(This blog was actually posted on Monday 1/26/2015 in response to the #Vote4Monday and for some reason is missing? That’s why I’m reposting.)
Eating healthy on-the-go can be very challenging, especially with how busy we can be in this ‘game’ called life. Play the game well, you get rewarded with a car full of kids and a bunch of life tokens when you reach the end at your millionaire estate, right?! haha
Well… maybe not so cut and dry. Truth is, it can get to be pretty overwhelming and with all the options that are available. It’s pretty hard to narrow down the best option, especially when it comes to healthy eating. Everyone’s got their own idea of what ‘healthy’ means, so when I got this topic for #Vote4Monday, I was definitely interested. Depending on your definition of healthy I decided to address different areas, from eating healthy in terms of ‘less-processed-highly-refined foods’ to eating organic and eating allergy free.
Being that I’m a nutritional therapist, there are definitely things that I have a strong opinion about. Like, eating organic. I absolutely believe organic is the way to go, however, when it comes to eating out and finding options that are healthy are hard enough. Adding another obstacle like, allergy-free is another challenge. Adding organic well, right now, it feels that there are literally 5 places within 100 miles that serve organic foods. It may be less for other people out there, so what do you do? Never eat out? Depending on where you are at in life, that may not be a suitable option. I keep that in mind while writing this article and purposing helpful ‘rules’ that we’ve used to keep our lives as close to on track as possible.
I do hope that it finds to be useful to you as well!! 🙂
Here’s some great guide rules to help keep you on track to being healthy on-the-go:
- RULE #1. If you can pre-make your food, it’s ALWAYS the best choice.
-Left-overs in a container from the night before that you grab before you head out the door.
-Cut up an apple, sprinkle cinnamon and add a spoonful of nut-butter to a container.
Life Hack: You can make this process even faster by using one of those apple corers.)
Tip: If you’re worried about your apple turning brown, add a little bit of lemon juice on top before adding the cinnamon.
Health Fact: Cinnamon helps slow the digestion of the sugars (lowering blood sugar) and boosts brain function. So, if you’re in a hurry you’re probably overloaded mentally too!
-NUTS! Put a handful or two of nuts in a bag and grab a fruit and go!
-Water!! No matter what, you’ll feel hungry if you don’t have enough water.
-Slice up some veggies and bag them for later. Carrots, Cucumber, whatever you love.
-Remember ants on a log when you were a kid? Well, just because you’re older doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy these delicious treats. Cut up a few celery sticks, add some nut butter, and line up a row of raisins on top. Wrap em’ up or store in a container.
-Grab a jar of those awesome pre-made cashew treats, you know you love them!
Note: We hike a lot and our pace is pretty fast, when we do stop for a breather or if we’re out of energy we’ve learned that an apple is the BEST way to keep the energy going. It’s better than those energy bars, which really seem to slow the body down. If you are planning on running around a lot and you don’t have time to eat, make sure you have an apple on hand.
Idea: In your car, always have a reserve of fruits, nuts, and water. You can change this out weekly, so you always have fresh produce in the car. Stick it in basket in a cool place of your car and always have a few pieces of fruit on hand like: apples, oranges, and pears. This is great for emergency situations so you don’t end up in a gas station grabbing a sugar bar of some sort. Water is a little more challenging, but it’s best if you bring it or have it already in your car. Yes, gas stations have water but if you’re hungry chances are you may pick up more than just a bottle of water… If you find that you have a habit of forgetting to bring water make sure you always have a few water bottles in your car. Hey, maybe put it next to the basket? 😉
- Rule # 2. There are ZERO healthy options at mainstream fast food restaurants. (period)
Yes, it’s a wonderful concept to be able to grab a healthy meal on the road especially if there are options in a fast food joint. However, truth is the salad options or ‘lettuce’ instead of bun really dissolves into some sort of sick joke. I’ve tried this in the past, when I wasn’t completely organic. Fortunately, when you start to realize the amount of gross pesticides and harmful chemicals that are literally saturated in the ‘veggies’ of these fast food chains in order to keep them ‘fresher’ well eating dirt doesn’t seem that bad in comparison. I wouldn’t eat the chicken, I wouldn’t eat the beef, I just wouldn’t eat anything from a majority of chain fast food restaurants. You can find out more about not eating fast food and why eating organic is important at Food Matters, Food Inc., Forks over Knives, The Gerson Miracle, Vanishing of the Bees, GMO OMG, Fat Sick and Nearly Dead, The Future of Food, The Ghosts in our Machine, A Place at the Table, Earthlings, and Fresh. (Documentaries with resource information)
Basically, I’d rather starve all day then eat at any of the fast food restaurants that are very common and mainstream. Which is why I highly recommend Rule #1, as there are more than a few of these fast food options out there. When we’re hungry, we may not always be in the right frame of mind to think clearly.
- Rule #3. Eating out is a social trap, overcome this by choosing ‘safe’ places to eat.
