The Easiest To Implement Healthy Food Travel Tip

November 14, 2012   26 Comments

Okay, let’s say you are like Snack Girl on a recent trip and forgot your snacks. You pull into a place like the one above.

Healthy Travel Tip

In case you are wondering, this is a rest stop on the Massachusetts Turnpike. What was I doing there? Well, I raced out the door without breakfast and didn’t pack any food to take with me.

First rule of a road trip, pack your snacks.

I’m not great at following rules myself (or speed limits) so I forgot this rule and was stuck foraging on the side of the road. What is on the side of the road, other than roadkill? Fast food.

It was here that I remembered yet another talk that I attended at the Food & Nutrition Conference and Expo. The speaker absolutely fascinated me because she insisted that you could get healthy food at fast food restaurants which she called QSR’s (Quick Service Restaurants).

She told a story of how she visited Barcelona, Spain and was turned off by the local breakfast (a fluffy sweet bread pastry and a coffee). She was so upset by the breakfast cuisine of Barcelona, she went to find a McDonald’s.

No, I’m not kidding. It was at this point in the talk that I began to worry that someone from Spain was in the audience. Ummmm, isn’t the point of visiting other countries to enjoy them? Try something new? Sample local cuisine? Oh dear.

But, she went and found a McDonald’s and ordered (and here I was very curious what a Registered Dietician was going to get at McD’s) an Egg McMuffin. This is the good part. She ordered it WITHOUT the cheese and the ham and got two egg patties instead.

Here are the nutrition facts for the regular Egg McMuffin (with ham and cheese):

300 calories, 12 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 30 g carbohydrates, 3.0 g sugar, 18 g protein, 2 g fiber, 820 mg sodium, 8 Points+

Her version which had no ham or cheese and TWO egg patties:

320 calories, 14 g fat, 4.5 g saturated fat, 29 g carbohydrates, 1.0 g sugar, 19 g protein, 2 g fiber, 425 mg sodium, 8 Points+

My guess is that she liked the lower amount of sodium with this choice. She did cut it down quite a bit without the ham and cheese.

So here I am standing at a McDonald’s at 10 AM and I am hungry. I found myself saying, “I would like an Egg McMuffin without the ham, cheese, egg, or English muffin.”

Just kidding!

I ordered it without the ham and cheese and just had an egg sandwich. I realize that it was a boring choice but it worked in the desperate situation in which I found myself.

Here is my version - with just one egg patty and some ketchup:

240 calories, 9 g fat, 2.5 g saturated fat, 28 g carbohydrates, 2.0 g sugar, 12 g protein, 2 g fiber, 350 mg sodium, 6 Points+

I slashed both the calories and the sodium and had a healthier sandwich. No, it wasn’t great, but it kept my tummy from rumbling.

Second more useful rule of road trips: Customize your order.

No one blinked when I changed the mighty Egg Mcmuffin and when you say things like “no mayo” or “no cheese”, you can make a dent in the calorie bombs that these places serve.

Yes, you are being finicky like Meg Ryan in “When Harry Met Sally”, but why not give it a go? Add more tomato or lettuce, skip the bacon, cheese, or sour cream.

My guess is that you are on a road trip to a Thanksgiving meal. Save your calories for the homemade love that awaits you.

Please share your customization tricks.

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First 20 Comments: ( See all 26 )

I couldn't agree with you more! You feel like your being a big pain in the behind when you customize your order, but do you think they really care? I worked in Fast Food when I was a teen and I didn't care what people ordered. Customize your meal because it's much more healthier for you!! Love your post!!!

I order an egg biscuit when I'm running late and don't have anything to grab. I should get the muffin instead but I figure it's probably not whole wheat so why not!

I go for the oatmeal. Also always keep a healthy bar in your purse. Latest find "Just 2". They only have 2 ingredients.

