Summer is a busy time for everyone. We know it’s supposed to be relaxing, but chances are you’ve got a jam-packed schedule full of hot weather activities. Between road trips, making sure the kids get to and from day camp, beach days, fairs and festivals, making the most of this short season can be draining. Maintain a healthy diet and keep your energy up by eating well on the go. Skip fast food and say no to sugary snacks — even though they’re tempting, they’ll just leave you too tired to hit the pool. SheKnows got some advice from Mary Hartley, registered dietitian and nutritionist for CalorieCount.com, about maintaining a nutrient-dense diet despite a hectic schedule.
Grab a quick, healthy breakfast
There’s no way you’re going to survive the water park, state fair and backyard barbecue if you don’t start the day with a good breakfast. It’s tempting to skip the first meal of the day in favor of a few extra minutes of sleep (or to wrangle a pair of unruly tots) but rather than starting your day on an empty stomach, Hartley suggests packing a healthy breakfast the night before and storing it in the fridge. That way all you have to do is grab and go. She says to choose simple foods from two, three or more food groups to get more bang for your breakfast buck. Some quick, healthy, on-the-go options include:
- Peanut or almond butter and banana sandwich on whole grain bread.
- Half of a whole wheat pita stuffed with chopped hardboiled egg, shredded carrot and diced red and green pepper.
- Plastic container filled with low-fat cottage cheese, berries and other seasonal fruit.
- Cooked quinoa tossed with a handful of raw nuts and frozen berries packed into a leak-proof container.
Pack a nutritious, satisfying lunch
Being on the go shouldn’t mean forgoing food. “Don’t starve yourself at lunch – it will only lead to overeating later,” Hartley says, adding that at lunch, you need to eat about one-third of the servings you require from all of the food groups. This means avoiding the drive-through and making something simple and power-packed the day before you go, or in the morning if you have time. Some super-quick and tasty options are listed below, which can all be easily customized based on your preferences and how many mouths you’ll be feeding.
- Pasta salad: Cook up some whole wheat pasta and toss with your favorite raw chopped veggies, olive oil, lemon juice and fresh herbs.
- Beans and rice: Make a batch of brown rice and add a can of drained and rinsed white beans. Mix in some lightly sautéed greens (Swiss chard or kale) and other colorful vegetables of your choice. Top with a low-fat dressing or drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
- Stuffed pita sandwich: All you need for this one is a whole wheat pita cut in half and stuffed with hummus, canned tuna or sliced grilled chicken, baby spinach, diced onion and cucumber. Wrap it up and you’re ready to go!
Choose healthy dine-out options
Being on the go means you’re going to end up eating out at some point, especially if you’re on a road trip or have a long drive between destinations. But, as Hartley says, eating out in a healthy way is all about portion size, so she suggests asking your waitress exactly how large your order will be before you commit. If you have a smartphone, there are many apps that tell you how many calories are in various restaurant meals. Try Restaurant Nutrition (free for iPhone and iPod Touch) which has a database of more than 30,000 food items from 200 popular restaurants. And don’t be afraid to ask how certain dishes are cooked so you know exactly what you’re getting (roasted versus fried, for example). You can also ask for sauces and dressings on the side, avoid anything fried and don’t feel compelled to clean your plate. “As soon as your order arrives, split your dish into two servings to share or eat for a later meal,” the nutritionist adds.
The best way to maintain a healthy diet with a jam-packed schedule is to plan ahead, Hartley says, adding that going away for the weekend shouldn’t mean spoiling a week’s worth of healthy eating. In the days before a road trip or particularly busy weekend that will have you running all over town (and beyond), stock up on nutritious, on-the-go foods like apples and oranges, snack-size low-fat yogurt, raw nuts, raisins and other dried fruit. That way, even if you don’t have time to pre-make breakfast or lunch, you will have healthy snacks to keep your energy up and supplement any eating out you do. “Most people will eat junk food because it is convenient, but they’ll often choose healthier options if it’s made available,” says Hartley.
Keep track of calories
The key to healthy, sustainable weight loss (especially when you’re on the go and it’s hard to keep track of what you’re eating) is being mindful of calories consumed versus calories burned, explains Hatley. A smartphone app like MyFitnessPal (free for iPhone and iPod Touch), allows you to enter what you’ve eaten from the database of more than 750,000 foods and track how much you’re moving, so you know where you stand even on your busiest day. If you don’t have a smartphone, Hartley suggests using the CalorieCount.com text tool. Simply text message “food” and the item you’d like nutritional information to 432584 (“HEALTH” on most phones) and you’ll get a response with the specific calorie count.