Eating Smart on the Road

Learn how to pick the healthiest foods from fast food chains.

Double cheeseburgers, candy bars, thick chocolate milk shakes -- it's a challenge to eat healthfully when you're on the road and fast-food restaurants and junk food vending machines beckon at every turn. Is it possible to put together a healthy meal under these conditions? The answer is yes. It takes some creativity, but you can find (relatively) nutritious meals while on the road.

After feeling the heat of public pressure, fast-food and other restaurants have added more-nutritious foods to their regular menus. Most now offer salads with grilled chicken and low-fat or non-fat dressing. Look for these foods:

Salads with low-fat or non-fat dressing. Leave off the croutons and go light on the shredded cheese. Topped with sliced grilled chicken, these salads make a good meal.

Grilled chicken sandwiches topped with lettuce and tomato. Be sure to ask for no sauce because the sauce can have more fat and calories than the rest of the sandwich. For a little extra zing, ask for a side of taco sauce, salsa, or barbecue sauce and add it to the sandwich. Order the grilled chicken and not the "crispy" chicken, which is breaded and deep-fried.

Baked potatoes. Leave off the butter and top a potato with chili or with salsa. If you don't like the taste of your spuds without butter, use a small amount. It's still a better choice than french fries.

Orange juice. Most fast-food places have 100-percent orange juice. Choose the small or child-size serving. Larger sizes may have more calories than you need.

Plain hamburger or cheeseburger. A small burger or small cheeseburger is a good option. Pile on the lettuce, tomato, onions, pickles, catsup, or mustard, but avoid any special sauces or mayonnaise.

French fries. If you have to have them, ask for the smallest size. In some restaurants that's still too much, so ask for the size that's included in the child's meal. If the only available sizes are enormous, tremendous, and gargantuan, throw away what you don't need before you start to eat. A large-size order of fries can have up to 520 calories and 25 grams of fat.

Low-fat milk. Most fast-food places now carry milk, and usually it's the low-fat kind.

Breakfast sandwiches. Choose the kind that's served on an English muffin, rather than a biscuit or croissant. Go light on the cheese and select ham rather than bacon or sausage (ham has less fat).

Convenience stores. Many of these stores sell cereal, orange juice, and milk, although you may have to buy a large box of cereal. Ask for a coffee cup and a plastic spoon. Other healthy choices include tomato juice, cheese and crackers, yogurt, raisins, and peanut butter and rye bread (whole wheat bread in a convenience store may be too much to ask). Check the selections of heat-and-eat foods: You may find a vegetarian burrito or soup that you can warm up in the microwave oven.

Whenever possible pack food from home to take with you on the road. That way you'll always have a healthy meal or snack on hand. And remember to drink plenty of water while you're on the road; it's a great way to prevent constipation.

Originally published in You & Your Baby: Pregnancy.

All content on this Web site, including medical opinion and any other health-related information, is for informational purposes only and should not be considered to be a specific diagnosis or treatment plan for any individual situation. Use of this site and the information contained herein does not create a doctor-patient relationship. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.

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