By: Coach Travis
According to a survey conducted by Women’s Health, these days, the average woman is in the car on average 15 hours per week. That’s over 2 full work days! Women and families are busy, and always on the go! Eating healthy can be a challenge. However, with rising child and teen obesity also comes increased risk for health problems that are only typically seen in adults, like Type 2 Diabetes and elevated blood cholesterol, in order to keep our families strong and healthy, we must rise to the challenge.
When you are on the go, either running your daily errands, in between home and soccer practice or ballet, running out to an after work meeting, or heading to the gym, eating healthy isn’t always easy. It is too convenient to stop at your favorite fast food joint to pick up a burger, some fries and a soda and call it lunch or dinner. Not exactly health food. Or, even worse, not eat at all. But there are quite a few options if you want to eat healthy and if you want your family to eat healthy while you are on the go. We have put together a selection of “Quick Tips” that can help you gain control of your families nutrition and health.
Always Have Food Available. Keep healthy food stocked in your pantry and refrigerator at all times so you can pack your own snacks and lunches. It is the best way to avoid the fast food restaurant or that box of fundraiser candy just steps away from your desk. And, not only is it healthy, but it saves money! So think ahead.
Here are a few tips to get you armed and ready for healthy choices:
● Be container prepared. Gather and purchase if needed containers such as glass containers with lids, or plastic bags, foil and wax paper and a portable cooler that can be used to carry and keep food cool in the car. Stow in your car a basic picnic set: a set of flatware, a small Swiss Army knife, napkins, wipes, a glass, a couple of plastic storage bags and a garbage bag.
● Research food product at home and plan your meals for the week
● Play favorites. Earmark several favorite, quick and healthy recipes and always have the ingredients ready. This is great for a quick dinner after a night of after school sports. My favorite is spinach frittata and lightly salted steamed red potatoes with green onion.
● Create a list of healthy foods that you would like to always keep in the house, work and in the car, like carrots, sliced fruit, whole wheat bread, energy bars, etc. Make sure there is plenty of variety so you won’t get bored of the same items.
● Is convenience key? Buy pre-washed salads, prepared carrots, coleslaw, celery, pineapple. Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s has a great selection. Check out your local grocer’s produce aisle.
● Keep a grocery list on your refrigerator and always write down when you are out of something
● Organize your fridge and pantry so you can easily, visually see when you are out of stock
● Mail order produce. Try an organization like Local Harvest which delivers organic, farm fresh produce to your door step
● Make Grab and Go’s. Wash and prepare fruit and veggies into single serving size plastic bags or container. You can also do this with other snacks like pretzels or trail mix. Or, for convenience, purchase product that is already divided into single serving sizes. Trader Joe’s has a great Trial Mix in single serving snack packs.
● Stock up. Keep snacks and even lunch items anywhere you and the family might get hungry, like the car, your gym bag, your purse, at your desk, even in the office fridge and/or freezer.
● Make meals on the weekend that can be used as leftovers or frozen in single serving sizes and freeze and reheated during the week.
● Make the kids a list of quick and healthy after school snacks that they can prepare. Post it in the kitchen for them. Include things like lowfat mozzarella stick with multigrain crackers.
● Hydrate. Toss aside the coffee cup and always carry a filled water bottle with you everywhere. Thirst can be misunderstood as hunger.
Schedule meal and snack time and stick to it.Most of us are better with a food routine than not, and kids especially benefit from it. If your kids know they will only get food at certain times, they’ll eat what they get when they get it. Begin by starting your day off right with a balanced breakfast- forget about skipping it, you will do yourself more harm than good and may overindulge at lunch time. Then, eat your snacks and meals throughout the day.
Fuel Up Before You Leave. Curb your appetite and have a healthy snack like a piece of fruit, a yogurt, a glass of milk or even a handful of trail mix or raisins before you walk out the door. You will be less likely to become so famished that you over indulge simply because you have no other option.
Keep An Emergency Stash. Keep an emergency stash of healthy snacks everywhere you or the family may need them, like in your purse, your desk at work. your car and your gym bag. I usually always carry 2 Balance Bars and a few Grab and Go, single servings snack packs of trail mix or multigrain crackers and a reduced fat string cheese. This usually satisfies me until I can get to a more healthful, fulfilling meal at home.
Sometimes you have no other option than to eat out while you are on the go. When that is the case, try to find a grocery store or large convenience/drug store where there is a lot of variety. If a grocery store isn’t available, opt for a restaurant.
