Eating right on the go

Cinnamon rolls for the morning commute, chips and candy in the afternoon, cookies before bed. Don’t sacrifice your diet and still satisfy your hunger when life is particularly hectic:

Healthy ideas for “on the go” dining

For safety reasons, you should never eat while driving. But from time to time we all run late in the morning,  miss breakfast or need a quick meal on the way to athletic practice.

  • Experiment with cheese and crackers: try 100% whole-grain, or reduced-fat crackers with part-skim string cheese, an apple, and bottled water.
  • Boost calcium and protein with ready-to-go products like yogurt in a tube, drinkable yogurt, lunch-sized milk cartons, and regular single-serving yogurt. Look for low-fat and sugar free varieties.
  • Fill a baggie with dry cereal, peanuts, and raisins. Take along boxed low-fat milk or orange juice. A handful of raisins and 6 oz. of juice give you a good start toward the goal of at least 2½ cups of fruits and veggies a day. Toast some 100% whole-grain bread for a sandwich of natural, sugar free peanut butter and fruit-sweetened jelly. Bring a calcium-fortified orange juice box.
  • Try a hard-boiled egg, mini-bagel, banana, and a 100% juice box.
  • Fill pita bread with fat-free tuna salad and fresh spinach or romaine lettuce; take along a milk box and a couple of fig-filled cookies.
  • Make a dinner wrap using a low-fat whole wheat or corn tortilla. Fill with low-fat meat and cheeses, sliced tomatoes, lettuce, sprouts, roasted red peppers, black beans, garbanzo beans, and/or leftover grilled chicken. To flavor and hold a wrap together, thinly spread low-fat cream cheese or hummus on the tortilla, or use a small amount of low-fat ranch or blue-cheese salad dressing.

Quick healthy snacks

  • Mixed nuts and single-serving cans of tomato juice
  • Dried fruits such as raisins, apricots and apples. Keep portions small to control calories because dried fruits can be high in sugar.
  • Low-fat milk and a low-fat, whole-grain muffin. Keep it frozen and microwave the muffin briefly before eating. Do not get jumbo-sized muffins.
  • Low sugar, 100% whole-grain breakfast cereal, dry or with milk, and fruit.
  • No-sugar-added applesauce, sliced peaches in their own juice, or other single serving fruits
  • Fresh fruit, such as pears, blueberries, raspberries, apples, oranges, nectarines, peaches, kiwi, grapes, strawberries, and bananas
  • Packaged, ready-to-eat vegetables such as baby carrots, broccoli florets, and cauliflower pieces with a low-fat dip (2 tablespoons)
  • Chopped vegetables, such as red and green bell peppers; jicama, carrot, and celery sticks; snow peas; button mushrooms; and/or broccoli with non-fat ranch dressing or hummus
  • Popcorn (2½ cups) plain or with margarine (1½ teaspoons)
  • Turkey ham (1 oz.) and soft bread sticks with spaghetti sauce (2 tablespoons)
  • Saltine crackers (4) and part-skim Mozzarella cheese (1 oz.)
  • A turkey kabob: turkey and cheese cubes (0.5 oz. each) with pretzel sticks and low-fat milk (8 oz.)
  • Boost the nutritional value of any snack with single-serving 100% juice beverages canned or boxed and boxed low-fat milk.

Restaurant food at its best

There’s no reason you need to blow your “calorie budget” when you go out to eat. Just follow these tips:

Planning ahead

  • If you know you’re going to eat out, think about what foods you’ll choose over the whole day. For example, plan on a light lunch if you’ll eat out at dinnertime.
  • Avoid skipping meals, which may make you overindulge later or show up at the restaurant famished!
  • If you’d like to splurge on a higher calorie entrée, skip dessert.
  • Commit to sticking to your plan once you’re in the restaurant.
  • Avoid all-you-can-eat buffets, which are usually diet disasters!

  • Order regular portion sizes instead of the jumbo or super sizes.
  • Try an appetizer, half an entrée, or share a meal with a friend and order an extra side salad.
  • Ask for half your entrée to be wrapped up to go before the food is brought to the table.
  • Order each item separately (a la carte) to get exactly what you want. For example, one chicken enchilada easy-on-the-sauce, side salad, and fruit dessert instead of the enchilada plate with rice, refried beans, sour cream and guacamole.
  • Learn to spot which dishes are made with lower calorie cooking methods, such as grilling.  Avoid breading and frying when possible.
  • Ask your server what ingredients are used.
  • Ask how dishes are prepared and if they can prepare it your way: grill the chicken, steam the vegetables, bring sauces and salad dressings on the side, put just a dollop of cream sauce on the pasta primavera and order extra grilled vegetables.
  • Make healthy substitutions like a baked potato instead of fries, or a salad or fresh fruit instead of another high fat side.
  • Don’t tempt yourself! Have the waiter remove the bowl of chips, or the basket of bread. Calories from nibbling can add up before you know it.
  • Limit alcohol which contains empty calories, has few nutrients, and can weaken your will power.

