience store. Past the jumbo candy bars and 64-ounce cups of cola, you actually can find convenient healthy foods.
Here are just a few of the smarter food choices at the corner convenience store:
- Single-serving low-fat milk or yogurt
- String cheese and a piece of fruit
- 100 percent fruit or vegetable juice
- Microwave soup
- Whole-grain crackers or pretzels
- Beef jerky (high in sodium but takes longer to eat so you’ll likely eat a modest amount)
- Low-fat cottage cheese
- Small packs of nuts
- Protein bar (opt for high-protein, high-fiber bars that have 200 calories or less)
Keep in mind that convenience store food is priced higher because it is convenient. Plan ahead, take the time to buy healthy snacks and meals at the grocery store, and keep them handy when you’re on the go.
Satisfy your airport appetite
Most airports have a smorgasbord of eateries for the hungry traveler, and there are many healthy airport foods from which to choose. Since free in-flight snacks and meals have become scarce (unless you are lucky enough to fly first class), securing a meal before you board is the best way to eat healthy and prevent a starvation-induced binge when you land.
Try these diet-friendly airport foods:
- Protein shake from the juice bar
- Chicken or shrimp salad with low-fat dressing
- Turkey wrap with vegetables (eat half now and save half for later)
- Lean meat and cheese sandwich without mayonnaise and topped with veggies
- Stir-fried veggies and a small bowl of steamed rice
- Vegetarian pizza (blot off excess grease from the cheese)
For dessert, have a small scoop of low-fat ice cream or a small frozen yogurt with fruit topping. Grab a protein bar or small bag of dried fruit and nuts to nosh on the plane or for later in the day.
Hold your own at happy hour
Those refreshing fruity margaritas and luscious cocktails can be hard to resist, but these drinks are packed with sugar and calories, and can pack on the pounds fast. This doesn’t mean a glass of water or diet cola is your only option. Simply skip the fancy mixed drinks and order a glass of wine, a wine spritzer or a light beer. You can also ask the bartender for a cocktail made with low-calorie or no-calorie mixers. Regardless of the drinks you choose, stick to one or two and sip slowly.