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On the road again… my guide for eating healthy on the go

on May 25, 2012

For the past four years, I have been on the road nearly every work day. Like many people who are on the go, I have had my share of bad convenience foods and skipped meals. Fortunately, I have also learned a thing or two about eating healthy on the road. Here are some tips for those days when you have limited time or options for a healthy sit-down meal, or for when you’ve got to hit the road, Jack.

1) Have some sort of a plan when you leave the house. This is key. Know roughly when and what you will eat throughout the day. Otherwise, you are likely to scavenge for whatever foods are available when you find yourself suddenly very hungry. Those are likely to be bad choices. Having a rough plan about when you will refuel and about what kinds of food you are looking for will go a long way to ensure you get in some good nutrition.

Must I say this? Good nutrition really is that important. We very often understimate the effect the kind and amount of foods we eat have on our bodies. Having some thought about the kinds of food we want to ingest requires small effort and has a huge pay-off.

2) Preparation is best. I often plan and pack my meals in advance. After some practice with this, it just takes me a few minutes in the morning to reach for my tried-and-true meal combos. I recommend investing in an insulated lunch bag, one or two reusable ice packs, and a BPA-free water bottle. Here’s how it goes for me:

I like to have a sweet and flavorful type of coffee in the am, so I brew it at home using my favorites Best Life skim milk and agave nectar — it saves me money and ensures I get the good stuff in it rather than good ol’ cream and sugar. That goes into my traveling coffee mug. I also brew a couple of bags of green tea and pour them over ice into my water bottle for sipping throughout the day.

On a good prep day, I pack breakfast, lunch and a snack in my lunch tote. I aim to follow the rule of balanced meals, even for snacks (complex carbohydrate, good/lean protein, and a little good fat). My favorite and easiest lunch is a turkey sandwich on toasted whole wheat bread with cracked pepper mayo and a slice of tomato (packed separately so the bread doesn’t get soggy). Breakfast may be greek yogurt, and snack is usually a serving of fruit and string cheese (the new “tomato basil” by Kraft is delicious). Other winner combos for breakfast or snacks are: mixed nuts and fruit; whole grain crackers or carrots with hummus; fruit and peanut butter (have you tried dark chocolate peanut butter? yummy); yogurt with or without fruit; whole grain crackers with cheese; protein bars or shakes as a last resort.

Since I usually start my day at the office, I also keep a stash of quick breakfast items there (like “Better Oats” oatmeal or whole grain waffles), so I often don’t have to pack breakfast. My current favorite is (toasted) cinnamon-raisin English muffin with peanut-butter spread.

3) Decide on your go-to places for no-prep days. On days when I fail to pack lunch or snack or anything at all, I often choose to make a quick and easy stop at the grocery store when I hit the road. Some grocery stores in bigger cities have fantastic foods. I travel in rural areas and don’t have that many options, but I have found that the Kroger across the street from my office often has ready-made deli sandwiches on wheat bread. It’s very convenient to stop there to grab a sandwich, a piece of fresh fruit and some nuts (maybe even a bottle of water if I forgot my trusted bottle at home) and be on my way.

You can, of course, hit a fast food restaurant — but then you have to be very discriminating about the kind of food you choose. Many fast-food chains are offering healthier items now but even these should probably still be eaten only on occasion. Starbucks has a great selection of breakfast items (if you skip most of the baked goods). Chili and a baked potato from Wendy’s or a low-calorie sandwich from Subway make a good lunch, and McDonald’s fruit and walnut snack will do for a, well, snack. Visit ttp://eatthis.menshealth.com/restaurant_guided_search/all/all/all/fastfoodto look up healthier items from fast-food joints.

Here’s a trick I have started using when I want a hot sandwich for a change. I’ve noticed that very often it is the white sugary bread that makes fast-food sandwiches unhealthy. So on some days I might pack a couple of slices of my good healthy bread, then order a grilled chicken or roast beef sandwich from a restaurant and make the bread switch.

Another good tip for a purchased sandwich is to double the meat rather than doubling the bread; for instance, order a 6-inch sub rather than a footlong and ask to double the meat (Subway has a way of charging for this). Or, order two grilled chicken wraps, ditch the tortilla from one of them and have double the chicken in your wrap. The protein will keep you fuller and you will avoid all the extra sugar from the extra bread.

4)Keep an extra stash of snacks in your car or bag.For those times when you haven’t prepped, and haven’t had a chance to stop by a go-to place, or you simply find yourself extra hungry: keep a cereal or protein bar, maybe even some dark chocolate and nuts, or dried fruit somewhere accessible for snack emergencies. This may help you keep your blood sugar stable and avoid a run for a milkshake. Of course, there are days when I do get a milkshake, and that’s OK. That’s got to be part of the plan sometimes…

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2 responses to “On the road again… my guide for eating healthy on the go

  1. Nancy Hayes says:

    Great suggestions for whether you are in a car all day or not. Best part of planning and packing lunch is all the money you save.

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