In today’s society, no matter where you live, you’re always on the go. Some days there doesn’t seem to be time to eat, but you still have to eat… whatever’s in arm’s reach. And most of the time, that means a bunch of processed foods, junk food, or good ‘ol reliable fast food.
There seems to be an unwritten law that I'll call "the law of inverse quality." It states that the quality of food goes down as portability and accessibility go up. In other words: There ain't no organic fruits and veggies at the food court, folks.
So what to do? Unless you've got access to a time machine, eating on the run, or at least on the move, is likely to remain a fact of life. The opportunity here is to become master of the circumstances rather than victimized by them. We need to learn to create healthy, nurturing meals out of commonly available "porta-foods." This food needs to be stuff that travels well, is available everywhere and still passes nutritional muster.
Here are my top ten tips for how to do just that:
- Think Ahead. Most of the trouble comes from waiting till you're in the middle of an emergency hunger situation before taking action (like being without food all afternoon and coming face to face with a convenient snack machine). A little planning goes a long way. If you know you're going to be stuck in a meeting, take along something you can eat quickly and discretely to keep your blood sugar from plummeting and your cravings at bay.
- Lettuce is a great container. You can wrap some leftover chicken in a lettuce leaf and eat it in the car, or anywhere else a sandwich would work. Throw on some tomatoes, drizzle some olive oil and you've got a decent mini-meal. A couple of leaves of red-leaf lettuce make a great "wrap," and the contents are limited only by your imagination.
- Find healthy food that travels well. Some suggestions: cottage cheese, yogurt, celery, peppers, carrots and apples. Throw some berries into a container with some cottage cheese and nuts and take it in the car with you.
- Make it the night before. (This is a corollary of "think ahead.") At my house, we sometimes cook a week's worth of sweet potatoes on a Sunday, and take them with us as snacks during the week. They're as portable as you can get, they taste great cold and are a veritable vitamin store.
- Think unusual foods. Sally Fallon, the great exponent of traditional nourishing foods, says that the best "energy bar" is a homemade, nitrous-free, lean-meat sausage. If you can find a local butcher who still makes sausage like this, grab it.
- Think outside the box. One person's "unusual" is another person's delicious. Experiment. I've found cutting up an apple and eating it with a single serving of tuna adds crunchiness and sweetness to the tuna that makes it a tasty treat. Ditto with celery. A single serving can of tuna can be gotten almost anywhere and also goes great with that baked sweet potato you made last Sunday. Or discover your own combinations. You can always find nuts, cheese, fruit and seeds. Use them creatively, or eat them right out of the package. Hint: String cheese is a really easy snack to take on the run and is available everywhere.
- Use your blender. Many office-bound people forget that a blender is an easy accessory to keep in a desk or in the company kitchen. In a pinch, packaged meal replacements like MetRx and MyoPlex can be made quickly and are way better for you than most of the stuff at the food court.
- Ditto for the microwave. It only takes about four minutes to make real oatmeal (not the packaged kind), and you can add some berries or soy milk and take it with you anywhere in a plain take-out coffee cup. Plus if you sweeten it a little with some good maple syrup and then let it get cold, it almost tastes like desert.
- Make a list. Until you get good at this, don't try to think on your feet. Make a list in advance of possible combinations that might be available while you're traveling, or that you could easily take with you. One of my favorites is celery with cream cheese. There's got to be at least a half-dozen others just as good. Discover them.
- Vegetable juice is a lifesaver. When all else fails, have a V-8. Fresh vegetable juice is always better, and possibly one of the best things you can put in your body, but in a pinch there's always canned tomato juice and V-8. It takes the edge off your appetite and quenches cravings like nothing else around, and you can get it anywhere. Add celery, leave out the vodka, and you'll almost feel like it's happy hour.