There will be those times when you are out with a friend/family member when you didn’t pack food and forgot to refresh your car’s travel basket OR maybe you want to grab a bite to eat together. That’s OK. Let’s take a look at some good options, when a situation arises.
Okay, you meet at a coffee shop. Very common in Washington State as there is some sort of coffee place practically every 100 ft. What do you do? Depending on the coffee shop, usually there are a few healthy choices. When choosing an actual coffee shop, look for an organic coffee shop first. If you can find one of those, they’ll usually have ALL sorts of healthy alternatives! Inside the shop:
-Opt for the fruit cup or whole fruit over whatever pastry they have sparkling behind the glass case.
-Choose nuts or a nut bar. (at Starbucks I’ve seen their Kind bars, go for the one with the lowest amount of sugar.)
-If you don’t have a coffee addiction, opt for some flavorful tea.
-If you must have sugar, go for the raw sugar. Some places even have stevia, which is much better than the other ‘zero-sugar’ substitutes out there.
-If you have allergies, make sure you ask what they are putting in your drink. If they are just seeping tea bags you’re most likely safe. (if you have a gluten allergy/sensitivity you can ask if there is added gluten or just ask for the box the tea is from and read the ingredients. The ingredients should really just say the tea. Should you see a list of other natural flavors or added sugars, or weird additives, try a more natural tea.)
-Dairy allergy? Do not get a Frappuccino. (In order to make this they use an emulsion powder, which has casein (milk solids) in order to make it that nice thick consistency.) -If they are adding syrups, just say no. (yes, even cane syrups)
-There is always the option of water, as boring as it may seem.
-Gotta have coffee? Go for an Americano or latte (with no sugar) and add your own. -Dairy free? Ask for dairy free ‘milk’ alternatives, most places will have soy milk. (which I don’t recommend for the role it plays on your hormonal imbalance but is better than dairy if you are allergic.) Sometimes they’ll have rice milk, almond milk, or hemp milk. Out of all those, I choose hemp milk. Though this option is near impossible unless I’m in Oregon or in a Whole Foods Market.
These are a little more tricky and may require you to spend a few minutes on your phone before meeting up with someone. That’s okay, there’s a great website called HappyCow that sort of does some of the foot work for you- if you are just looking to eat at a healthier place that is aware of the ingredients they put in the food. If you have an allergy it’s a bit more tricky. HappyCow offers options to narrow down results based on vegetarian, vegan, and veg-friendly. Now, one thing we’ve noticed when travelling is that if a place says vegan. They are more likely to have options for gluten-free too! I can eat vegan, but sometimes they’ll add gluten to their dishes which really make it difficult for me to eat. For us, this would be a great tool to use to narrow down the results from all the other places around. Then you can call the restaurant or café and ask them if they have a gluten-free menu. I find that even if you don’t have a gluten allergy, this is a great indicator of overall awareness. It means that they will most likely have options for vegan, vegetarian, gluten, and overall have healthier choices on their menu. Here are some great indicators of whether they’ll have great options for you, when you call the place up and ask if they have a gluten-free menu. If they respond and…
-Don’t know what gluten-free is = they are practically in the stone age right now and you should avoid.
In your efforts to look for healthy food, you’ll find that it’s more of a struggle because these places have high sodium, lots of processed foods, highly refined grains and sugars, and are generally not healthy.
-Have some gluten-free options on the menu that aren’t listed but they can tell you = they are a little more aware as a general house-hold term.
They know potatoes don’t contain gluten, they know salads without croutons do not contain gluten, but they will most likely offer you bread with butter after you ask for gluten-free options. This annoys me. It’s also a sticky situation. Some Asian/Thai restaurants have heard the term enough to know that their phad thai doesn’t have gluten in it (because they don’t add soy sauce) but then they’ll serve you peanut sauce which has soy sauce in the ingredients. They didn’t directly add the soy sauce so in their mind it’s gluten-free. This causes headache and for us, lots of health-related problems. In this case, if you have to eat at one of these places, just buy the simplest thing on the menu. A salad with no croutons, no dressing, and no (whatever else you can’t eat) and ask for a side of olive oil and red wine vinegar. Make your own dressing. You can also order salmon and ask them to cook the salmon plain. If you have an allergy to dairy, make sure they do not use butter. Ask them to cook it in another oil. The only way they will not do this for you is if the salmon is pre-packaged which more than likely means it contains gluten, soy, preservatives, dairy, etc.
-Have a gluten-free menu!
This is fantastic, this means that they are more than aware because they are actually taking measures to ensure there is no cross-contamination. Even if you don’t have a gluten allergy this is great because it means that they are paying attention to the ingredients in their food. They’ll want to serve more people more options so they’ll most likely be aware of all the ingredients in their food choices. I’ve seen more and more restaurants include a gluten-free menu and they take the time to remove un-necessary components and they substitute things. Like, instead of serving a salad (-minus croutons) they’ll actually have pumpkin seeds instead. The servers will most likely know what the items on the menu contain and the restaurant will go out of their way to simplify the orders. The nicer the restaurant the higher the quality. They may even have gluten-free bread that you can have as an option. However, if you are gluten-free vegan or gluten-free dairy-free, be careful that they don’t add milk or eggs to their bread. Usually, that’s the case. No worries, you can always get a burger with lettuce instead.
