Healthy Eating on the Go: A Guide to Dining Out, Traveling, and More


Healthy Eating on the Go: A Guide to Dining Out, Traveling, and More

Eating right is an important foundation for good health, but it's not always easy.  Maintaining a healthy diet, along with exercise and stress management, can help reduce your risk of lifestyle diseases and manage health problems. But the average American does not eat a very healthy diet.

The US Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Healthy Eating Index gives the average American's diet a score of 59 out of 100, based on the most recent data from 2015. Eating well outside the home or on the go can present special challenges.

You may be tempted to skip meals. It can also be difficult to figure out where to buy nutritious food, what to pack for lunch, and how to maintain a balanced diet when eating out.

This comprehensive guide explains how to eat a nutritious diet.


The Basics of Healthy Eating

A healthy diet requires a variety of nutrients from five food groups: dairy products, protein foods, whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

Each food group provides different important nutritional benefits, so combining food groups provides a variety of nutrients to support your health. Examples of foods from each group include:

• Dairy products: Milk, cheese, yogurt, lactose-free milk, concentrated soy milk.

• Foods rich in protein: seafood, meat, poultry, eggs, beans, peas, nuts, seeds and soy products.

• Cereals: Wheat, rice, oats, corn, barley.

• Fruit: Fresh, canned, frozen or dried fruit and 100% fruit juice.

• Vegetables (non-starchy): Fresh, canned, frozen or dried vegetables (raw or cooked) and 100% vegetable juice.

MyPlate is a nutrition guide and meal planning tool that helps people eat healthier. The USDA developed the Dietary Guidelines for Americans as a basis. She recommends making at least half of your grain’s whole grains, varying your protein sources, and choosing fat-free or low-fat dairy products.

To create a healthy plate, whether it's a meal or a snack, try to combine foods from at least two food groups to get a variety of nutrients.


How to Fill your Plate with Healthy Foods

1. Fill half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables like spinach or kale.

2. Next, fill 1/4 of your plate with protein-rich foods such as chicken, fish, or white beans, depending on your preference.

3. Finally, fill the remaining quarter of the plate with grains such as rice or quinoa.

Healthy Meal Example 1: Roasted Garlic Butter Chicken, Roasted Vegetables and Rice

Healthy Meal Example 2: Cheese sandwich made with wheat bread, cottage cheese and chopped tomatoes.


Healthy Snacks

Combine grains with foods rich in protein, fat and fiber.

Your body digests blended foods that contain protein, healthy fats, and fiber more slowly than whole grains. It helps you maintain a healthy weight and blood sugar control, helping you feel full.

First healthy snack: Apples and nut butter

Second healthy snack: Yogurt with dried fruit and nuts.


How can Skipping Meals be Counterproductive?

You might be wondering what's wrong with skipping meals. This in itself isn't bad for your health, but skipping a meal can actually have the opposite effect, making you feel hungry later, which can lead to overeating or eating unhealthy foods at your next meal.

We often have trouble making healthy food decisions when we're hungry. If this happens often, it can be helpful to have pre-planned meals on hand so you can grab them when you're in a rush.

Research shows that skipping breakfast isn't necessarily a bad thing. It's okay if breakfast (or eating at certain times of the day) isn't part of your meal plan.

Some people skip meals intentionally for religious or cultural reasons or during intermittent fasting. However, this is often planned in advance and is not the same as accidentally skipping a meal because you are in a hurry.

Here's how to eat healthy for five common walking scenarios.


Setup 1: Rushing out the door

If you're constantly running out the door without a plan for breakfast or lunch, you're not alone.

This is a scenario I encounter often during my dietetics internship. Due to short sleep duration, high stress and poor meal planning, I often skipped breakfast.

In this case, you can appreciate the importance of meal planning and preparation. Even if you can't quickly change your busy schedule, you can still be better prepared to nourish your body even if you're in a hurry.

Meal planning helps you organize and track nutritious meals for your morning. It also helps prevent you from accidentally jumping off tables.

Tips for Preparing the Plan

• Prepare the night before: Prepare breakfast and lunch the day before. For example, overnight oats and chia pudding are easy to make and quick to eat. Bring a packed lunch and a reusable water bottle to keep hydrated.

• Smoothie bags: You can pack a bag full of pre-measured smoothie ingredients to create a quick pre-trip smoothie.

• Buy or make healthy bars: Protein or energy bars can be eaten on the go as a quick snack before a meal. Buy products that are low in sugar and high in protein, fiber and other nutrients.

Planning your breakfast and snacks in advance can help you be more organized and mindful of your nutritional intake. This will prevent you from accidentally skipping meals due to your busy schedule.


Setup 2: Dining out

Despite the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, eating out or ordering in remains the primary source of food each week for most Americans.

