Let’s face it, with long work hours and a busy schedule, most of us probably indulge in fast food more often than we’d like to admit.
Not surprisingly, the research indicates most of us tend to overeat and make poorer food choices when we dine out.
Obviously having pizzas, cheeseburgers and fries (yes even sweet potato fries!) on the reg isn’t optimal, however, eating out doesn’t necessarily need to sabotage your health goals. They key is to have some healthier takeout options up your sleeve for when you do choose to eat out. And don’t worry we’re not going to recommend you start ordering plain lettuce without dressing or any nonsense like that!
Here are 7 healthier fast food options:
1. Poke bowls
Poke bowls are a great option. They contain lean protein, are full of heart-healthy fats (from fish, avocado and seeds) and are packed with fibre from the veggies and wholegrains, plus loaded with vitamins and antioxidants. If possible, it is best to construct your own poke bowl. Start with a wholegrain base (brown rice, quinoa) then add a lean type of protein (sashimi, chicken, tofu) and finally bulk out with a variety of vegetables. You can then add a few of the toppings for some additional flavour and crunch (nuts or seeds are great options) and a sauce to bring it altogether. Learn more about building a healthy poke bowl here!
Salads are always going to be a wise choice for lunch. Whether this involves making your own salad or buying a pre-made salad it’s a sure way to boost the vegetables in your diet (yay!). Ideally try to look for salads with plenty of colour (i.e. not just lettuce in a caesar salad). The main thing to consider when getting a salad is whether it is balanced. Lots of non-starchy vegetables (aim for at least 3 different colours), lean protein and wholegrains carbs. Keep an eye out for the amount of avocado, cheese, nuts, hummus, and dressing, as although delicious (and healthy), too much can add up from a calorie perspective.
3. Burrito Bowl
A basic burrito bowl with lean protein such as chicken or tofu, lots of colour, some beans, brown rice and a side of guac is a good grab and go lunch option. We hate to be the bearer of bad news, but if you want to be mindful of calories, we recommend putting a halt on the extras like sour cream, corn chips, extra cheese or meat.
4. BBQ Chicken & Salad
A BBQ chook can be a great option, pending a few decisions… The biggest thing to be mindful of is what part of the chicken you go for and which type of salad you choose. Chicken breast and a Garden or Greek salad are generally low in fat and calories. But, if you choose a creamy pasta salad, a side of chips and the chicken drumstick along with plenty of tasty chicken skin, your fat intake (and hence total calories) could be very high for this ‘healthy’ choice.
5. Grilled Fish & Salad
Another great option, pending a few decisions! The big one here is making sure you opt for grilled fish – not deep fried fish, and go for a side salad – not chips. If you want a carbohydrate add brown rice, quinoa or couscous – not chips.
There’s nothing wrong with a good old sanger, but there are some things to keep in mind to avoid a calorie bomb. Firstly, choose a good quality, high fibre bread like rye or wholegrain. Next, make sure it is loaded with vegetables (as this is the part often lacking from sandwiches) and finally opt for a lean protein (think eggs, grilled chicken, beef – not processed meat or chicken schnitzel). It’s best to say no to butter or mayo, and instead opt for avocado or hummus.
7. Vietnamese Rice Paper Rolls
The key here is choosing a rice paper roll that includes vegetables, protein and carbohydrates – not just all noodles. If you can, these can be perfect for lunch on the run.
Eating lunch out does not have to equate to unhealthy choices. Use the guide above to make sure you are choosing the best options available. The key to success is to look for options that have some positive nutritional attributes — vegetables or salad, lean protein, wholegrain carbohydrates and some healthy fats.