Nutrition

Smart choices at the food court

Author: Canadian Living

Nutrition

Smart choices at the food court

Dashing through life -- to the mall, to your kids' concert rehearsals, to the rink -- naturally means eating on the run. But fast food doesn't have to mean compromising nutrition. Healthy choices at the drive-through or the food court will keep you well fuelled and your spirits bright. Here's our guide.

When you're power shopping, don't forget to eat. Take 15 minutes for a bowl of soup or a bagel and salad. If you put it off until you're ravenous, you'll eat the first thing you see, and that may not be the best choice. Ideally, take time to eat before starting your after-work shopping spree or, if it's going to be a long day at the mall, schedule a meal break somewhere in the middle.

Skip the french fries and deep-fried chicken balls available at most food courts and opt instead for the lighter stir-fries, vegetable soups and salads.

Go easy on the special sauces that come with many fast-food meals. They're often laden with high-fat mayonnaise. Ditto for fatty gravies and toppings.

When ordering salad, ask for dressing on the side and use it sparingly. A dressed Caesar salad or spinach salad with bacon bits can have more than 300 calories and 30 grams of fat, while a tossed salad with 15 millilitres (one tablespoon) of French dressing has fewer than 100 calories and eight grams of fat.

Pass on the supersize meal deals at fast-food outlets. They may sound tempting, but you'll end up eating a lot more fat and calories than you'd get in a regular-size meal.

Most food courts include takeout kiosks that offer a wide variety of foods from around the world. If you look carefully, almost every one offers some low-fat nutritional choices. Here are the best picks from the most popular fast-food outlets at your local mall, from Mexican, Italian and Chinese foods to burger joints, delis and sub shops.

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Most food courts include takeout kiosks that offer a wide variety of foods from around the world. If you look carefully, almost every one offers some low-fat nutritional choices. Here are the best picks from the most popular fast-food outlets at your local mall.

Japanese: The best picks are teriyaki beef, chicken, shrimp or pork; yakitori (grilled chicken skewers); noodle soups; stir-fries; and sushi. Many outlets will prepare your stir-fry without oil if you ask. Avoid tempura items: they're battered and deep-fried, which makes them higher in fat.

Italian: Pasta with tomato sauce, vegetable soup or salad with dressing on the side are good picks here. Opt for low-fat dressing where available. The best pizza choice is vegetarian - get double vegetables instead of double cheese. Avoid garlic bread, cream-based sauces, Caesar salad, fried veal and chicken parmigiana.

Mexican: Choose chicken fajitas (hold the sour cream and cheese), enchiladas, beef soft tacos or vegetarian burritos (again, hold the high-fat toppings). You can also order a salad and dress it with salsa. Beware of high-fat nachos with cheese and guacamole.

Greek: Order a lean souvlaki or chicken kabob and a salad with dressing on the side.

Chinese: Try low-fat picks such as soups, including egg drop and wonton; mixed vegetables; steamed dim sum; steamed rice; or stir-fries (ask the server to make them without oil). Go easy on deep-fried egg rolls, chicken balls, chicken wings and fried rice.

Burger Outlets: Stick with a plain hamburger or veggie burger dressed with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles and onions; grilled chicken on a bun; a stuffed pita; or a wrap. Pass on the special sauces, bacon and cheese toppings. Also, note that fish sandwiches may sound healthy, but the deep-fried breading and tartar sauce they're covered in at burger joints make them high in fat. If you're really tempted, share a small order of fries with your shopping buddy.

Delis: The best low-fat choices are sandwiches made with turkey, chicken breast, lean corned beef, pastrami or roast beef with a dill pickle and a plain salad. Ask for a sandwich without butter or margarine (mustard, lettuce and tomatoes are healthier toppings). Pick vegetable soup or broth over creamed soup, and make sure that your salad has low-fat dressing or comes with dressing on the side.

Submarine Shops: Order a six-inch sub on a whole wheat bun with turkey, beef, chicken or seafood, lots of vegetables and low-fat mayonnaise. Avoid club subs and those with meatballs or deep-fried chicken.

Read more:
5 healthier junk food choices
Practical weight loss strategies
How to eat healthy when dining out

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Nutrition

Smart choices at the food court

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