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Healthy "Fast Food" Options

Eating on the run doesn't have to mean breaking your diet. Try one of these easy-to-grab, healthy snacks.

When I'm on vacation in Kauai, Hawaii, nothing matters except the current moment. This is especially true when it comes to managing hunger and eating.

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Ravenously hungry after being outdoors playing tennis or bobbing in the ocean waves, my body easily overrules my mind. Without thinking, I will eat whatever is in front of me and then regret the choice for the rest of the day.

Except for an occasional foray into a Subway sandwich shop, I avoid fast food chains (french fries and chocolate milkshakes are my downfalls).

Knowing how easily I'm tempted, I keep my own guilt-free "fast food"—each with its own healthy benefits—in the refrigerator to bail me out:

  • Banana: It takes a few seconds to peel one; it's wonderfully sweet and nourishing to boot. At 90 calories, it's a bargain.
  • Iced-chocolate-macadamia nut coffee with skim milk and Splenda: There's just enough milk in the coffee to provide some protein. The sweetness makes me think I've splurged.
  • Applesauce: A little cup of unsweetened applesauce is wonderfully refreshing, especially when combined with a spoonful of nonfat cottage cheese. Between the two I'm good for an hour, although I've only eaten 80 calories.
  • Popcorn: Whether popped with hot air or in the microwave, preparation takes just a few minutes. The low-calorie version produces two to three cups of popcorn (fiber) with only 110 calories.
  • Sardines: When I crave protein and could use extra calcium, I open a can of chilled sardines in tomato sauce. Calories are low (120 per serving) and nutrients high. The protein reins in my appetite.
  • Hard-boiled egg: I eat it dipped in lemon pepper. Adding two pieces of Melba toast still only brings the total calories to a mere 100.

I'm reluctant to share the entire list, because you will realize how idiosyncratic my eating habits are. Even though these "fast foods" may not be your favorites, you can see how necessary they are for when I must eat somethingright this second! You can develop your own list of "fast foods" to suit your tastes. Unfortunately, choices about exercise and eating cannot be made in advance or made permanently. They can only be made in the "here and now" of each moment in each day.

That's why I stock the refrigerator with "fast foods." If I'm going to eat in haste, I don't want to regret it later.

What about you?

Carole Carson, author of From Fat to Fit: Turn Yourself into a Weapon of Mass Reduction, serves as the coach for the AARP Fat to Fit online community.