Being a 40+ year old with health that is, shall we say, not ideal, I am at a point in my life where I have to really watch what and where I eat. Working in the IT field, I have developed many, many bad habits: lots of caffeine, little exercise, long periods of time in front of a screen and keyboard and almost no sunshine. All of these things lead to trouble. The worst habit, though, is the eating out at lunch or dinner, for that matter. While I have curtailed the lunch time habit a bit, I still eat prepared foods. There is a Quizno’s in my building and I often get lunch from there. The food is better, but I can only take it but so much, so I will venture to Wendy’s or one of the other restaurants near my building. On the weekends or during the week, I still have a bad habit of picking up something on the way home, thus extending my bad habit to my family. What to do…
Well, eating out does not have to mean eating junk food or bad-for-you foods. In fact, there are several fast food restaurants that actually have food that is good or, at least, better for you than the standard fare. And, yes, Wendy’s and McDonald’s are included, as it Taco Bell.
McDonald’s actually has a pretty decent menu, if you skip several things like soda and fries. The grilled chicken sandwiches, with lettuce and tomato, are a good choice. The grilled chicken wrap, the salads (with light dressing) are also good choices. The Egg McMuffin is an excellent breakfast sandwich that won’t add too much to your waistline. Those potato cake things, well, just leave them there. Oh, for desert, you can get a yogurt parfait.
Wendy’s is another good choice and they also have a pretty decent menu, again, if you skip the fries and soda. They also have a great selection of replacement sides for those fries. You can get a side salad, baked potato or chilli. They also have mandarin oranges and bottled water. While the grilled chicken choices are best, you don’t have to give up that burger just yet. The jr burgers weigh in around 300 calories. The burger and a side salad or plain baked potato will give you a filling lunch while coming in less than one hamburger all the way. They also have a great selection of prepared salads, but, keep in mind, these are large portions. Still they do not cost all that much, so you can still have a tasty salad and limit your portion while not wasting money. Throwing away a part of that salad or saving it another meal is a prudent thing to do. Portion control is key here and every where.
Taco Bell is probably the last place you’d think of when it comes to semi-healthy eating, yet you can do OK there. Forget the tastier items on the menu, though. They are either way too much-calorie wise-or are just bad for you. Those large grilled burritos…forget them…BAD. But the crunchy taco’s, regular burritos and other similar items-eaten in moderation-are not that bad for you. And, remember what you heard about beans and your heart!
Along with the good places, though, you have the ones that you should just avoid. Like Hardee’s (Carl’s Jr in some areas.) While some of the food is tasty, and splurging ONCE IN A WHILE is OK, the menu at Hardee’s is chock full of bad-for-you stuff and almost nothing that is good for you. They have, or had, one hamburger that contained 1900 calories. It was many patties high, had lots of bacon and cheese. Just thinking about this monster makes me ill. Even the breakfast menu is loaded with badness. They have an omlette biscuit that cannot be good for you. I don’t know what nutritional value it has, but it is quite large and…well, you have to see this thing. KFC is another place that has very little to offer that is not fried. The grilled chicken sandwich-plain-isn’t bad, but the grilled chicken wrap, while tasty, has a sauce that is not quite low fat. Get it without the sauce. Most of the menu is, though, full of fatty or fried foods. Burger King is also another restaurant that has more bad than good things. The baconator and that quad patty burger are but two examples of things to stay away from.
My favorite fast food joints are Quizno’s and Subway. I like Subway a bit more, but the big Q is right there as well. Both offer a ton of choices and can be as good for you or as bad for you as you want. Both have vegetarian only selections and both have a great selection of low fat offerings as well. Subway is experimenting with non sandwich dishes like personal pizza’s. I’ve not had them yet, but son tells me they are good. The portions are small, so they should not be all that bad. One day I will have to investigate them a bit more.
Lastly, ditch the soda. I am a sodaholic, but have had to radically alter my soda intake over the last few years. I’ve cut out the sugary soda all together, but still drink the Splenda sweetened soda. But, even that has been curtailed. I drink more and more water and enjoy good hot-teas in the afternoon. These teas have little or no caffeine, are usually herbal and are relaxing. Sobe has a few good sugar free drinks and there’s always fruit juices.
While I have not cut out all of the bad stuff, I am learning how to eat better. I still eat too much pasta and really enjoy a good deep dish or thin crust pizza. Eating a bit better and just getting off of my lazy butt and taking a nice stroll once in a while is paying off. I’ve lost a few pounds and have the cholesterol under better control. Living with such insidious things like diabetes is really hard, and when I was told I had it, it was pretty shocking. But, it is not the end of the world and there are lots of things you can still eat and enjoy. And going out to have lunch or dinner does not have to stop. You just have to know a little bit about what you are eating. And say no. A lot.