I'm a diet cheater. All. Week. Long.


Dear Gabby,

When it comes to eating healthy and routine, I’ve always been the exception to the rule. Let me explain - I eat healthy on the weekends, but during the week can't seem to keep control of my diet and eating habits. For someone who really only has time to eat out for lunch during the week, what are the best things to know when it comes to ordering healthier meals?


Exception to the Rule

Hello Exception to the Rule!  

I see why you say that about yourself as a lot of people tend to use weekends as cheat days.  Good news for you is that you don’t!

Based on your post, and your comment that you only have time to eat lunch out during the week, I am thinking that you are looking for healthier options at a place that offers take out or a fast food restaurant.

I recently worked on a project where I reviewed a ton of fast food restaurant menus.  I was looking for healthier options for those ‘on the go’.  I was SHOCKED by some of the things I learned.  I knew that it would be challenging to find something low in calories and fat but, what I didn’t realize, was the amount of sodium they contain.  It turns out that the amount of sodium in some options exceed 1500 mg, which is the amount most healthy, middle-aged adults should consume for the ENTIRE day.  Just in that 1 meal! 

Nevertheless, I did find some healthier options on some menus.  And incorporating some of the methods below should help in your goal to eat better during a rushed lunch.

First, depending on where you are eating, portion sizes in this country have gotten way out of control.  I went out to dinner the other day and ordered a salad with strips of steak on top.  When the server brought my meal it reminded me of The Flinstone’s Cartoon (I know I’m showing my age here) when the server delivers Fred’s oversized meal to his car, which then proceeded to flip the car on its side.  Three people could have eaten my meal and I still would have had leftovers!

My point is, most of the time you can eat ½ of the meal and be more than satisfied.  This is actually one of the best practices you can use, as it really helps control the desire to over-eat.  As soon as you get your meal, ask the server for a to go container and put ½ of the meal in the to-go box.  

Foods that are fried will contain excess fat and calories, so you’ll want to avoid them.  Ordering lean meats like chicken or turkey that is grilled or baked are good options. Grilled, baked or broiled fish may also be a good choice. Adding a side salad with a little oil and vinegar or steamed vegetable like spinach, broccoli or green beans are good selections to round out your meal.   They also contain fiber, which, in addition to a whole host of health benefits, should help you feel fuller, longer.  

If you do not consume meat, things like tofu, tempeh, seitan, or a bun-less veggie burger with steamed vegetables are good options.  A salad with lentils, beans or chickpeas is another good one.

It’s also a good idea to limit sauces, dressings and dips as most contain a lot of added calories, sugar, fat and sodium as well.

Lastly, there are beverages – yet another source of ‘empty’ calories.  Again, many of these options contain excessive amounts of sugar which will also add more calories to your meal.  Water is my first choice due to its many health benefits.  But if you find that doesn’t work for you, you can try adding sliced citrus fruit such as lemon, lime or oranges or, better yet, cucumbers for a very refreshing treat.  But, if that still doesn’t work for you, you can try seltzer or carbonated water.  Unsweetened iced or green tea are good too.

Good luck!