Food Qualms: What to do in a Pinch


I’ve received a lot of questions lately about healthy-ish food on the go. Instead of giving you the ‘canned’ response and saying, ‘you should have been prepared’, I’m going to steer it a different route. I’m going to assume you got lazy, decided to not plan and you find yourself sitting in a few different spots – an airport, the fast food drive thru and a casual dining restaurant for a midday lunch. You’ll be surprised at the amount of flexibility you have in determining what to do for yourself without falling apart completely. I am taking into consideration that your on-the-go meal will be a full meal, consisting of fat, carb and protein…



So there’s this thing about airports. They’ve got this feel that makes you sort of cringe anytime you go to eat. It’s not the worst place in the world to find a nice place to sit down if you’ve got some time; even though there is something completely temporary about every restaurant I’ve been to in any airport. You know the food is a little undercooked, the quality is a little lower and NO – Cinnabon doesn’t have any healthy options.

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Good Choices – Starbucks Oatmeal – 150 Calories, 5 g protein, some good fiber and not nearly as bad as those breakfast sandwiches you can find there. Their Protein Bistro box is also a decent option. Nearly every airport I’ve ever seen also has a McDonald’s. McDonald’s has a grilled chicken bacon salad. High in protein, high in sodium, but about as good as you will get at McDiesel’s.  I have found the hardest part about airports is the low quality proteins combined with high fat and high carb content. You will have a hard time finding lean and clean meals at a restaurant due to the ‘quick’ nature of frying stuff up.

Best Choice – Grilled chicken salad, an apple and some nuts at a kiosk or at a sit down restaurant. They tend to overload you with sauce on the side. Your best strategy will be to only use half or to avoid it altogether. Remember your time in the airport is very low in terms of energy expended – so you want to focus nutrients on stuff that will be healthy enough to hold you over until your final destination.


Fast food. It’s a little grimy, it’s a little saucy, and it’s definitely low on quality. But sometimes, you have to realize that low quality taste is what you are looking for. As you sit in your car, at your nearest strip mall, deciding what to shove down your gullet, take the following into consideration:

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In general the things you will want to avoid are the big menu items. The Big Macs, Whoppers, Burrito Supremes and all the other big-name sandwich items that are marketed to be the best thing in the world. Sure they may be tasty now, but you will be full of regret 15 minutes later (in some instances, immediately).

Good Choices –McDonalds has some decent salads, with the option to throw some protein on top. Always opt for grilled over fried. Most sandwich places will have a grilled chicken sandwich available on the menu. Scrape off the mayo and only eat half the bun and you’re good to go. These sandwiches will be around 400 Calories, which in the grand scheme of things is not too bad! If you’re in a pinch, it could be worse. Opt out on the fries, grab yourself some water and you’re good to go.

Best Choice –  Taco Bell’s fresco menu will offer far more options to keep the carb count down, keep the ‘meat’ lean and have you feeling relatively decent afterwards. They substitute pico de gallo for the cheese and sauces. Each menu item will have less than 350 Calories and less than 10 grams of fat. In-n-Out also has some great options if you ask for ‘protein style without the sauce’. It might be a bit higher in fat, but the quality of the food is higher than other spots. But if you’re feeling like eating something quick and crappy, this will get you fixed up real quick with high protein and will definitely satisfy you until you sit down for your home prepared meal later. A protein style burger at In-n-Out will only cost you around 250 Calories, most of it in fat and protein.


These places really offer the most flexibility in terms of what you are doing. For the professionals I work with, this can be the hardest of the three spots if you are being ‘forced out with the office’. If you get food catered in, it can be even harder.

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The best thing about these places is that they can really tell you what you’re getting without feeling bad about asking. These places you’ll be spending a little bit more and might be eating in.  There are a bunch of places you can drop in and request for ‘grilled chicken with a side of veggies, with no butter’, and they’ll oblige. With that said, here are my favorites

Good Choices – Salad at Panera bread. Throw some chicken, egg and bacon on top, minimize the dressing and you’re gravy. Sandwich places in general will be a bit better than burger places. That’s not to say it’s the end all, be all. But you can often drop in, grab half a sandwich and a half-salad with ease. When choosing your sandwich of choice, opt for whole grain and the type of protein that is most natural – ie, not chicken salad because they load it up with mayo and goobery stuff.

Best Choices – Chipotle or other quick-burrito joints. Burritos and bowls are my go-to in a pinch. It may take 15 minutes because the place is always packed – but anywhere that gives you as much flexibility as they do, always has my vote. Opting for chicken, black beans, no rice, pico, hot sauce, lettuce and if you’re feeling fat, guacamole in a bowl has always been a quick easy, high quality choice to fit my tasting. The beans offer high protein, high fiber and a low GI option to get after a workout. They’ve got salad as an option, high nutrient options with the different kinds of rice and salsas and are easy enough on the stomach. All in all, these spots are my go to because they give you the quick, healthy options that I wish I had in home.

Published by mikeg00se

I like to adventure, paint portraits of goats and love family stuff.

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