So you rush out of the house for a day of errands. A couple of hours later you’re in the mall and your stomach starts complaining. You’re working hard on losing weight and watching what you eat, so you grab…what? Seriously, what can you grab quickly that’s healthy and not-fattening in any mall USA? I mean, other than the cardboard that the USB drive you just purchased is mounted on. I swear, the road to diet-hell is paved with lack of choices and a mall food court. (Wait, maybe hell IS a mall food court!)
These are the moments that make or break it for many of us. If you succumb to the lure of the Sbarro slice, you will be mad at yourself later, I promise you. Then it is only two steps to the “well, I blew it already and that pint of Ben & Jerry’s sure looks good” type of evening. But how can we avoid this descent into fast food debauchery?
The Boy Scouts get it right: be prepared!
Let’s face it; our culture is not wired for healthy eating. Anyone who has tried to find something of nutritional value while traveling knows this all too well. Though there are oases in this dietary desert, they are few and far between, so until there is a national nutritional sea change it’s up to us to bring the healthy choices along for the ride. However, this involves planning and preparation.
Mornings are crazy, believe me, I know, but bringing your own lunch is not only fiscally responsible, it ensures that you will have a healthy midday meal, which will help keep your eating on track for the rest of the day. Since I eat every three hours, I leave for work with a morning snack, lunch, and an afternoon snack in my insulated pack. This takes the guesswork and temptation away from grabbing something to eat during my crazy day.
For me, the trick is to ensure I have a decent amount of lean protein to keep me satisfied all day. And I don’t know about you, but I always need to have something sweet in the afternoon or I will hit my colleague’s candy jar like a sledgehammer, so I make sure to include fruit, fresh or dried.
On the Road Again
Traveling while trying to lose weight…it’s kind of an oxymoron, no? Just last week on a trip to Massachusetts I stood staring at a gas station rack, trying to decide if the “trail mix” with M&Ms qualified as healthy. Then I looked at the calories on the back and the sodium content and decided to suffer until I got to my hotel. Most rest stops are festooned with fast food options and soda machines, so there’s no help there.
Unless your route takes you by a string of Whole Foods, it really is safer to pack food to go. How much is up to you and your habits, but I suggest always bringing a bit more than you anticipate needing, just in case. Me, I try to keep raw almonds within reach of my driver’s seat for those “I’m so hungry I’m going to gnaw on the sun visor” moments.
And plane travel? Unless you want to steal your neighbor’s complimentary snack pack when he falls asleep or spend $40 for a calcified croissant sandwich, you really have to bring food in your carry-on. Just remember, bring an empty water bottle to fill once you get through security or TSI will abscond with your Smart Water.
Have Bag, Will Travel
There are so many options for what to carry food in these days, I’m not sure where to begin. I mean, the days of hauling things around in a Jetson’s lunch box are over. I have several sizes, small for short excursions and snacks only, medium for my workday needs, and larger for longer trips. Yes, I get mocked, but when I slip into those size 6 shorts in February, who will have the last laugh?
My friend Tammy Thomas has this entire process down to a science. She’s preparing for a fitness competition and carries lean protein and vegetables with her everywhere. Her food bag is the size of my suitcase, but look at her…40 pounds leaner and with those guns carrying the bag is no problem.
Forethought is Forearmed
Unless you are an early riser, this eating-healthy-on-the-go thing involves forethought and planning. On Sundays I try to do a series of things like cook up a package of chicken breasts, separate out some raw cashews into smaller bags, and buy a boatload of fruit. That way I have things I can grab and shove into my cooler bag at a moment’s notice. Tammy goes through a methodical process on the weekend to prepare for her week of food (see picture). She’s way too organized for me, but this makes eating for the week so much easier. And that way if you have lunch out one day or a margarita (or two) on Friday night, you can afford it, both calorie and budget-wise.
So, if you are committed to eating clean and healthy, follow the Boy Scouts’ advice (and I’m not talking about how to tie a square knot). And if you run into me and you’re hungry, just ask. I probably have a piece of grilled chicken in my purse.
Hey, how do you eat healthy away from home?
My weight ticker: 46 pounds down, 19 to go.
What credentials do I have to be blogging about health and weight loss? Nada! Bupkis! I don’t know shit! But I find that I’m inspired by people’s stories and I’m hoping that, perhaps, I can inspire others with mine. All I can do is share my experiences, not give any answers. Hell, I’m barely in control of my own life and body; I’m certainly not going to tell you what you should do with yours. So, if you’re trying to lose weight and get healthy, for God’s sake, see your doctor! Make her your best friend! I’m sure she will not only be overjoyed at your desire to get healthy, but will help you do it in the safest way for you and your body.