How to find healthier foods on the road

WASHINGTON — From weekend getaways to the long family vacation, many of us probably eat more meals in the car during the summer driving season.

But Lean Plate Club blogger Sally Squires said that just because you are away from home, doesn’t mean you have to surrender your healthier eating goals. With just a little planning, you can find lower fat and lower calorie options at fast food chains.

“More and more restaurants have their nutrition facts both in their restaurants and also online. And many offer both healthy and tasty options,” Squires said.

Even from the traditional menus, Squires said reasonable choices abound.

“You want to go with the single cheeseburger or hamburger … not with the (specialty burger) or the double burger with all the toppings,” she said. “A single cheeseburger for example is around 300 calories.”

But what about fries? Smaller is better, Squires said.

“At McDonald’s, the small French fries are 230 calories … and if you get the kid size, it’s only 110 calories. So there’s a way to have a treat and not feel bad about it,” she added.

For her blog, Squires studied the menus of McDonald’s and Starbucks. She found that beyond the longtime staples, travelers can order an ‘Artisan Chicken Sandwich’ at McDonald’s for only 360 calories or a salad with grilled chicken for about 350 calories.

But she cautioned against loading up those salads.

“Salad dressings are the source for a lot of hidden calories and a lot of hidden sodium,” she said. “Less of the creamy (dressing) probably is better … go with oil and vinegar. And if you’re having chicken in your salad, make sure it is grilled, not fried,” Squires added.

Breakfast offerings have expanded at many places and McDonald’s offers some breakfast items all day. Squires found that an Egg McMuffin is 300 calories and fruit and maple oatmeal is 190 calories.

Another healthy option is the combination of fruit, cheese and honey peanut butter included in the Starbucks ‘Bistro Boxes’ for about 370 calories.

“Starbucks is also featuring some hearty veggie and brown rice salad bowls,” Squires said.

Overall, Squires suggested looking for foods that have fewer saturated fats and are low in sodium. And if you do consume higher sodium foods, Squires suggested increasing fruits and vegetables that are rich in potassium. Studies indicate that by boosting potassium intake and reducing salt, you can reduce the risk of stroke and may also lower the odds of developing heart disease.

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