Hungry Like the Wolf – Can eating on the go be fast AND healthy?

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Eating on the run can be tough. Especially considering that the most readily-available options are the cheapest, greasiest, most-processed, stretch-to-call-it-food options in most neighborhoods and near workplaces.

Have you seen Subway’s new sandwich? The Fritos Chicken Enchilada. When I watched the commercial debuting the sandwich covered in Fritos followed by their tagline – Eat Fresh – I thought for sure it must be a joke. It’s real. 🙁

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Eating on the go is all about making better decisions. Here are a few tips for seeking out better fast food.

Pret Tuna Nicoise Salad

Pret Tuna Nicoise Salad

Seek out salad. Let’s be realistic. Sooner or later you are going to end up at McDonald’s, Portillo’s, or any number of fast-food or fast-casual restaurants. You will be tempted with burgers, fries, beef sandwiches, fried chicken – all of the nasty (but tasty) things you’d expect to encounter on the go. In an attempt to present their menus as healthy, most offer salads as an option. Try it – even at McDonald’s. Remember to opt for lean protein like grilled chicken, salmon or shrimp rather than processed meats or anything with breading. None of the dressings will be healthy so try to use less than you are given. You’ll feel better afterwards vs. choosing the #2 (cheeseburgers, fries, and coke).

Beware of buffet. Salad bars are easy. It’s pretty hard to make a horrible decision at the salad bar unless you are drinking a bowl of thousand island dressing. The lunch buffet, on the other hand, is filled with many hazardous temptations. Mac ‘n’ cheese, mashed potatoes with gravy, mostaccioli, orange chicken – those would be some of my favorites. But remember, all of these items at the buffet are probably mediocre in taste at best so you won’t miss much by passing them over. Instead, seek out lean protein and veggies… Turkey, roasted chicken, steamed broccoli, green beans… Avoid anything dressed in sauces, gravy, or breading.

Protein Bar Spinach & Pesto Quinoa Bowl

Protein Bar Spinach & Pesto Quinoa Bowl

Upgrade your fast food. There are plenty of fast options that serve real food. You’ll know one of these places when you see it. Their nutritional info will be clearly displayed on the menu. Salads will be featured items – not an afterthought. Fries won’t be on the menu. Three of my favorites are Pret, the Protein Bar and Panera. If you’re lucky enough to be in proximity to one of these, you will have some solid options for lunch.

Pret A Manger, or just Pret, features pre-made sandwiches and salads. In fact, PRET A MANGER is French for ready to eat. You just grab and go. I never thought I could enjoy a packaged sandwich from a cooler but their offerings are quite good. Everything is made fresh daily so you never have to wonder about how old something is… try the Chicken & Avocado Salad or Albacore Tuna Nicoise Salad.

I really can’t get enough of the Protein Bar. From smoothies to burritos to quinoa bowls they have options for vegan, gluten free, and plain old protein seekers. Their motto is WE DO HEALTHY…HEALTHIER. Try the Spinach & Pesto quinoa bowl or the Comiskey Cocoa smoothie, two of my favorites. Their salads are too much food and a little pricey IMO.

Panera Black Bean Soup w/ Apple instead of bread

Panera Black Bean Soup w/ Apple instead of bread

Panera is hit or miss for me but they are doing a few things that I really like. First of all, the option to choose an apple as your side over bread… I don’t think it’s so much about the apple as it is about making people feel good about making a better choice. I fall for it all the time. Panera also gets an A for effort… They aim to use fresh ingredients, cage-free eggs, and hormone free chicken in their recipes. Try one of their 1/2 sandwiches with soup or salad combos.

It all boils down to making better choices. Think 80/20 rule – making better choices most of the time will help you to reach your nutritional goals. If you have the opportunity to make a better choice, seize it.

And now for some musical therapy…

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