You’re flat out at work! You’re rushing from meeting to meeting and you just need to grab something for lunch. Maybe you’re not in an office and you can’t store and reheat a packed lunch. Maybe you planned an awesome lunch and you’ve left it on the kitchen bench! Whatever the reason, we all occasionally need a lunch meal on-the-go.
Eating on the move or without your planned option doesn’t have to mean you eat unhealthily. Don’t throw in the towel and say, ‘Oh well, I may as well have that burger with extra chips.’
There are a few key things you can look for to stay consistent with healthy eating, even when you’re on-the-go.
What am I looking for?
Picking a lunch option which is loaded full of vegetables has two benefits. One, you are getting a high nutrient bang for your buck as vegetables are high in vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. Two, you get a bigger meal for the amount of calories you’re consuming. For example, you could buy a huge salad with chicken and dressing which will give you the same amount of calories as a cheese burger (without chips and drink). You are much more likely to feel full after the first option, which stops you buying sides and calorie dense drinks.
Some great veg packed options include:
- Mexican bowl with lots of salad and salsa
- Sandwich roll with all the added salads
- Pre-made Greek salad from the supermarket deli
- Pre-made salad at cafés or a salad bar
- Supermarket tasting plate: pre-chopped carrot and bag of snow peas with dip and 100g sliced smoked salmon
One of the most common stumbling blocks when eating on-the-go is grabbing something to ‘tide you over’. Rather than buying a proper lunch, we buy a coffee and muffin which we hope will keep us going until the next main meal. The problem is, these things are very high in energy (calories) and don’t keep us satisfied for long.
It becomes easy to ‘tide yourself over’ multiple times over the course of the day and then end up over eating. If you find yourself needing a meal on the move, make a conscious decision to have something that will genuinely fill you up until your next planned meal. Choosing an option with a source of protein can help with that.
Some protein rich options might include:
- Bread roll with pre-chopped salad plus fetta and shaved chicken breast from the deli
- Beef burger with lots of salad (without the chips and soft drink)
- Kebab wrap with extra salad and tabouli
- Peri-peri chicken wrap or burger (without the chips and drink)
Most meals that you buy out are higher in energy than versions of the same thing you would cook at home. Bought meals are often cooked in more oil or butter and have more sauces, sugar and salt. This is what makes them taste so good!
One simple way of making a better choice when you are on-the-go, is to look at the energy content. A good rule of thumb is to look for a meal that is roughly 500 calories or 2100kJ. If takeaway is the only option, by looking at the energy content you can be more confident that you’re not overdoing it.
Here are some options which are under 500 calories:
- 2 slices of pizza
- 2-3 sushi rolls
- Small Mexican burrito with lots of salad
- Small stir-fried vegetables and noodles
- Small vegetable curry
While these are some great ways to stay more consistent with healthy eating, if you find you are constantly eating lunch on-the-go, it may be worthwhile considering what’s contributing to your situation.
If you have a demanding schedule, can you plan ahead to have easy options ready? If you are rarely in the same place, can you take an esky or chilled bag of food with you? If every day is different and you never know what you are doing at lunch, can you spend time mapping out your week?
A small amount of planning can go a long way to making your food choices easier, cheaper and healthier.
If you’re looking for more help with on-the-go meals or support in implementing strategies, need some extra inspiration, or would like some individualised advice on healthy eating, book in with one of our experienced dietitians online at The Healthy Eating Clinic or call us on 6174 4663.