Evidence suggests that frequent patronage of fast food restaurants may be a risk factor for obesity in children. However, take it from me, a registered dietitian and mom of three very busy girls, sometimes eating on the run is unavoidable.
But instead of stopping at a drive-thru, I prefer to grab my "fast food" from a convenience store or a gas station. These establishments are easy to find and, perhaps surprisingly, offer a lot of healthy choices.
Scope Your Options
Don't just grab the first thing you see. Explore the store.
Find the Cooler
Pick low-fat milk or 100-calorie chocolate milk. Milk provides protein and carbohydrates, making it an all-in-one snack.
Browse the Endcaps
Packages of nuts and seeds are usually available at the ends of aisles, called endcaps. Nuts are full of healthy fats. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends consuming nutrient-rich foods such as almonds, which have a serving size of 1 ounce (about 23 almonds).
You can always find whole-wheat bread and peanut butter — so make a sandwich! Add an 8-ounce container of low-fat milk for a total of 22 grams of protein.
Explore Calorie-Free Beverage Options
If you substitute a calorie-free beverage for a daily 12-ounce can of soda, you will save 4,500 calories a month, offering a potential weight loss of about 1 pound per month.
Low-Fat Yogurt or Cheese
Pair low-fat dairy with a package of nuts for a slam-dunk snack.
Hit the Protein Bar Section
An ideal protein bar has around 200 calories, 10 grams of protein, 5 grams of fiber and 4 grams of fat. But beware of added sugar; the American Heart Association suggests no more than 100 calories from added sugar (24 grams of sugar) per day for most women and no more than 150 calories from added sugar (36 grams of sugar) per day for most men.
Increasingly, you can find bananas or other fruit options at convenience stores. Pair it with 8 ounces of low-fat milk or a cheese stick.
Map It Out
This final step is important. To grab healthy snacks, you actually have to know the locations of the convenience stores or gas stations with healthy selections. Planning ahead is the key to success!