The picture I’ve posted here is of recent meals I had while on vacation in the Algarve region of Portugal. Looks simple, healthy and a bit fancy right? Well, actually the large photo was of a meal I had in a British Style Pub right on the harbor and it wasn’t a fancy place at all. When I go to the Pub here in Chicago, the only food I can find is greasy onion rings and ketchup.
Everywhere I went in Europe, I was able to find delicious and healthy meal options right on the menu. I didn’t have to ask them to hold the fries, or to go easy on the sauce, or to substitute the double battered onion rings for a salad, in Europe it always came perfectly paired with veggies or a side of salad.
I find that in North America, we are quick to settle for what is offered by restaurants. In Europe, a restaurant would go out of business if the food wasn’t made with farm fresh ingredients or simply made from scratch. In North America, the restaurants that do offer the fresh, organic and made-from-scratch options are considered fancy and usually come with a hefty price tag. Don’t get me wrong, I know there is so much that we do better here on our side of the pond, but when it comes to food, the Europeans know where it’s at.
Now what to do when traveling around the US and Canada and you can’t find a single thing on the menu that you deem healthy? Here are a few tips based on what I choose to eat when I’m on the road:
Make a Grocery Store Stop
Stop at a grocery store with a hot table or salad bar and see what you can pick and choose. Be sure to start with a base of veggies like spinach or lettuce and add meats, colorful veggies and go easy on the dressing (try only olive oil and vinegar). No hot table? You can instead opt to buy the following:
A tomato, some slices of fresh cut deli meat, a fresh bun or baguette style bread, an avocado and a bottle of water. You can make a quick and yummy sandwich without standing in the crazy Subway line (I can’t stand the processed bread from Subway anyway). Before you leave the grocery store, wash the tomato and avocado (yes I wash all fruits and veggies, even the ones with skin, I don’t know who’s touched it before me!). To cut the tomato and avocado, you can go the plastic knife and fork route (but that’s so bad for the environment) or my suggestion is to always carry some utensils in a ziplock bag and tuck that into your luggage or car. I use my utensils so much while on road trips, that I’ve been thinking of buying a set of these portable utensils from Amazon. A little advanced planning allows you to have a quick and healthy meal without breaking the bank.
Create Your Own Item on the Restaurant Menu
If the grocery is not a viable option for you, and the only option is a restaurant, try scanning the menu for the protein options first. Often, people choose from the salad menu, but a lot of restaurants offer salads that are worse for you than any of their “real” food options. Your salad doesn’t need the croutons, 8 handfuls of pecans (just 1 small handful will do, thanks) or the crispy fake Asian noodles they throw in heaps on a perfectly good salad, after drenching it with a whole cup of creamy ranch dressing. Instead start with a non fried protein option like the 6 oz steak, grilled fillet of fish or the chicken kabobs (in some places, I just ask for 3 eggs over easy no matter what time of the day it is). Then ask for a small side salad, dressing on the side (that way you can add just the right amount for you) and be sure to opt out of anything you don’t want them to add to your meal or salad. But remember, don’t think low fat (Fats are so important for your health) but instead think about choosing the menu items that have been least processed.
Choosing the healthiest and freshest option 80% of the time allows me to eat yummy things like creamy gelato, pies and cookies the other 20% of the time. It also lets me fuel my body without losing my sanity, something that I appreciate after long days of traveling. Please let me know below what your favorite go-to meal while on the road is, I love hearing from you and I can always use some new ideas.
To Eating Positively Strong,