Smart menu choices

  • Clear broth-based soups like miso, Chinese wonton or hot and sour soup, consommé, tortilla soup, or minestrone.
  • Lettuce or spinach salads with vegetables and dressing on the side. Darker lettuces tend to have more nutrients. Go light on bacon bits, croutons, cheese, and mayonnaise-based items like macaroni salad or tuna salad.
  • Raw vegetables (crudités) with a small amount of low-calorie dip.
  • Steamed vegetables with a slice of lemon; grilled veggies that are not drenched in oil or butter.
  • Meats that are grilled, broiled, roasted, or baked without added fat. Choose seafood that is broiled, baked, steamed, blackened, or poached.
  • A reasonable portion of steak—3 to 6 oz.; other lean meat cuts served au jus, with a flavorful fruit sauce, or stir-fried with vegetables. Again, go easy on the rich sauces.
  • A baked potato with a pat of butter or small amount of sour cream. Top with broccoli, low-fat chili, or salsa.
  • Sandwiches on whole wheat, pita, multi-grain breads; with low-fat meats and cheeses; mustard, relish, ketchup, or low-fat mayonnaise. Add flavor and vitamins with roasted sweet peppers, lettuce, tomato, jalapenos, and chopped olives (small amount).
  • Fresh fruit, sherbet, and angel food cake are good choices for dessert.

Hidden calories: Look for the following descriptions to uncover higher calorie menu choices: pan-fried, sautéed, battered, breaded, au gratin, cheesy, creamy, buttered, deep-fried, or crispy—as in the “crispy,” deep-fried tortilla bowl holding the salad.

Fast food

  • An occasional hamburger and fries won’t ruin your diet or your waistline, but eating at fast food restaurants regularly certainly might.
  • Try to figure out the healthiest choices before you go. Some fast-food chains now have detailed nutritional information on their web sites.  Pass on the super-size, double meat, extra “special sauce” — it only adds more fat and calories.
  • Find out the average calorie counts for some of your favorite fast foods—and think about how you can make choices that can easily trim calories, but still give you that fast, easy, cheap, tasty fix you’re looking for.

Enjoy a varied cuisine

Don’t keep yourself from sampling the culinary delights of different countries and cultures. Just follow these commonsense guidelines to make healthy choices:


Italian dishes can fit nicely in a healthy diet. Italians traditionally eat mostly pasta, bread, beans, vegetables, fruit, and olive oil. This Mediterranean diet has been described as a one way to avoid heart disease. However, watch out for dishes containing more meats, cheeses, cream sauces, and breaded items!  Also, resist the garlic bread, cheese sticks, or cheese bread. Below is a list of smart menu choices, but be careful to stay aware of portion size.

  • Whole-grain pasta
  • Pasta e fagioli (flavorful entree with white beans)
  • Minestrone soup
  • Pizza—go for the thin crust and top it with vegetables
  • Salad, dressing on the side
  • Crusty bread, go light or skip the butter and olive oil
  • Pasta with marinara (red sauce)—skip the meat sauce or try red clam sauce instead
  • Pasta primavera if made without a cream sauce
  • Chicken or veal cacciatore (tomato based sauce)
  • Chicken marsala, if made with wine and broth rather than butter or cream
  • Fruit or Italian ices for dessert


One of America’s most popular and healthy ethnic cuisines, Chinese food can contain a lot of salt. Remember that steamed rice is a healthier choice than fried rice! Choose seafood and chicken over beef and pork, and stay away from breaded and fried meats. You might want to try using those chopsticks, too! You’ll eat slower and eat less.

  • Look for dishes with a variety or a lot of vegetables
  • Choose steamed brown rice over white rice
  • Minimize sauces which tend to be high in sugar and salt, or ask for them on the side
  • Try steamed dumplings instead of fried wontons or egg rolls
  • Skip the crispy fried noodles
  • Ask that stir-fried dishes be prepared with minimum amounts of oil and without the soy sauce, MSG, and salt


You can eat light at a Mexican restaurant…with the right choices. Healthier choices include burritos, soft tacos or fajitas, not crispy tortillas that are fried in lard and high in fat. Ask your server not to bring fried tortilla chips to your table, and do not order con queso dips and nacho cheese. Choose pinto, black, or barracho beans, rather than their high-fat counterpart – refried beans. And add some fresh salsa to your dishes – tastes great, contributes to your vegetable count for the day, and is better for you than cream or cheese sauces!

Some Mexican restaurants are more healthy. Look for:

  • Brown rice, no-fat black beans, and lower-fat cheese
  • Whole-wheat tortillas, corn tortillas, or soft tacos
  • Grilled vegetables
  • Grilled chicken, fish, or shrimp
  • Fish tacos (grilled fish, coleslaw light on mayonnaise, chopped tomato, salsa)
  • Sour cream blended with non-fat yogurt
  • Salsa—so low in calories you can use it on everything