In 2020, Americans spent $659 billion on restaurants and food sales. Of course, eating out has its advantages. Food itself can be very enjoyable, and eating with others is a great way to socialize and a great time to explore new cultures and food tastes. Learning how to maintain healthy eating habits while dining out or eating out is important to maintaining your overall lifestyle.

Here are some tips and strategies to get you going in the right direction.

• Plan: Many restaurants have online menus that you can view. Decide ahead of time what foods you want to try. When putting together your meal combinations, remember the basic principles of healthy eating.

• Portion sizes: Ask for a food bowl before you start eating and discard any food that is too much to eat. Then eat until you are full and don't.

• Deserts are also suitable: Eating healthy doesn't mean giving up delicious food. But limit how much you eat. You can do this by choosing a small dessert or sharing the desert with others.

Eating out or dining out remains popular among Americans. To eat healthy when dining out, plan online by checking the menu before you arrive, keeping portion sizes in mind and choosing smaller or shared desserts.


Setup 3: Social Gatherings

Family gatherings and social gatherings such as potlucks allow people to come together to enjoy food and fellowship.

A healthy diet is possible with traditional foods and soul foods.

Try these Tips:

• Don't skimp on calories: Instead of trying to "make room" by skipping meals before a later event, eat regularly throughout the day. That way, you won't arrive at the event hungrier than usual and won't overeat.

• Bring healthy food: If you have special dietary needs or want to share your favorite recipes with family or friends, you can bring a meal that suits both.

• Enjoy a little bit of everything: Enjoy all your favorite foods without overloading your plate. To avoid gastrointestinal distress caused by overeating, it is important to control portion sizes and eat carefully.

• Enjoy the conversation: Remember, if a gathering is about the food, it's also about the people. Put the food aside and refocus on socializing with others, talking and having fun together.

At family gatherings, you can eat healthy even with traditional high-calorie foods. Eat every calorie during the day for the event, bring healthy food, and focus more on the conversation and people at the event than the food.


Setup 4: Traveling

Traveling can be a stressful time for some people. When you travel, it is often difficult to eat healthy food. It doesn't help that the food options in airports and other tourist centers are often fast food restaurants. Whether you're waiting for a flight or preparing for a trip, making a plan can save you the stress and hassle of finding nutritious snacks.

Great for a light meal on the go. It is also an opportunity to avoid extreme hunger and overeating at the next meal.

Traveling with a lot of fresh food isn't practical, so the emphasis here is on healthy eating with non-perishable foods.

• Dried fruits: Choose raisins, dried cranberries, freeze-dried mango, or any other dried fruit you like for a quick on-the-go snack. Best of all, all these fruits are part of your daily fruit intake.

• Nuts and seeds: These healthy sources of fat and protein make a convenient and portable snack for healthy meals on the go. Make a trail mix by combining nuts and seeds with dried fruit and place in a small resealable bag for easy storage.

• Protein or energy bars: You can store the power bar in your bag, purse, travel bag, or other convenient pocket close at hand when you're hungry. Choose bars with less added sugar. resume

Traveling can be stressful and it can be difficult to eat healthy meals and snacks. Bringing dried fruit, nuts, protein or energy bars can help you stay nourished during meals and reduce overeating later.


Setup 5: Heading into quarantine

When my son and I returned to Trinidad and Tobago from the United States, quarantine became part of our "new normal."

You may be asked to self-isolate for a few days in a hotel, quarantine facility or at home, with no outside contact. In all of these situations, access to food can be limited and healthy choices can be difficult to find. Food is provided in the quarantine facilities, but the menu selection may not be extensive. Adequate nutrition and hydration are important during this time. This is also a new healthy snack option, especially if you are in quarantine with the kids. 

Here are some nutritious foods to stock up on:

• Dried fruits: They are rich in flavor, fiber, antioxidants and other nutrients.

• Biscuits: Choose whole wheat crackers or other crackers of your choice.

• Nuts and nut butters: Use with crackers or dried fruit.

• Canned tuna or chicken: It contains a lot of protein and comes in a variety of flavors. You can eat it with crackers etc.

• Protein bars or granola: These are a variety of foods that you can reach without spoiling.

• Bottled water:  If you don't have easy access to a water fountain to fill your reusable water bottle, bring a small water bottle.

• Tea bags: During quarantine there is a kettle and cups in your room so you can make any type of tea.

No matter where you are in quarantine, it's important to eat mindfully. There is less physical activity during this time, so eat well, but not too much.

To stay healthy during quarantine, consider packing dried fruit, crackers, nuts and nut butters, canned tuna or chicken, protein bars and tea bags.


Final Thoughts

Eating healthy on the go can be difficult, but it is possible with proper planning. Use the basic principles of good nutrition to maximize the nutrition you get from your meals and snacks. Whether you're in a morning rush, heading out for dinner, a family gathering, traveling, or even in quarantine, these tips will take the stress out of knowing what to do to nourish your body.

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