The winter holiday season is coming upon us quickly and that means extra busy schedules, followed by lots of travel time on the road or in the air!
It can be hard to eat well this time of year, or really, any time when you are super busy or travelling a lot! For some people this can be an added source of stress, not only physically, but psychologically as well! Here’s the thing though, all you can do, is the best you can do! There’s no sense stressing over things you cannot control.
So, here’s my strategy recommendations to consider when trying to eat healthier while on the go:
ONE | Think, “Little Bit Better.” Instead of stressing about the limited and potentially poor, processed-carb, and fat-laden fast food options you might have while travelling or when super busy, try to pause for a second and think about what the best choice could be out of the options you do actually have right then and there. Since it’s fairly inevitable that fast food options are going to run heavy on the processed carbs and fats, try not to worry about those two things that much as they are basically out of your control. Instead, focus on my next two recommendations to help guide your choice of what might be your “little bit better” option given your current situation.
TWO | Get yo’ veggies in! Travelling and being busy is stressful in and of itself so you want to make sure you have lots of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and fiber to keep your body systems running smoothly – and veggies are your prime source for these! I know it can sometimes be hard to get them in while travelling, so aim for any kind, prepared anyway, and as many/much as possible!
THREE | Always include protein, preferably lean options if possible! Protein is imperative to keeping us functional, healthy, and resilient beings and is thus extra important to get it in so that we stay healthy during our travels! Nothing is worse than being sick while being on the road! Ideally you want to consume, minimally-processed, lean options, but those can be hard to come by at most fast food joints, so do your best to choose the least processed, and leanest option out of the choices you do have.
At the very least, try to include the three recommendations above when ordering a fast food meal! Other things to consider, if possible, are (1) minimizing processed carbohydrates and fats, (2) choosing meals that are under 500 calories, (3) eating slowly, preferably not in your car, and not stuffing yourself, and (4) trying to get up and move as often as possible.
Now that we’ve got some general guidelines laid out, here are my top three (in rank order) common (at least in the U.S.) fast food restaurants to hit up while travelling, or when you're busy and need to grab a meal out. And, I’d like to note that these are all going to be NON-SALAD OPTIONS! Salads are great! If you want one, by all means, definitely order one!! But most people know that salads are pretty good for them, and I know that I don’t always want a salad, so I wanted to give you some other practical and delicious recommendations!
#1 | CHIPOTLE MEXICAN GRILL
I am a HUGE fan of Chipotle because not only are they quick and fairly inexpensive given the quantity of food you get, but they are also trying to change the name of the fast food game by using fresh, high-quality, and ethically-sourced meats and produce in their meals as well. Plus, their food is DELICIOUS!
It’s really hard to go wrong at Chipotle. Any choice you make really isn’t going to be a terrible one, especially compared to the other fast food restaurants that are probably located nearby. My biggest recommendation at Chipotle is to SKIP THE TORTILLA!! Their burrito-sized tortillas have 320 calories and 50g of carbs in them alone, and if you order tacos, which comes with three small tortillas, that’ll be 250 calories and 40g of carbs. You’re going to get plenty of carbohydrates and calories while eating out on the go, so skip the tortilla and fill up on all the good stuff by ordering a bowl instead!
Chipotle always starts with their rice and beans. Choose whichever of each kind you’d like! They’re both smart carbohydrate choices in that they are high in fiber, minimally processed, and even have a decent protein content. Calorie count and carbohydrate wise, they are almost exactly the same. The only main difference is that the white rice has quite a bit more sodium, 350mg, compared to 190mg in the brown rice. So, if that’s something you’re worried about, then maybe choose the brown rice. Otherwise, like I said, opt for whichever rice and beans you’d like!
Next up they have you choose your protein. Again, you can’t really go wrong here! They are pretty great sources, but your leanest ones, meaning highest total protein content for least calories, are going to be the chicken and barbacoa.
After that, load up on as many/much veggies and salsa as you want. I pretty much go for it all with the fajita veggies, corn, red salsa, and lots of extra lettuce!
Then top it off with ONE source of fat – sour cream, cheese, or guac! If you’re on a budget, choose between the sour cream or cheese, as they are not an extra charge. They are also the same calorie content so just choose, whichever you prefer. If you can splurge a bit though, go with the guac! First it’s fresh and less processed, and second, it’s f**king delicious! :D
So, here’s what my Chipotle Burrito Bowl looks like:
Here’s another awesome thing, Chipotle gives you so much food, that a burrito bowl can actually serve as two meals for many people! My whole burrito bowl only cost me $9.15, that’s with tax and the extra $1.95 for guac! Divide that by two, and that’s only $4.58 for a delicious, filling, high-quality, fast food meal, if you save half the bowl for later!