Grocery Store dining. While you are on the road, you should be able to find a grocery store close by ,or a convenience store. A grocery store will offer you the most variety and more healthful choices than a convenience store or restaurant.
Here are some tips:
● Plan your attack. Always have a plan when you go into the grocery store and avoid shopping on the inner aisles (which usually contain only processed foods).
● Avoid eye contact with the mega marketing end caps. Go past the end caps and be wary of bargain bins where smartly placed sweets and treats grab your stomach's attention.
● Never go to the grocery store starving! Before hunger strikes, plan to hit the store to get your meal or snack. Otherwise, it may be twice as hard to resist the convenience of M&Ms.
● Research food product at home and create a list that can be tucked into your purse or wallet of ideal snacks and meals.
● Read the label. If you purchase something processed, get familiar with the nutrition label. Avoid items with high sodium, fat and hydrogenated oils.
● Head for the deli case. Many stores these days also offer deli sandwiches (skip the mayo and opt for mustard) and freshly prepared salads to go. Add a bottle of water and lunch is served.
● Check out the produce. Look for prepared fruit and veggies in the produce section.
● Don’t forget a snack for later. While at the grocery store, pick up an afternoon snack.
Restaurant dining. Though much of the food that is served in restaurants isn’t exactly healthy, many restaurants now have healthier menu options. Subway, Wendy’s, Jamba Juice and Applebees are a few. And by making smart choices, you can eat healthy.
Here are some restaurant survival tips:
● Eat before you go. If you are out and about, and have an extra snack with you, like a handful of almonds, eat it. When you arrive at the restaurant and order, you won’t be starving and will be more able to control portion size.
● Start small, Begin with a salad, cup of non-cream based soup or baked potato first, then if you are still hungry, place an order for more.
● Eat your sandwich open-faced. By eating only half the bun, you can eliminate unnecessary calories.
● Ask for a wheat bun. Some places offer a wheat alternative, some don’t. It never hurts to ask.
● Order baked, broiled, or grilled lean meats including turkey, chicken, seafood, or sirloin steak. Opt for grilled chicken sandwiches instead of hamburgers.
● Avoid double meat and bacon.
● Skip the high fat add-ons, like mayonnaise, butter, sour cream, dressings, sauces or cheese and opt for a healthier alternative like a low fat dressing, balsamic vinaigrette, salsa or mustard. Ask for olive or canola oil instead of butter, margarine, or shortening.
● Can I have that on the side, please? If you choose to splurge on a high fat sauces or dressings, ask for it on the side and use them sparingly. One trick is to dip your fork into the dressing then the salad. You use a lot less dressing without sacrificing the flavor.
● Drink nonfat or lowfat milk instead of whole milk or cream.
● Choose fresh fruit instead of sugary, high-fat desserts.
● Skip the fries or other unhealthy sides. Most of the big chains offer side salads or fruit on their menu. If you can, skip the side all together. Often, the entree is enough by itself.
● Skip the soda. Drink water instead. Regular sodas, juices, and energy drinks usually contain "empty" calories that you don't need — not to mention other stuff, like caffeine and sodium.
● Go for balance. Choose meals that contain a balance of lean proteins (like fish, chicken, or beans if you're a vegetarian), fruits and vegetables, and whole-grains (like whole wheat bread and brown rice).
● Subside to the craving. If you have a craving for something unhealthy, try sharing the food you crave with a friend. This way, you get to have what you want, in a controllable amount.
● Pass on the “value-size” and be aware of portion size. Be mindful of portion sizes. Most restaurant portions are way larger than the average serving of food at home. The portion sizes of American foods have increased over the past few decades so that we are now eating way more than we need. The average size of a hamburger in the 1950s was just 1.5 ounces, compared with today's hamburgers, which weigh in at 8 ounces or more.
● Share. Share an entree or smoothie with a friend. Most restaurant portions are adequate for two people.
● Ask for half portions or take half of your dish home. Don’t even let the extra food hit your plate. If half portions aren’t available, ask for a box before you start eating and half it yourself.
Remember, moderation is key. The best way for you and your family to have a nutritious diet is to follow a balanced plan that you can stick to for the long term. Indulging once in a while in a double double cheeseburger, fries and a shake is ok. But, it shouldn’t be routine. You don’t have to be perfect and you don’t have to completely eliminate foods you enjoy to have a healthy diet. The long term goal is to feel good, have more energy and reduce the risk of cancer and disease. Don’t let your missteps derail you—every healthy food choice you make counts.