Eating Healthy On The Go

01/30/24  10:00 AM PST
Enteral Nutrition Newsletter

Many of us live busy lives and are constantly on the go. Because of this, we often find ourselves lacking enough time to make one home-cooked meal, let alone three nutritionally-dense meals per day. Instead, many of us find ourselves looking for a convenient and tasty meal to fit into our busy schedule, whether that be a pre-made meal from the fridge or picking up food from a restaurant or fast food establishment. However, convenient foods are not always the healthiest, which can make it seem difficult, if not impossible, to find a nutritious meal when on the go. Fortunately, with some planning and consideration, you can have a fast and convenient meal while also meeting your nutritional needs.

Think ahead

When trying to make conscious decisions about what we put in our bodies, it can help to think ahead about our schedule and build a plan.

Ask yourself questions like:

  • What does your day look like?
  • What does your week look like?
  • When do you tend to not prioritize healthy eating?

Use these questions to visualize the areas of your life where healthy eating gets left behind because you have too much going on. From here you can plan out a few options to fall back on during those busy days while sticking to your nutrition goals.

Plan a Few Healthy Alternatives

Now that you have an idea of when you need to have quick and easy, healthy options available in a pinch, you can decide what those quick and easy options should be.

First, you should be realistic about what you will and will not eat. You don’t want to plan a healthy meal that, when it comes time, you find yourself ignoring for an unhealthy alternative or skipping altogether. Find something you know you like or that you can be excited about but is healthier than your previous go-to option. This can mean meal prepping food at home, choosing healthier options in a restaurant or drive-thru, or even having healthier snacks on hand.

1. Learn to Meal Prep

Meal prepping can save you time and money and allow you to have full control over what you are eating. Meal prepping can be as simple as making enough for leftovers. Instead of cooking half of the pasta box, cook the whole thing and put the extra in the fridge for an easy meal later. You can even take it a step further and have it portioned out into single servings in containers that you can grab-and-go. Or, if you have the time, you can spend your Sunday cooking and meal prepping for the week.

A few meal prepping ideas to save you time during the week.

  • If you have the time, cook meals in batches so you have plenty left over.
  • Cut up and portion out fruits and veggies ahead of time.
  • Prep your breakfast or lunch the night before if you know you will be rushing out of the house in the morning.
  • Portion out and wrap up snacks ahead of time.

If you need something ready faster or don’t know what to cook, you can also try one of the many home-cooked meal kit subscription services. This will allow you to choose from a variety of healthy recipes based on what you are looking for (low-carb, low-calorie, gluten-free, vegetarian, etc.) and have the ingredients delivered right to your door, saving you time on researching recipes and shopping for ingredients.

2. Choose Healthier Options at Eating Establishments

For many, meal prepping may not be a consistent option depending on how busy you are. In the event you do find yourself at a restaurant or in a drive-thru line, here are some guidelines to stick to.

In General
  1. Look for restaurants that have a wide range of menu items available for you to choose from.
  2. Think about what you will be eating throughout the day. If you plan to have a large dinner, try to have a light lunch and breakfast.
  3. Instead of sugary soft drinks, look for water or unsweetened tea.
At Restaurants
  1. Review the menu and nutritional information carefully. Look for key terms such as: baked, braised, broiled, grilled, poached, roasted, and steamed. These terms typically indicate that a menu item is healthier.
  2. Avoid the pre-entrée free appetizers until after you’ve eaten.
  3. Opt for a side salad or fruit instead of french fries or buttery mashed potatoes.
  4. Split your order. Share half of your order with a friend or take the other half home for another meal.
  5. If you do order dessert, look for a fresh fruit or sorbet option. If one is not available, order a small portion or see if someone will share with you.
At a Fast Food Establishment
  1. Try to chose somewhere that you have control over what goes into your food, like somewhere that you can build-your-own-bowl or a sandwich shop where you can choose your toppings.
  2. Avoid fried food. Opt for a side salad or fruit instead of french fries and grilled chicken instead of fried chicken or chicken nuggets.
  3. Aim for smaller portion sizes. Instead of ordering a medium or large combo, order a small size.
  4. Skip out on the calorie-heavy toppings and side-sauces.

3. Have Healthy Snacks at the Ready

If you are hitting a midday slump and need something to keep you going, a snack can seem like a good option. Unfortunately, many snacks may seem healthy but are full of added sugars and sodium and provide little to no nutritional value. Look for whole grain and high fiber snacks that have a long shelf life to keep in your desk, car, bag, or anywhere else that they would be easily accessible.

If you have time to prep a snack in the morning or the night before to bring with you for the day, choose simple snacks like peanut butter and an apple, veggies and hummus, or nonfat Greek yogurt and unsalted nuts (walnuts, almonds, peanuts, cashews, etc.). Some other healthy snack ideas include whole pieces of fruit, protein bars without added sugar, granola, and rice cakes.

Stick To It

Whether you are prepping food at home, picking up from a restaurant or drive-thru, or snacking between meals, each decision you make about what to fuel your body with is important and affects your overall health and well being. Your health is one of the most important things to both you and those around you. No matter how busy you are, there are steps you can take to ensure you are meeting your daily nutritional needs.

If you aren’t sure how to meet your specific nutrition goals, a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) can help you put together a personalized eating plan based on your lifestyle and goals. Ask your healthcare provider about a referral to an RDN. You can also reach out to your local health department or use online resources to find a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist near you.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics also provides many helpful nutrition resources. You can learn anything from basic health tips to eating healthy on a budget. Visit www.eatright.org/national-nutrition-month/resources to learn more.

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