Six Tips for Healthy Eating on the Road
We are dedicated advocates of the axiom “you are where you eat.” While it is easy to rationalize that “one meal” can’t really have a big impact on our overall diet, in a culture that gets more than one-third of its calories away from home, this reasoning doesn’t really hold up.
To help make dining out a positive experience, we have extensively researched restaurants and natural food stores that offer vegetarian, vegan, local, sustainable, and organic dining options. Here are six tips for when you hit the road:
1. Do your homework (How not to get stuck at the last minute)
If you know where you are headed, with a guide like Healthy Highways in hand (or your glove compartment), you can plan meal stops ahead where you are likely to find suitable choices. Another useful resource, especially for on-the-spot decisions, is the Yellow Pages under “health food stores,” “vegetarian,” or for ethnic restaurants. A third tactic is to ask locally (bookstores and gift shops are a good place to start your query) about where you can find a suitable locale.
2. The “waiting game” (How to avoid eating a meal’s worth of calories before the food arrives)
While you wait for your meal, rather than eating an entire bread basket or bowl of chips and salsa, order sparkling water with a wedge of lemon to keep you occupied. Other tips: order salad right away; put the bread out of easy reach to avoid reflexive munching; eat a small snack beforehand to keep from getting too hungry.
3. Have it your way (How to ask for what you want and get what you expect)
It is quite common to think you are ordering a healthy meal, only to be surprised by what actually arrives at the table. If a menu item is unfamiliar, ask how it is prepared to be sure it meets your needs. If it matters, find out if the soup is made with a meat broth. Ask for salad dressing or, where appropriate, sauces on the side so your vegetables aren’t drenched in fat. Don’t want French fries? Ask for a salad or baked potato instead. There is nothing wrong with making reasonable requests beforehand (but remember to do it politely, with a smile, and to show your appreciation).
4. Save by Sharing (How to cut costs and calories)
People have become increasingly comfortable about sharing an entrée and ordering an extra salad or appetizer. Another strategy is to order an appetizer or soup plus salad, instead of a full dinner.
5. Quit the “Clean-plate Club” (How to face down mega-size meals)
If you eat in places that serve large portions and lots of “free” extras, (and let’s face it, many restaurants serve a day’s ration of calories in just one meal), decide how much to eat when your order arrives. If you lack willpower, consider wrapping up part before you dig in. An easy way to do this without drawing attention is to bring your own take-out container and pack it right away. If you travel with a cooler, it is easy to preserve these leftovers (or “set asides”) for a second meal. Many motels and hotels have small refrigerators in the room, an option the Goldbecks always ask for when they’re on the road.
6. Practice visualization (How to cope with “portion distortion”)
Not so long ago, a standard bagel weighed 2 ounces (what the U.S. government and nutrition experts consider 2 servings of bread). Today, bagels have more than doubled in size, so just one can equal five or six servings at one shot. To get a sense of recommended (and sensible) portions sizes, the Goldbecks offer the following visual guidelines (and you can find more in Healthy Highways).
2 servings pasta == 1 cup = size of half grapefruit
1 serving fish = 3 ounces = size of checkbook
1 serving legumes = 1 cup cooked = size of baseball
1 serving cheese = 1½ ounces = size of 3 dominoes
1 serving potato = 1 medium = size of computer mouse
Nikki and David Goldbeck are well known for their pioneering books. They began in the 1970s with the best selling Supermarket Handbook, their seminal guide to finding healthy foods in the supermarket. They followed this with American Wholefoods Cuisine, touted by numerous reviewers as the “vegetarian Joy of Cooking”. Authors of eleven books on food, nutrition and environmental issues, in Healthy Highways the Goldbecks guide readers to 2,800 health-oriented places to dine-in or pick up food throughout the U.S. You can learn more about them at www.HealthyHighways.com.