-For healthier options, opt for salad instead of fries.
-Drink water (ask for a lemon to add to your water) instead of Soda.
-Get plain tea (hot tea) instead of instant sweetened tea.
-Don’t use the fake sweeteners, unless it’s stevia.
-Look for sides if your main meal. They almost always have steamed broccoli, corn, asparagus, brown rice etc. Pick things that are not heavily sautéed with butter and oil.
-You can always add olive oil or vinegar to anything you want.
-Nothing is stopping you from just having in your purse some of your own dressing. 🙂
-Want sushi? Keep in mind, sushi is made with gluten. Unless you can find a sushi restaurant that does not add gluten to their rice to make sushi, you are going to be eating a small amount of gluten. To keep the gluten to a minimal, bring your own bragg’s liquid aminos or tamari soy sauce and avoid the ‘fried’ sushi rolls. (If you have a serious allergy to gluten you will want to get the sashimi as it’s just raw fish with no rice. Dairy allergy? Avoid the ‘creamy’ sushi or the sushi with a cream/spicey glaze over them.)
-Organic Restaurant with Vegan and Gluten Free Menu or Raw café/Restaurant!
Now this is a serious GEM of a restaurant and there are actually quite a few in Washington state, mostly near Seattle. They’ve got gluten-free options (if not all options are gluten-free), vegan, vegetarian, nut-free, soy-free, etc. These places are fantastic and if you are like me, you go a little nuts when you find them. I will usually order a ton of food options because I’m so excited that they exist and I didn’t have to cook them myself! These places use quinoa, gluten-free oats, salads that have cashew dressing, and usually the most amazing gluten-free, vegan desserts. Sometimes you can even find a place like Zoopa Organics in Southcenter Tukwila, Wa which amazingly is an all organic vegetable buffet. They have non-organic stuff like meat, ice cream, and breads. However, their vegetable salad bar is organic, fresh, and their soups are made in house with organic produce! WIN!
Here are some great places to try near Seattle, Wa. that have organic options as well as gluten-free, vegan menus.
–Café Flora (Vegan)
–Flying Apron Freemont (Has some good options, watch out for the high sugar desserts) –Thrive (LOVE this place Raw food, gluten-free, vegan)
–Chaco Canyon Organic Café (has organic, gluten-free, vegan options)
–I love my gluten free foods (gluten-free menu, organic)
–Chipotle (5 locations)
- Rule #3. When all else fails, Organic Local Markets usually have a dining section and plenty of options!
I know, I know it’s a grocery store. However, don’t underestimate the awesomeness of an organic local market!! We travel A LOT, seriously we put over 30,000 miles on our jeep in one year. We love to travel and we know a lot about travelling and eating. The above really addresses the “want to eat out with friends” and the “I’ve got 5-minutes to prep, what do I do?” scenarios. However, what about the tougher ones? The one’s where you DO have time to prepare and you know you’re going on a road trip or travelling far away?
The best thing you can do, is make your own meals ahead of time. Investing in a nice travel cooler (the ones you plug into your car) with an adapter that plugs into your wall and filling it with pre-made foods. Because we have a lot of food sensitivities and allergies, we make a lot of meals ahead of time. But one things to always remain consistent no matter how many pre-made meals we have in the cooler. We love to just find food at local markets! It seems it’s been a goal of ours these past few years when on our road trips to find fun organic markets to shop. Most of the time they are Whole Foods Markets, sometimes they are PCC’s, sometimes they are co-op, and the little gems which can literally have up to 4 customers at a time they are so small -those are the fun one’s. They have ‘organic’ in their business name and usually are tiny places that have very narrow aisles. Those places are fun because they have the most obscure items in them! Sometimes they have local people making the ‘gluten-free vegan bars’ and sometimes they just know a ton about coconut sap. I always find these places to be very unique and interesting. Typically we do not eat out at restaurants, usually it happens about 3-4 times a year. When it does, we find gluten-free gems or organic vegan gluten-free places that are just really awesome! For example, Santa Rosa California road trip had the most awesome little organic everything whiskey bar/restaurant called Jack and Tony’s. Their meats were organic grass-fed meats and they had local organic produce with some greenhouse varieties. Truly a unique place and the food was absolutely delicious! Places like that remind us why we like to eat out- not to save time or to be lazy for a night, but really to enjoy unique creations that inspire us to cook new things!
Well, I do hope that I addressed a majority of the concerns regarding Healthy Eating on the Go. If there was something I missed that you’d like me to address or there is a suggestion you’d like to add (like a hot location you’d like to rave about that has organic, gluten-free/vegan options) let me know in the comments section below!!
Thanks again for reading this blog post!