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Healthy Eating – On the Run

Jerry Wang

Eating out is a convenient way to satisfy hunger, especially since most Americans don't have time to prepare healthy, home-cooked meals. Unfortunately, the majority of restaurant menus are chock full of health hazards: high-calorie, high sodium foods and artificial ingredients masked by enticing photographs. So, what is a busy, health-conscious person to do? Eating on the run doesn't have to take a toll on health. With a little knowledge and a little planning, you can make smart, nutritious meal choices even outside the comfort of your home.

Research and planning are key to healthy eating on the run. Choose restaurants that offer a wide variety of foods. Select entrees that contain the words baked," "braised" "broiled," "grilled," "roasted," and "steamed," and avoid those that say "crispy," "breaded," "buttered,"or "fried." Many restaurants provide detailed nutrition information for every item on their menu on their website, so take a look and jot down healthy choices before you head out.

The question that begs to be answered is "What counts as healthy?" Let's start with what's unhealthy. Dressings, sauces, and dips are often packed with empty calories and artificial flavorings. Choose to eliminate condiments completely or use them in strict moderation. Ask the waiter for healthier options like lemon slices or vinaigrettes. Be especially wary of mayonnaise, butter, and bacon.

Limiting alcohol is an absolute must. Alcoholic beverages provide no nutritional value and increase appetite, making you more likely to overeat. Drinks such as orange juice and milk may seem 'childish,' but they are much healthier alternatives. Water is the best choice, but studies show that tap water served in restaurants contain an inordinate amount of bacteria and other unappetizing contaminants. If possible, bring your own drink, preferably purified or filtered water stored in a stainless steel or aluminum bottle.

Too much of any food in your system is unhealthy. If you plan to eat out for dinner, then have a light lunch. Limit calories by ordering smaller portions, splitting an order with a friend, or saving leftovers in a container. Choose lean chicken, turkey, ham, or beef over fried meats, bacon, and sausage. Choose whole grain bread and brown rice over the white varieties. Make fruits and vegetables the top priority. Start the meal with a light salad to fill the space in your stomach and keep you feeling fresh. Steamed vegetables are an excellent choice. Pick vegetables with deep, vivid colors such as leafy greens, carrots, and peppers. Choose fresh fruit as a topping or dessert in place of ice cream or cheesecake. Be especially cautious of your own behavior when dining alongside heavy eaters. Don't try and fit in!

If eating at a restaurant is too expensive, you may want to pick up dinner at the supermarket. Supermarket delis and salad bars offer a wide variety of healthy food choices. Toss together a tuna sandwich, make a fruit salad, or buy a bag of freshly baked bread. Another frugal option is to pack your own food before stepping out. A tuna sandwich, a salad in a container, and a banana make a nutritious lunch. Pack a clementine or two, and choose light snacks like cereal bars, trail mix and yogurt. Have the items ready the night before or pack them early in the morning if you have enough time.

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