Eat Right When You Eat Out – The Food Court

It’s easy to hand out advice on living the right lifestyle but what about following up on it. With this in mind I convinced my husband to make a simple change, eating right while eating out. Given our sedentary and highly stressful lifestyles, most of us take a break by going out to eat, either on the weekends or as a mid-week break. In our family, we occasionally tend to do both. We also can’t afford to eat at the best restaurants on every outing, where the chef is willing to make food to suit our specific requirements. So join us as we experiment with food outside our home. 

You know those days when you need to hit the mall for a number of reasons, including shopping for the festive season. With me these are days when I can very easily fall of the healthy eating plan.

I mean come on, first you walk for hours carrying heavy bags and second when you decide to get a bite your senses are assailed by the multitude of smells from the food court. Fried and sugary foods abound, while the long waiting lines and hungry kids, just make you more and more desperate, till finally  you grab a burger or vada pav and a milkshake or aerated drink and stuff yourself silly.The supposedly healthy options are also heavily processed or greasy in their fast food avatars, as I have learnt the hard way. Plus, no way is the harassed guy in the food court going to customize his menu to suit your requirements (less oil, less salt, no ajinomoto).

Well, this month considering that we are already in full preparation mode for the festive season, we decided to help you with the food court dilemma. The aim of our experiment was to cut back on the sugary and fried foods,  while upping the fiber levels and ensuring that we had enough energy to stay on our feet for the post lunch round of shopping.

To prevent the initial sugar crash that causes us to crave everything in sight, we had a tomato juice (without the seeds and with Tabasco sauce) about half an hour before our usual lunch time. This gave us enough time to get in one more round of shopping before the lunchtime crowds hit, as well as, enough energy to comfortably review the options available in the food court. The juice also kept us hydrated so that we didn’t mistake thirst for hunger and overeat.

For our second course we were tempted by the fragrance of the steaming corn that a vendor  had ready. We got a helping each with spice and lemon, while skipping the margarine and salt. Though corn is a source of carbohydrates, it’s also high in fiber and really made us feel like we had had a filling main course.

Though we had decided to skip dessert, we did have a third course an hour later. We were passing a chaat stall and both of us really enjoy our street food. To stick to our diet we opted for paani poori with a filling of bean sprouts and chopped onions. Though the pooris are fried, they are extremely thin (and dry) and the protein rich filling helped to round off our meal and make it a balanced one. We also went light on the sweet chutney.

The best part of the meal was that we didn’t have to fight for space in the crowded food court and we beat all the waiting lines. So what did we learn?

  • Start half an hour before you expect to get hungry with a vegetable or low sugar/ low calorie fruit juice. A few suggestions are – tomato, carrot, a mix of cucumber and some other fruit, watermelon, pineapple or pomegranate. Specify no sugar or syrup to the guy making your juice. Avoid smoothies unless you know that there are no hidden calories or sugars. For example,  ice-creams, sweetened yoghurt, flavored syrups, tinned or frozen sugary fruit pulp are common ingredients in most store bought smoothies.
  • Add in a fresh fruit salad (no sugar or syrup added), if you have access to this. We didn’t though I would have loved some fresh juicy fruit. It also heads of the dessert craving.
  • Have a fibrous main course that is preferably steamed or baked. Alternatively, a complex carbohydrate like a baked potato, if you are comfortable with it, also works.
  • Add on more courses if you are hungry, maybe a protein rich option such as grilled cottage cheese or tofu.
  • Stay hydrated so that you don’t get tired or mistake thirst for hunger.
  • Be aware of sugars, oil and excessive salt.

Most importantly, choose foods that you enjoy, after all it is your day out.

How do you handle meals at a food court? Do you prefer smaller snack type options or do you need a large sit down meal after hours of shopping?

P.S. – You can check out part 1 of this series – Eat Right When You Eat Out – Indian Chinese

About the Author:

Niranjani is an entrepreneur and blogger who believes that good quality, affordable healthcare should be available to all. She occasional puffs and pants her way through a 10k race to feel fit, despite her chaotic life.

Photo Credit: Image 1, Image 2, Image 3 

Copyright 2012 (c) Primex Scans and Labs. Please do not reproduce this article in its entirety without permission. Alternatively, a link to this URL would be appreciated.


3 responses

  1. I like the way you write – that’s the need of the hour – health educators who are able to put their complex experience and knowledge into commonspeak and leave people with an access to implement….

    1. Thank you Smitha, it’s encouraging to get feedback. We are really working hard on spreading the word on living a healthy life.

  2. […] more ideas on staying fit, while enjoying the festive season check out our ‘Eat Right When you Eat Out: The Food Court‘ […]

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