#2 | MOD PIZZA
Here’s the #1 reason why I like MOD … Remember how I said veggies can be hard to come by at fast food joints earlier? Well MOD has A LOT of them, and they don’t charge you extra for them!! They just charge for the size of the pizza, after that, you can put whatever you want on there for no extra charge!! So, pile on the veggies!!!!!
Yes, there are quite a few calories and carbs in the crust – 490 and 88g, respectively, in the whole MOD size, but as I mentioned earlier, I wanted to give you choices that people actually pick on the go, and MOD’s crusts are very thin, so those values are actually fairly low compared to many fast food pizza crusts!
As for choosing your sauce, red, white, and garlic are going to be your best bet at only, 10, 15, and 20 calories per serving, respectively.
Then, make sure to layer on some type of leafy greens. Trust me you won’t even notice them with all the flavors you’ll be adding on, so just sneak some in there!
It is pizza, so obviously go with the mozzarella cheese, this only adds 90 calories to the whole pizza anyways, so no biggie there. They typically go very light on the cheese to begin with, but if you’re worried about the cheese for one reason or another, you can always ask them to half-it.
To be honest their meat choices aren’t fantastic, as most of them are highly-processed, different types of sausage. But keeping in mind my “little bit better” recommendation, their chicken or Canadian bacon are going to be your best bet, as far as low-calorie, and decently high-protein content goes.
Then comes the fun part, THE VEGGIES! Go wild with them! They have a ton! Add any and all!
At the end, try to skip the other extra cheese offerings and drizzled sauces if possible.
Here’s a look at my MOD Pizza order:
The whole pizza, including tax, cost me $8.52. And half of it is more than plenty for one meal, so I saved the other half for later. That means I was able to get another fairly decent fast food meal, packed with veggies, for only $4.26!
#3 | SUBWAY
To be honest, Subway is not one of my favorite places to eat. In fact, I only eat it if it’s my “little bit better” option while travelling. It’s good, but it’s not great. However, I picked it because Subways are everywhere, and for the most part they’re better than hitting up that place with the golden arches or that bell place with the wannabe taco “meat” …
At Subway, you again could go with a salad, but it’s a sub shop, so I’m going to guide you on best practices for building a sandwich here! PRO TIP: Always order a footlong so that you already have your next meal on hand!
It’s a sandwich, so you’ll be starting with the bread. Calorie-wise and carb-wise most of the breads are fairly similar … all within 50 calories and a few grams of carbs with each other. Going with a whole-grain bread though will provide you with more fiber and protein, so some of the better options are 9-Grain Wheat, Multigrain Flatbread, and Hearty Italian. PRO TIP: To reduce some of the carbs from your meal, have them pull out some of the fluffy inside of the bread before they start making your sandwich. This will mean less processed carbs, and more room to pile in the veggies later!
You’ll be asked to choose your meat next. Again, their meats are quite processed here, but their turkey breast is going to be your best bet by far, as far as being low-calorie (100 for a footlong) and semi-high-protein (18g). The next best options would be Ham (120 cal, 18g pro), Chicken Strips (160 cal, 32g pro), Roast Beef (180 cal, 32g pro), and Roasted Chicken Patty (180 cal, 30g pro).
From there, you’ll be asked to choose your cheese. Really, go with whatever you’d like. And at Subway, I’d go with their cheese over their guac because their guac is not made fresh and most of the time, when I’ve gone, it looks fairly slimy and brown. But really, go with whichever fat choice you’d prefer here. The cheeses are going to add 80-120 calories to your footlong sub, while the guac will add about 140 calories to it.
Then, it’s time to pile on the veggies! Again, go at it here!!
Be careful with the spreads at the end though. All of the mustards, buffalo sauce, and vinegar are okay as they are very low calorie. Even the light mayo isn’t terrible. But the rest are packed with calories and fat for the most part, so try to skip those.
Here’s a look at my Subway Sandwich:
The footlong cost me $6.50 with tax and again, I only ate half. So, I was able to get a decent fast food meal for $3.25!
So remember, when trying to choose a meal on the go, choose your "little bit better" option, pile on the veggies, get your protein in (preferably at least 20g a meal), try to choose meals that are under 500 calories, minimize processed carbs and fats where possible, eat slowly, don't eat in your car, don't stuff yourself, and move as often as possible!
Hopefully you are able to easily put these recommendations into action as you embark on your holiday travels this year, and when things get busy in the future!
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