Beep, beep, beep. 7:00 am–work, check; 3:00 pm–class, check; 5:00 pm–internship, check; 12:00 am pillow, check. Looking back at my life in NYC, I wonder how I did it all AND managed to follow a healthy lifestyle (well, working at a gym certainly helped!). If your routine sounds similar, and perhaps even carpooling and soccer practice for the kids sprinkled in, you’re probably eagerly reading this in hopes to add healthier eating habits to your hectic lifestyle.
Eating healthy on the go is a common concern for the average person in a society that values productivity in the workplace over productivity in the kitchen. Meanwhile, the foods that are more readily available when on the go are often those that we should limit. Sodas, sugary beverages, chips, candy bars, you name it and it mostly should be avoided.
Below are tips for healthier eating on the go. Note how I added -ier instead of healthy, because the healthfulness of food certainly lies on a continuum. Obviously, grabbing a Kashi granola bar in a pinch is better than a bag of Lay’s potato chips, but the reality is that a piece of fruit with trail mix surely beats out the Kashi “food-like substance.”
- Go Nuts for Nuts: Nuts are filled with heart healthy fats as well as protein, which help you feel fuller longer. Whether a mid-afternoon snack at your desk or on the train in between work and your next activity for the day, nuts mixed with dried fruit are a great snack.
- Greek Yogurt: Get a nutritional punch with this complete go-to snack or meal addition. Greek yogurt is not only a great source of protein, but also adds more calcium, potassium, carbohydrates, and fat (if a non-fat variety).
- Fruit: As Nature’s candy, most fruit comes in its own container and is great to have when you’re on the go. Start off with the fruit that’s the easiest to carry such as bananas, oranges, grapefruit, apples, pears, and plums. Learn more about increasing your fruit intake here.
- Portable Carrots (and other vegetables): Pre-prepare baggies of baby carrots and you will have a fiber-rich snack handy for a long day. Try out other veggies as well, but these may need a little more prep time during the weekend.
- Boiled Eggs: These portable, protein-rich snacks are not only convenient, but also contain nutrients such vitamin A, choline, riboflavin (B2), and cobalamin (B12).
- Granola Bars: Although most granola bars can be classified as food-like substances often fortified with a potpourri of vitamins and minerals, various sugars (i.e., brown rice syrup, barley malt, evaporated cane juice, etc), and fillers, they are a health-ier choice for someone on the go. When I first began my graduate studies, Clif bars were my go-to energy sources when in transport from one engagement to the next. When choosing a granola bar, aim for that with the shortest list of ingredients along with a balance of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.
- Tuna (and other) Sandwiches: Make a large batch of tuna seasoned with your favorite herbs of choice (my personal favorites are crushed red pepper flakes and cilantro) to use in sandwiches throughout the week. Get creative with the seasonings and toppings that you use–garlic powder, crushed red pepper flakes, avocado, sliced tomato, you name it. Use what you like! If you’re bored of tuna, switch it up with other omega-3 rich fish such as sardines or smoked herring/mackerel.
- PB and J Sandwiches: Go down memory lane with this classic. Make sure to use whole grain bread and peanut butter made without partially hydrogenated oils, a major source of unhealthy trans fats. (A label can indicate 0g of trans fats if it has less than 0.5g of trans fat per serving, so make sure to look closely at the ingredient list; who REALLY eats 2 Tbsp of peanut butter anyways.)
When eating out:
- More Vegetables and Beans, Less Meat: I include this recommendation for those who frequent fast-casual restaurants comparable to Chipotle or Au Bon Pain. These establishments often include vegetarian options that can (and should be) included in an omnivore’s diet. There is certainly no rule saying that you have to eat meat with every meal. But limit the amount of cheese, mayo, and sour cream that you use, which can really pack on the calories and saturated fat.
- Healthier Fast Food Options: I am ashamed to make such a recommendation, but to be realistic it must be included. (A previous employer referred to McDonald’s as McDevil’s and Burger King, Murder King.) Look long and hard at a fast food menu and you may see a healthier option here and there. In NYC, Wendy’s provided my go-to meal on nights when I knew I had nothing to eat in my fridge. I would order a garden salad and doctor up a baked potato with black beans, salsa, and a short squeeze of their sour cream. Although not the healthiest options, fast food chains do provide a few items that can periodically be included in a healthy diet.
Eating healthy on the go will take planning. Mapping out your week in your mind, and even better on paper, is beneficial especially if you have limited time to go shopping. Optimize your time on the weekend by pre-preparing baggies of mixed nuts, pre-cut veggies, or seasoned tuna for sandwiches. With all this pre-preparation, you will certainly need to stock up on plastic baggies and BPA-free containers (read more on BPA here).
For more time-saving tips, read the blog entry “Using Time Wisely.” If you have other tips that you’ve found helpful, don’t hesitate to share by making a comment.
On your marks, get set, (eat healthy on the) go!!