Making healthy choices on the run

Sometimes grabbing fast food is inevitable, but healthy choices are still available. Find ideas of what to look for to make a healthy meal on the go.

Almost everyone has their moments of rushing through their day and may not have time to plan, let alone cook a meal. You may run out of time in the morning to pack a lunch, get home late and everyone is hungry, you haven’t been able to get to the grocery store, you’re in the middle of a road trip, etc. Let’s face it, fast food happens. Drive-thru dining happens. Eating in the car on the way to the next family obligation happens. Here’s what doesn’t have to happen: Poor food choices. Just because you are on the go doesn’t mean you are destined for the high calorie, high fat burger and fries meal.

You can make healthy choices while eating on the run. Here are some things to look for:

  • Find the menu with the nutrition information on it. It is much easier to make healthy choices when you are an informed consumer. Some restaurants have calorie information posted on the menu when you order, so at a glance you are able to find the lower calorie options without having to study a pamphlet.
  • Look for items that are not fried, as these will tend to be lower in calories. For example, grilled chicken on a sandwich or in a salad generally is a leaner option than a burger. Some restaurants allow you to choose your side; choose the lower calorie sides or ones that are baked, not fried (i.e., baked potato versus French fries).
  • Be aware of high fat condiments, toppings, dips and dressings. What may seem like a healthier option at first glance may soon become a high-fat, high-calorie option after adding things like mayonnaise, cheese, ranch or other dip or salad dressing. Ask to substitute other condiments like mustard or balsamic vinegar for the mayonnaise, skip the cheese and beware of creamy dips and dressings because they tend to be higher in fat. Opt for oil and vinegar based dressings instead.
  • Watch portions. Fast food meals are notorious for dishing out oversized portions, so be aware of the amount of food that is given to you. Choose smaller sized sides and drinks when possible or get one meal and share with someone else.
  • Drink water. Oversized drink cups offer a lot of added calories with little or no nutrition if filled with regular soda or other sugar sweetened beverages. Water is free, calorie free and is great for your body and overall health.

After collecting menus from your go-to restaurants, circle the healthier items so that next time you go you already have the healthy options to choose from instead of having to scan through every menu item. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for a substitution or special request. Having a strategy for times when fast food is the option makes it easier to stick to your healthy eating plan.

For more strategies on eating healthy, nutrition, weight management or other ideas for healthy living, contact your local Michigan State University Extension office.

Did you find this article useful?