Photo by Jodi Miller

Health on the go

We’re Americans: we expect exactly what we want exactly when we want it! This is probably why restaurants that flaunt “build your own” meal concepts are becoming more and more popular. It used to be that you could only build your own selection at Subway, and then Chipotle exploded onto the scene with south-of-the-border flavors. Now, we can add Piada and Bibibop to the mix, among a growing list of others.

With seemingly limitless possibilities at these places, your personalized meal can either be built to help your waistline or hurt it. With each restaurant boasting about fresh and healthy ingredients, how can you know the difference between a meal that’s truly good for you and one that’s fatty and bad?

Instead of telling you exactly WHAT to order at each place, the teacher instinct in me took over and decided to educate you on HOW to make good choices instead.

Follow these tips at any place where the menu is based on your choice, and you’ll find that your food is still just as delicious but a lot more nutritious.

1  Stay away from the creamy sauces.

This includes sour cream, ranch, Alfredo, etc. Creamy sauces use high-fat dairy products for their bases, which add calories and saturated fats to your meal.

2  Limit the heavy carbohydrates.

No, you don’t really need rice AND a tortilla unless you are going for an hour (or longer) run later.  Stick to one type of heavy carb, and try to make it whole grain. Trying to lose weight? Ditch the heavy carbs altogether and put your meal on top of a bed of lettuce.

3  Choose ONE protein.

Again, you are adding lots of saturated fats and calories when you add more than one type of meat to your meal. Stick with one. Better yet—skip the meat and choose beans or even tofu for your main protein.

4  The more fresh veggies the better!

Potatoes and corn do NOT count here! More veggies increase the vitamin and mineral content of your food, as well as your fiber intake, which will keep you feeling full longer. Fresh vegetables also have far less calories than any other part of the meal, so they add bulk to your bites without adding bulk to your waistline.

5  Just say no to cheese.

Don’t get me wrong, I love cheese so much that sometimes I think it should be its own food group. However, when you are adding so many other yummy and healthy things to your meal, you won’t miss the cheese when it’s not there! I promise. If you won’t miss it, why add all the saturated fat and calories by putting it on your meal?

6  Order online and pick it up in the store.

Not only does this save you time, it saves you calories. Why you ask? If you make conscious choices before being exposed to all the sights and smells of the food when you are in the store (and in a rush while being super hungry) you are more likely to make healthier ones. It’s hard to say no to extra cheese when it’s staring you in the face.