Great post, SG! Can you give us some more healthy fast food ordering tips? On another note, I completely recognize that rest stop -- I'm an alum from Boston U, and stopped there plenty of times during my four years

I have a big note on our garage-access door: "DO NOT leave without food and water". Even if it's just a banana or two, it helps stave off panic that can be "solved" by getting junk.*

One pretty reliable choice my wife and I make when we forget to bring food with us when out (or run out) is a plain baked potato (or two) at Wendy's. No sour cream, no margarine, no nothing (except for salt and pepper). They're usually like $1.29, so even four of them won't break the bank. If you [heart] something like Mrs. Dash or Shoyu or balsamic vinegar, keep that handy and you can slather it on the potatoes.

* I'm reminded of Jason Vale's observation regarding the garbage that is sold at QSR places: Figure out what is healthy for you and then change the recording that plays in your head from "I want this, but can't have it" to "I can have this, but I don't want it."

Since I have a sweet tooth I just get the yogurt and fruit parfait and save the granola for a snack afterwords if I end up at McDonalds. You can get it anytime throughout the day.I know it has a lot of sugar in it but at least it is under 300 cal,even with the granola and it has some nutritional value.

Luckily,for the most part,I bring healthier snacks,but the parfait is a treat for when I travel. Bringing your own snacks probably will save you money as well.

I order the fruit parfait. I also order a side of eggs which is just the egg products scrambled. I get lots of protein that way.

I am a customization queen! My hubbys says I view the menu as a starting point rather than a list of options. But I always ask if they can accomodate requests, I always thank them for their help and tip well. Great post!

that's so funny about the RD in Spain! I visited there a couple years ago and was also disappointed in the breakfasts. There was nothing hearty or filling....mainly breads...luckily i ended up finding fruits and yogurt to keep me full but I missed my oatmeal and eggs!

Ha the old egg mcmuffin. Please tell my sister this is not a healthy choice! She read/heard somewhere it was and thinks stopping for breakfast and ordering it quite often is ok. The worst part is she gives my just turned 4 yr old nephew you them all the time too, and adds a "healthy" smoothie. I can't convince her otherwise. My healthier fast food change is a salad. I add very little dressing and never fried anything on it. I try to pick out candied walnuts or some cheese too.

The truth is, that local breakfast of "a fluffy sweet bread" was probably lovingly made from scratch using real ingredients.

The Egg McMuffin was factory-made with chemicals. Ultimately, the chemicals are going to do more harm that a little fat (which were probably good fats from real butter anyway!!). true! Thanks for the reality check.

My husband who has high blood pressure would get an egg mcmuffin and think he was eating healthly until I pointed out the sodium. They usually run a special that if you buy 2 it's cheaper then getting one and he would eat both.

I always order all my sandwiches with "no cheese" not only because it's a huge calorie savor but because I'm not too crazy about cheese. You would be amazed at how many times I get my sandwich and there is cheese on it. It seems like people have a hard time believing I actually do NOT want cheese on my food. So, if you do order your sandwich sans cheese, look at it before you bite into it. Chances are, there is cheese on it.

I actually have been blogging a series on travelling and so I included this in mine.

My best tip is to make a menu for your purse. Most people eat at the same types of restaurants all the time. I have my clients go through the most frequented, type up what they will order at each one, what changes need to be made, and then keep with them at all times. This often saves them from making crazy choices when the thinking is all done for them!

What about the new egg-delight mcmuffin...made with egg whites.

Ugh! I was turned away from giving blood after eating an Egg McMuffin because my blood pressure spiked so high afterward.. Lesson learned.

When I do choose convenience and cravings over my own health, I request no mayo, extra veggies.

Not ideal, but every little bit helps..

I don't know what I would order at McD's.. as I do not eat bread and their oatmeal isn't very good nutrition-wise. :(

I love the fruit and yogurt without the granola.

I always order everything plain.. Plain hamburger, no syrup on my French toast or waffles.

I hardly ever eat an Egg McMuffin, but when I do, I eat it all - no customization.

A (super fit) gal that I'm following on youtube suggests that if you need food run into a grocery store - get 1/4 lb of sliced deli turkey and a pint of cherry tomatoes. To her, there's no excuse for fast food.

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