Most of us have jobs that require us to work outside of the home, which presents us with choices about what to eat when we can’t whip up a meal using fresh ingredients in our own kitchen. If you are crunched for time, forget your lunch, or simply are too lazy to prepare your meals for the day, what are your best options?
1. The grocery store reigns supreme. Not only is it the least expensive, it also has the most selection. Try a pre-made chicken salad or grab a red bell pepper and some sugar snap peas with a small container of hummus, a mini can of tuna, or a small container of 1% cottage cheese. A jar of natural peanut butter can be spread on whole grain crackers (I recommend Kashi TLC or Stone Wheat Thins), whole wheat pita, apple or banana slices, or you can dip your baby carrots into it (delish!) It’s really not that much effort to pick up a few of these things when you go grocery shopping in the first place and then pack them for your lunch or snacks for the day 😉
2. Fast Food Chains. These are quick and dirty options for when you are in a hurry.
- Starbucks has a great little breakfast wrap, healthy oatmeal, and makes a mean sandwich – just make sure you take off one piece of bread and avoid the egg salad at all costs!
- Tim Horton’s makes a good bowl of chili. Skip the bun.
- Burger joints: have a grilled chicken salad but dip your fork into the salad dressing and then take a bite, rather than pouring the dressing on (it usually has a disgusting amount of calories)
- Dairy Queen. Unless it’s for ice cream as a special treat once in a blue moon, avoid eating here.
- Taco Bell is all bad. If you want Mexican food, please please please make it yourself at home using fresh ingredients. It will taste better and not give you a heart attack.
- Pizza Pizza makes a lovely thin multi-grain crust pizza that you can get by the slice at their stores. I really like the Greek veggie one with feta cheese and olives 😀 It’s not something you should have all the time, but not a completely horrible option. Note I’m not saying you should have half a pepporoni and bacon pizza with stuffed cheese crust – that’s not the same thing at all!
- Subway or Mr.Sub – all that bread is less than ideal but load up on the veggies, cut down on the sauces, and stick to lean cuts of meat like chicken breast and turkey.
3. Sit down restaurants. These can be easier than fast-food places since they have a real kitchen to work with. Again, a grilled chicken or salmon salad is always a safe bet. Many restaurants also offer steak, chicken, or fish with veggies and a baked potato. Unless it’s after a workout or you are an athlete, skip the potato or rice and ask for extra veggies, a side salad, or a soup.
4. The workplace buffet or catered lunch. Usually this involves lots of carbs. Personally, I would rather eat my own food later and skip the crap, but that isn’t always practical or polite. If this is the case, have some veggies, a few small sandwiches, a piece of fruit, and a coffee. Have something more substantial later. Just because it’s there doesn’t mean you have to eat it! On the other hand, if you really enjoy this type of food, have a sandwich or two, eat a cookie and get on with it. We’re aiming to eat really well 90% of the time so there is wiggle room 😉
5. The coffee shop. Depending on the time of day and your fitness goals, you may want to embrace or avoid those delicious baked goods. Early morning or after a workout, look for a low-fat (5g or less) muffin with whole grains and fruit. Feel free to have a cafe mocha, a latte, a hot chocolate, or add sugar and milk to your coffee. Later in the day or if you’re not working out much, a small handful of unroasted cashews or some veggies with hummus would be a better choice. As for your drinks, you may want to put a little cream in your coffee, have some refreshing green tea, or start drinking herbal teas to prevent you from being wired all night!
There are healthy options for eating out but don’t forget that meal planning and making (or packing) it yourself will save you a lot of time and money 😀