Eating on the Run

Most people find it easier to stick to a healthy diet when they’re at home and can plan their meals. But eating in restaurants, in your car, or at your desk is often a reality of modern life.

The following strategies from the American Heart Association and other experts can help you choose sensible foods when you’re out and about:

  • Check out restaurant websites. If you frequent a particular fast-food chain, go online and print out the nutrition information. This can help you make healthier choices, keeping calories and fat content in mind.

  • Don’t super-size your meal. In most cases, the regular-sized meal will provide more than enough calories, energy, and hunger satisfaction. Large-sized meals, for pennies more, may seem like a deal, but they are not, as far as your health and weight are concerned.

  • Be particular. Order meals for which you can specify toppings and extras. Often it’s the extras that add pound-packing calories. For example, topping a salad with fat-free salad dressing instead of regular dressing can save you as much as 250 calories per serving. Choosing mustard instead of mayo saves at least 100 calories.

  • Avoid fried food. Order a ham or turkey sandwich, for instance, instead of a battered-and-fried chicken or fish sandwich. That will save you hundreds of calories and probably a dozen or more fat grams.

  • Order healthy side dishes. Whenever possible, choose a side salad, fruit cup, chili, or a cup of soup instead of fried potatoes.

  • Keep healthy snacks in your car. If you are often on the run, keep a cooler stocked with bottled water, fresh fruit, or whole-grain nutrition bars so you can get an energy boost without being tempted by fast food.

  • Remember to count beverage calories. Shakes, sodas, specialty coffee drinks, and alcoholic beverages can add hundreds of calories to your meal.

  • Avoid buffet or all-you-can-eat restaurants. If you have no choice, limit yourself to one plate of healthy foods, emphasizing steamed vegetables, grilled meat, and a green salad.

  • Keep a stash of healthy food at your desk. This will help you to avoid the high-fat snacks available in vending machines. Whole-wheat crackers, fat-free microwave popcorn in 100-calorie packs, dried fruit, and low-fat cereal bars are easy options.

  • Skip any dishes that are smothered, crispy, crusted, or battered and fried. These terms all add up to extra calories and fat.