If you read our recent blog post on healthier 911 dispatcher food options, you may have noticed that our Marketing Director, Kathleen, mentioned to avoid take-out. I wholeheartedly agree with this. But the thing is, it can be hard! There are only so many hours in the day, and some days, despite our best intentions, we simply don’t have time to pack a lunch. As a regional sales rep, this happens to me every day I am on the road (which is a lot). When you don’t have time to pack healthy, you tend to reach for the quickest option — or perhaps from the same place a co-worker is ordering from. But many times, there are healthier choices. Let this be your guide!
The Pizza Joint
While a meat-lover’s deep dish with extra cheese sounds enticing, you may have second thoughts when you look at the average calories per slice: about 410 or more and a whooping 1,000-plus grams of sodium (and that’s for ONE slice)!
Healthier Option: Skip the deep dish and go for a thin crust (New Yorkers know what I am talking about). Load the pizza with veggies. Skip processed meats like pepperoni or sausage. If you have to have meat, go for chicken or hamburger. Ask if they have low-fat cheese. If they don’t, BLOT your slice before eating. This can save up to 40 calories per slice. One slice of Veggie Lover’s thin-crust pizza is around 240 calories or less, and that’s without blotting!
The Chinese Place
Chinese food menus can be confusing. I never know what many of the items are, so I, like most people, tend to go for the standards — which may not be the healthiest — including egg rolls (up to 300 calories each), lo mein (over 1,200 calories a serving), General Tso’s chicken (1,300 calories), and fried rice (up to 1,500 calories). Not exactly healthy choices!
Healthier Options: Swap out the fried foods for anything that is steamed. That goes for dumplings (41 calories each in meat or seafood) , veggies and chicken or shrimp (I personally love garlic chicken and broccoli, which is about 300 calories). Ask for the sauce on the side and choose brown rice instead of white, which contains more fiber and nutrients. Simple and delicious!
The Italian Eatery
Mmmm pasta …. such a comfort food. That is, until you start seeing the calories pile up. Chicken parmesan with pasta and red sauce? This traditional favorite is just shy of 1,000 calories. How about fettucini alfredo with chicken? Clocks in at 1,400. Spaghetti and meatballs? 950. And you want to add garlic bread? That will be an extra 200 calories a slice. Mamma Mia!
Healthier Options: If you are like me and just have to have the sauce, ask if they can put it over spinach or broccoli. Not only are you cutting around 400 calories, but you'll get getting extra nutrition from the veggies. Chicken marsala is a great option: about 480 calories with steamed broccoli. Opt for tomato-based sauces instead of cream-based, and avoid any pastas stuffed with cheese (no matter how delicious they are).
The Sandwich Shop
Grinder, sub, hoagie, Italian ... whatever you call them, sandwiches might seem like a healthy option, but appearances can be deceiving. Many of common lunch meats are processed, which means they’re loaded with sodium. A typical cheesesteak? 700-1,000 calories. Tuna salad? 800 calories. An Italian sandwich (loaded with ham, salami etc.)? 1,000 calories. Add a small bag of chips (150-200 calories), a soda (200 calories), and cookie (200 calories), and your easy lunch is now pushing you halfway to your daily recommended caloric intake!
Healthier Options: It doesn’t seem glamorous or exciting, but go for turkey! Turkey is a super lean meat, and a small turkey sandwich with cheese clocks in around 300 calories. If you’re not up for turkey, try roast beef, a veggie sandwich, or a salad. A few additional swaps can make your lunch even healthier. Swapping mayo for mustard saves about 105 calories. Choose whole wheat bread, and baked chips (saves 100 calories), an apple (saves 130 calories over a cookie, and has more nutritional value), and get an unsweetened ice tea or water instead of soda (saves over 200 calories).
I hope you find these healthier options helpful!
A few last thoughts to get you on a healthier path:
- When in doubt, pick a mom-and-pop restaurant over a chain. Oftentimes they use less processed food, and are preparing things in a more traditional way. These meals tend to have less calories overall.
- Eat in moderation. Take-out places often give WAY too much. Cut meals in half and save the rest for later.
- Always avoid sugary drinks. Replace these with water, tea, coffee, or unsweetened iced tea.
- A salad is ALWAYS an option! Choose one with protein (chicken or fish) to fill you up, and ask for an oil-based dressing. If you don’t think a salad will be enough, add a broth-based soup.
****NOTE: Calorie counts are averages****