Planning can help you avoid bad meal choices

By Mike Decinti

February 22, 2014

Lately you can’t turn on the TV — or unfortunately turn the corner — without seeing another fast food restaurant offering tremendously low prices on their menus. And sadly, the worse the food may be for you, the cheaper it seems to get.

It’s a devastating one-two punch. You’re hungry, and through poor planning, you don’t have easy access to healthier choices so you scrape up a few bucks in change and before you know it, you’re eating some double-bacon cheeseburger, large fries and soda.

The best solution is to plan ahead. Plan your meals, prepare food ahead of time and know what you’re going to eat and when you’re going to eat it. Here are a few tips that might help, including what to eat if you have to eat out.

— Make the time to eat breakfast — no matter what time you have to be at work in the morning. Set your alarm 20 minutes earlier and start your day off with a healthy meal. Drink two to three glasses of water and have some egg whites (or egg substitutes), some whole-wheat toast or fruit and a cup of coffee. Don’t forget about adding a multi-vitamin as well.

— Have dinner with the family at home. At the end of day, make sure you gather the entire family around the dinner table, not the television, and enjoy a healthy meal. Dinner probably gives you the greatest number of choices and you can really have some fun trying new healthy recipes. Just make sure you eat the proper sized portions and don’t forget the water. Not only will this family time be good for your physical health but your mental health as well.

— Don’t forget about your “between meals” meals. I’m talking about those meals that fall in and around breakfast, lunch and dinner. These are some of my favorite times of the day to eat. Try and eat every three to four hours. I like to snack on a bunch of different things — string cheese, yogurt, almonds, cottage cheese, vegetables, fruit and peanut butter, to name a few. This will help curb your appetite so you don’t over-eat later.

There are healthy choices when eating out for lunch. Most of us find ourselves eating out for lunch, and using the excuse that there are not healthy alternatives, but you would be surprised where you can go, and what you can have. Here are a few examples of some popular local “fast food” places and the healthy selections you can make.

— Chinese buffet: Portion control is key here. You may not get your “money’s worth” but you can still enjoy the food. Make sure you choose the meat that is not coated with a batter. Instead, get the chicken or beef with vegetables like peppers or broccoli, and go easy on the sauces and the rice.

— Mexican: The chips and dip are free, but you don’t have to eat them. If you must, just eat a few. The best choice is probably the fajitas. Make two fajitas, don’t forget the vegetables, and ask for corn tortillas. Take the rest to go for your afternoon snack or dinner that night.

— The “typical” burger shop: Most are selling grilled chicken sandwiches now, so order it and ask for extra veggies and no mayo. Plus, skip the fries and soda.

The keys to eating out are simple. First, portion control. Second, choose foods that are grilled or broiled, not fried. Third, go easy on the sauces like mayo or sour cream. Fourth, remember to have one protein, one carbohydrate and one vegetable with each meal, and if you’re still hungry have more vegetables. Fifth, drink lots of water. In fact, before you eat, drink one full glass of cold water.