Eating healthy: Tips for quick healthy meals on the run

Eating from the salad bar of your college dining hall is a great option in order to maintain a healthy diet. (Courtesy of Tudokin)

Eating from the salad bar of your college dining hall is a great option in order to maintain a healthy diet. (Courtesy of Tudokin)

Sometimes there aren’t enough hours in the day even for essentials like eating and sleeping. So finding quick healthy meals that you can take and eat on the run is pretty important. Eating fast food or even school cafeteria fare can be tricky if you’re trying to avoid excess fat, salt and preservatives. Once you learn a few tips and tricks, you can save money and time while still eating healthy.

Do you eat healthy?

First off, don’t fool yourself that you’re already eating healthy. Just because you’ve declared yourself to be a vegetarian or a vegan doesn’t mean that you are. Restrictive diets can lead to problems when you make poor food choices.

Tamara Duker Freuman, a registered dietician, explained how easily good intentions can be so bad in her October 8, 2013 post for USNews.com titled, “When a ‘Healthy Diet’ is Anything But.”

According to Freuman, adoption of a restrictive diet can evolve into an obsession with food. Have you ever met someone who was so uptight about every morsel that passed their lips that they drove you nuts? It’s a nightmare to share a meal with them. As it turns out there’s a term for this behavior. It’s called “orthorexia.”

Those exhibiting orthorexia are using their diet choice as a socially accepted cover for following a severely restricted diet. Often the true motive is weight loss. Are these folks healthier for all of their efforts? Maybe not.

“On the surface, the commitment to ‘healthy eating’ is unimpeachable. And yet, people with orthorexia are hardly enjoying robust health or a good quality of life,” Freuman stated.

In reviewing the food journals of patients following a commercial weight loss program, for example, Freuman found that dieters were more concerned with meeting point values than with choosing the most nutritious foods. Often their diet consisted of highly processed foods with empty calorie carbs.

Healthy eating tips

Before you leave your home or dorm room for the day, make sure that you’ve got some healthy food in you. Even the cheapest dorm room can stock a small refrigerator, coffee maker and rice cooker. With these few appliances you can cook up any number of healthy meals.

For example:

  • low-fat yogurt, fruit and granola combo (just a spoonful of granola is all you need)
  • oatmeal (add fruit, nuts or raisins for taste)
  • nut butter and jelly sandwich (almond butter tastes great)
  • herb tea
  • canned healthy soups (low salt, low-fat)

You’ll be less likely to fall into temptation if you’ve fortified yourself before you leave for the day.

Meal plan ideas

What if you’re stuck with the college meal plan? Not to worry. You can still eat healthy. It just takes more dedication. Taylor, one of the contributors at NerdFitness.com explained how to stick to a healthy eating plan in an October 18, 2012 post titled, “A College Guide to Eating Healthy.”

Healthy choices at the dining center include:

  • grilled chicken
  • omelettes
  • salad bar
  • veggie stir-fry

Be sure to ask for special orders such as:

  • ask to drop the bread and all that mayo and only serve you the grilled chicken in a chicken sandwich
  • take the meatballs but hold the pasta in spaghetti and meatballs

Some students have a meal plan because it’s part of their scholarship package. But if you have a choice, then Taylor recommends, “If you’re truly committed to eating well, your best option is to choose a housing option that doesn’t require a meal plan – and preferably one with a kitchen.”

Healthy or not?

The guru of health and fitness, Dr. Oz offers plenty of useful advice on healthy eating on his website. In his slide show titled, “10 Foods You Think Are Healthy – But Aren’t,” you’re likely to find at least one item that you swear by every day. Take a look at a few of the culprits.

  • premade smoothies: a quick check of the calorie count reveals upward of 1,000 calories and added sugars
  • packaged trail mix: too many candy pieces, sesame sticks and fried banana chips load extra calories. Make your own mix using plain nuts, and bits of dried apricot.
  • energy bars: these aren’t much better than a candy bar according to Dr. Oz. A better choice would be string cheese and an apple.
  • muffins: even bran muffins tend to have too much fat and sugar.

Discouraged? Don’t be. Just follow a few simple rules and stick to making good choices and you’ll eat better and feel better.

What are your favorite foods and tips for eating well on the run? Tell us about them in the comments below.

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