On the road
Are you one of the 30% of Americans who “dashboard dine” — that is, eat in their cars at least once or twice a week? Fast-food restaurants recognized this trend and began testing various menu items for ease of in-car dining, leading to the development of the popular “wraps” found in almost every restaurant on the road.
Traffic congestion and time crunch can take its toll on food choices. But the good news is that if you are driving, you are more likely to be able to stop and eat when you see good food choices or to keep going until better food is available.
If you plan to be on the road for a short trip or day of nonstop errands, pack a small cooler. For quick trips, cold water, fruit, nuts, trail mix, or a 100-calorie–portion snack are nice to have on hand.
For longer trips, make a chicken or turkey sandwich on whole-grain bread and prepare a bag of bite-size fresh vegetable pieces. Freeze a bottle of water the night before and add it to your cooler, along with a bottle of cold, unfrozen water to drink right away. The frozen bottle acts as an additional freezer pack and will be ready to drink later in the day. Don’t forget napkins or paper towels, utensils, condiment packets, premoistened towelettes, your favorite sweetener, and trash bags. It’s healthier and more relaxing to enjoy an impromptu picnic at a roadside park than to gulp a drippy burger and ketchup-soaked fries in a fast-food restaurant parking lot!
If you do pull in for a fast-food meal, keep these tips in mind:
• Avoid “super-size” items and “mega meals.” Although you may be getting more food for the extra sixty-seven cents, you are also buying about 400 extra calories on average, which can carry a price tag of its own in terms of weight gain and associated health-care costs. If you do super-size, share the meal with your car companions.
• A chicken or fish sandwich isn’t automatically a healthier choice. Look for grilled sandwiches rather than breaded and fried sandwiches. A fried chicken sandwich can be loaded with up to 50% more calories (mostly from fat) than a plain hamburger.
• Most fast-food restaurants now offer salad-based entrées. Choose a grilled chicken salad and low-fat dressing, and then round out your meal with a piece of fruit from your cooler.
• Be wise with your sides. Many fast-food restaurants now offer side dishes other than French fries and potato chips, such as side salads, apple slices, and baby carrots.
• Look at your liquids. Plain water, unsweetened tea, or diet soft drinks are good, low-calorie choices. Even a healthy-sounding smoothie can contain up to 500 calories and 99 grams of carbohydrate!
If you take a break for a sit-down meal, remember these tips:
• Be creative in your meal choices. Split an entrée with someone else, or order a side salad for a starter and make an appetizer your main course. Feel free to make a special request, if needed. Salad dressing or condiments served on the side let you control the amount you use.
• If you’re faced with an all-you-can-eat buffet, take the time to look over your choices before you start taking food. Start your meal with a salad or cup of broth-based soup. Then use the “plate method” to build your meal: Fill half of the plate with nonstarchy vegetables such as broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, or green beans; fill a quarter of the plate with lean meat, chicken, or fish; and fill a quarter of the plate with a starchy food such as noodles, rice, bread, tortillas, or potatoes. Add a fruit choice and some low-fat milk, and you’ve put together a quick, well-rounded meal.
No matter where you eat, don’t be a victim of restaurant “portion distortion” and oversized servings. Visualize your portion sizes as follows:
• 3 ounces of cooked meat, poultry, or fish is the size of a deck of cards.