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Finding Health in a Fast Food World

Late night study sessions, hopping from class to class- none of these things are foreign to college students. Fast food often becomes a routine part of college life, but that doesn’t mean it has to be unhealthy. Below you’ll find a few ways to get the most nutrition out of your fast food meals.

Breakfast on the Run

Opt for a mix of protein, fat and carbohydrates to keep you full. Today, you can often find yogurt with nuts and berries. Oatmeal is another simple option that can be eaten while walking across campus. Coffee shops and restaurants often have an oatmeal option that you can top with fruit and nuts. Avoid those with added sugars. If you enjoy bagels, select a whole wheat option, which often provides more protein and fiber to keep you full. Add an egg for extra protein and nutrition.

Super Salads

Most fast food restaurants now have at least one salad option. Keep in mind that salad doesn’t always mean healthy. Avoid toppings like candied pecans or dried fruit, which are often full of added sugars and chemicals. Request dressings on the side if possible, and opt for something lighter like balsamic vinegar or a simple oil and vinegar. Choose salads full of a variety of vegetables. Fresh fruit like mandarin oranges or apple slices add a little bit of flavor and added nutrition as well.

Go Grilled

Many traditional burger and fries restaurants now offer a grilled chicken option. If you find yourself somewhere like Wendy’s or McDonald’s, opt for a grilled chicken sandwich over a fried chicken sandwich or hamburger.  If you opt for a salad that contains meat or fish, choose those that have been grilled, steamed or blackened. Avoid fried options, which are cooked in unhealthy oils and add more calories but less nutrition.

Simple Soups and Sandwiches

Many sandwich shops offer a simple vegetable soup. Grab a cup to go with half of a sandwich and you’ll have a filling and well-rounded meal. When selecting sandwiches, choose whole wheat bread and load the vegetables on. Choose mustard over mayonnaise. If it’s too hot for soup, most sandwich shops will also have a fruit or side salad you can opt for instead.

Ask for Options

If a meal comes with a fried side such as french fries or onion rings, ask if you have another option. You may be able to swap your side for something with more nutrition like fruit or a side salad. Sometimes there’s a small additional cost, but it’s worth it if you’re keeping your health in mind.

Skip the Soda

Drinking water will often save you money and unhealthy calories. Sodas, teas and juices can be full of added sugars and you may end up paying much more to add a drink to your meal. Instead, order a single item and carry a water bottle with you.

Don’t Deprive

If there’s a less healthy meal you enjoy, don’t leave it completely off limits. Instead, order it less and have a healthy choice more often. Alternatively, you can try to mix and match. For example, if you have a craving for a hamburger, order a hamburger but skip the fries or order a side salad instead. You could also consider ordering a kids meal to save both calories and money.

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