Whether you’re in college or stuck at the office, sometimes heading to the cafeteria is your only option, but healthy cafeteria picks aren’t always abundant, so what’s a girl to do? Fortunately, you can cobble together a healthy meal in the cafeteria, but it takes a bit of effort. Meaning, you can’t go in and grab the first couple things you see and call it a meal. Healthy cafeteria picks fill you up, are high in nutrients, low in fat and calories and of course, they taste great too!
1. Baked Potatoes
Stay away from the mashed potatoes smothered in gravy even if they taste really good. Instead, have a baked potato topped with veggies and low-fat cheese. You’ll fill your tummy with fiber, which staves off hunger between meals, plus you’ll load up on vitamins A and C, potassium, calcium and protein. A delicious baked potato is one of my favorite healthy cafeteria picks! I highly recommend it.
2. Salad Bar
If your cafeteria features a salad bar, you’re in luck. It’s easy and fast to throw together a filling meal here. Go for lots of vegetables and greens, but go easy on cheese, croutons and cold cuts. Choose low-fat dressing and pair your salad with some fruit and you’ll be fueled up to finish your day without derailing your health goals.
Pasta contains carbs, which scares many women away from eating it. The truth is that your body needs carbs for energy, so it doesn’t pay to eat carb-free. Pasta has a place in a healthy diet as long as you stick with one serving at a time. In the cafeteria, choose pasta with tomato sauce and chunks of veggies, but stay away from white sauces or melted cheese on your noodles. If it’s available, choose whole grain pasta, which is higher in fiber.
4. Grilled Meats
Some cafeterias serve made to order meats, which can be very healthy. If your cafeteria has a grill station, base your meal on a grilled chicken breast, sirloin steak or serving of shrimp. These items are high in protein and iron, but low in fat and calories. Add steamed veggies and brown rice and you’re set up for a filling and delicious meal you can feel good about eating.
5. Mexican Food
Mexican food is my absolute favorite. I won’t pretend it’s all healthy, though it can be a nutritious choice. Stay away from options covered in melted cheese and sour cream. They’re not at all virtuous. Instead, have a tortilla topped with grilled chicken, salsa, low-fat cheese and some avocado slices. Or have a shredded beef enchilada, minus all the cheese and topped with pico de gallo instead. Fajitas are also pretty healthy, as long as the ingredients are grilled, not fried.
As long as a sandwich isn’t smothered in mayonnaise and piled with fatty meats and cheese, it can be a healthy, and fast cafeteria pick. Choose a sandwich made with whole grain bread, mustard, low-fat cheese and lots of veggies and you’ll satisfy your hunger, fill up on nutrients and keep your fat and calorie intake under control.
If all else fails, grab a few small, but healthy, snacks from the cafeteria. This way, you can have a meal that you feel good about without having to eat something you’d rather avoid. Grab an orange, a string cheese and packet of trail mix. Or, have a cup of cereal, a carton of milk and a banana.
Have you ever been horrified by what’s served in cafeterias? How do you get around that? I like to see everything that’s available before making my choices.