05 September 2008

How to eat well on the run

Eating on the run is likely to remain a fact of life, so it’s how you handle it that makes the difference. Learn how to prepare healthy meals that travel well.

It’s not unusual in our hectic world to see very few people who eat all their meals at a table. In the traffic there's usually someone munching an apple or eating a muffin as they rush down the street on the way to work.

People grab a quick takeaway from a drive-through restaurant or order lunch from a fast-food outlet that can churn out a full meal in less than ten minutes. Scattered toasted sandwich crumbs all over the computer keyboard are the only evidence of a lunch break at work, while your supper might as well be an old shoe, for all the attention you give it when you watch the television.

There are always deadlines to meet, schedules to follow and a million things seem to crop up in between. For those trying to eat well, it can be a minefield trying to incorporate healthy foods into a takeaway lifestyle.

There are very few takeaway restaurants that provide fruit and vegetables. Those that do, charge the earth in comparison to how much you pay for deep-fried, fatty, processed foods with little nutritional value. Burgers, chips, doughnuts, chocolates and pies become standard fare as people simply grab whatever’s easiest and cheapest to eat.

Eating on the run is likely to remain a fact of life, so it’s how you handle it that makes the difference. Rather than be a victim of circumstance, learn to create healthy meals that travel well and are available everywhere.

Here are some tips on how to do just that:

  • Beware of waiting too long: Most of us only think of food once our stomach gives a loud groan of dissatisfaction. This is where most people are tempted to buy convenient snacks, like chocolates and chips. Make sure you eat regularly (every three hours or so) to prevent reaching a stage where it's difficult to make healthy choices.
  • Plan ahead: Take last-night’s leftovers in a Tupperware to reheat for lunch. Perhaps even make a little extra food for supper for this purpose. And make sure your grocery cupboards stay well stocked.
  • Travel-safe foods: Try to find foods that will travel well and make a satisfying meal. Small tubs of yoghurt, fruit, packets of soup or cereal, tins of tuna, Provitas, rosa tomatoes, sugar snaps and packets of nuts and seeds are all items that can easily travel. Hard-boiled eggs can be transported in a container and will stay fresh for a few days in the fridge.
  • Drop the coffee: Instead of your morning coffee with loads of milk and sugar, try drinking a glass of water with lemon or a cup of rooibos tea.
  • Use a microwave: It only takes a few minutes to make porridge for breakfast in the microwave or a baked potato or some vegetables or noodles for lunch.
  • Use a blender: If you don’t have time to eat cereal for breakfast, try blending some fruit with low-fat yoghurt for a breakfast shake.
  • Plan for a snack attack: Keep low-fat snacks like satchets of raisins or dried fruits in your desk drawer or in your handbag so it's available in case of a snack attack.

Although you should try to avoid processed foods, if you do decide to get takeaways for lunch, here are some tips to help you choose the healthy options:

  • Ask for sauces and dressing on the side so you can decide on the amount you eat.
  • Choose foods that are baked, grilled, roasted, steamed, poached or stir-fried.
  • Try to eat the same portions you would at home. Restaurants often give you large portions of food. Don’t eat more than you need just because it’s there. Put the extra food in a doggie bag before you start eating or perhaps share it with someone else.

- (Health24, updated September 2008)

Read more:
Healthy snacks and lunchboxes
Should you eat before or after exercise?
Any questions? Ask DietDoc


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