Eating three meals each day has been a staple in our culture since at least the 18th century, some research has shown. By at least the early 19th century, dinner for most people was pushed into the evening, reserved for after work upon returning home for a full meal.
But if your profession calls for more travel and less sedentary action than most typical office jobs, it can be harder to get in your daily intakes of food. So, how do you accommodate? You don’t have to subject yourself to junk snacks and over processed foods just to feel full, whether you’re on the go at work or out running errands. Eating on the run can still be satisfying and filling.
Variety is key
It’s important to define healthy meals, says registered dietitian Ronette Lategan-Potgieter, a visiting assistant professor at Stetson University in DeLand, Florida.
“The ideal choice is to include food that is unrefined, contains lots of fiber, which is not too energy-dense, therefore lower in fats and added sugars, but which is also packed with vitamins and minerals,” she says. “Typically, research has shown that the average person consumes too little fruit and vegetables, fiber and dairy products and way too much refined starchy foods, fats, sugary beverages and high fat protein foods. If we try to switch this pattern around, it is actually very easy to eat healthy while on the go.”
Healthy foods are easy to obtain and shouldn’t take long to prepare, Lategan-Potgieter says. A short checklist of what to include can further make it easy to plan well how to eat healthy while on the go.
“Healthy eating should not be time consuming and preparing a healthy meal should typically not take more than five to 10 minutes,” she says. “Healthy eating starts with planning your grocery and produce shopping. If you have fresh fruits and vegetables that do not need cooking, nuts, low-fat cheese and milk in the fridge, you should be able to grab a quick and easy meal in minutes any time of the day. Variety is important to ensure that nutrient needs are met.”
Plethora of picks
It’s always about planning and access, says Peg Doyle, a holistic nutrition coach in Westwood, Massachusetts, and owner of Wellness and You.
“You cannot expect to find much in a convenience store, but if that’s your only choice, buy a package of nuts, a banana and a low-sugar yogurt,” Doyle says. “If you’re leaving from your home, pack up leftovers from last night’s dinner in an insulated carrier.”
She offers some quick meal options:
• Snacks — Nuts, seeds and fruit are best, along with water, she says.
• Breakfast — “Experiment with whole oats and nuts, or eggs with vegetables to see which holds you satisfied the longest,” Doyle says.
• Lunch — A bean soup with vegetables, a green salad with chicken or salmon.
• Dinner — White fish, vegetables, brown rice.
“Choose a mix of protein and fat, which keeps you satisfied, and complex carbs like vegetables, whole grains and fruit, for immediate energy,” Doyle says.
Kristi Veltkamp, a registered dietitian at Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids, Michigan, says some grab-and-go-ready store options include string cheese, yogurts, mini bags of fresh cut up fruits/veggies, mini hummus and guacamole cups, cottage cheese cups, peanut butter or almond cups, organic jerky, olive cups, chickpea crisps, whole grain crackers like Triscuits, tuna pouches, trail mix, or simple granola bars like Lara bars.
“You can use many of these to make a mini meal or even find a few healthy frozen meals like Healthy Choice power bowls or Beetnik Organic,” she says. “Look for products with ingredients you can recognize as food. Sometimes we think just because we are traveling that we can splurge on junk foods. But when you are on the go a lot, these unhealthy options add up really fast.”