By Trevin Hiebert
Lunch time in New York rolls around like clockwork, but you’re looking to get (or stay) fit. There are an overwhelming number of choices, meaning the best—and best for you—can be hard to find. Maybe street food has long been your obvious go-to for lunch, but you’re worried that it might not be the healthiest option, or you’ve grown tired of the same old sandwiches day after day and want to try something at the new food trucks down the block. With New York’s plethora of street food options, finding healthy food with low calorie options is not only possible, but can be very delicious. Here are some tips to consider while searching for your perfect lunch or dinner:
- Avoid fried foods
Fried foods are high in fats and oils, and often carbs as well. This leads to them being some of the most calorie dense options available, often up to double the caloric content of similar grilled or baked options. Consider roasted or grilled options instead such as shawarma or pulled pork, and if offered a side, avoid fries or potato chips when possible.
- Consider vegan or vegetarian options
Vegan and vegetarian options often offer delicious, lower calorie substitutions to standard, meaty options. While some options, such as chickpea burgers or falafel, can be similar in calorie content, they offer substantially less saturated fat, while staying high in protein and fiber, helping you to stay fuller longer. Other options, like salads and roasted vegetables, offer tons of nutrition without adding tons of calories, and are a great quick healthy food alternative.
- Skip the extras
Many vendors offer extra add-ons to your meals: extra toppings, sauces, sides, or meal options. These are all typically things to avoid. Creamy sauces like ranch, tzatziki, or tartar can add up to 50-150 calories to a dish, and the extra slices of bacon on your sandwich can add up to 200 calories themselves. These options also cost extra, so you’ll be doing your wallet a favor at the same time. Desserts and sweets are also unnecessary additions, and typically chock full of carbohydrates and calories.
- Choose water over other drinks
It’s not only about choosing healthy food when strolling the streets. Sodas, lemonades, and other drinks are very often served at street carts and food trucks alike, but are far from the healthiest options. Beverages like these are all loaded with sugars, which add calories and limit hydration. Water is calorie-free, and, if you carry your own refillable bottle, cost-free as well. Answering thirst with water instead of sugary drinks helps keep you full between meals, while not adding calorie bloat.
- Moderation is critical
Street food in NYC often has serving sizes as big as the city it’s served in. Watching portion sizes and maintaining moderation while eating is crucial to eating healthy. Avoid sugary or calorie dense snacks, which only pump more calories into your system, without filling you up. Also consider dividing your meal into smaller portions, to be enjoyed at later times. Half a sandwich now and half later helps prevent over-eating and allows for a much more controlled appetite.
- Prioritize proteins over carbs
Choose proteins over carbs whenever possible. Carbohydrates tend to be less satisfying and don’t keep us full as long as proteins do. Properly timing your carbs, by eating them last, can also help reduce low blood sugar, which helps with weight loss. Start you meal with your protein, saving your carbs for the end, in order to fill yourself up faster without eating too many calories. Also, whenever possible, choose lower carbohydrate options, such as lettuce wraps over bread sandwich buns, or mixed vegetables instead of rice or noodles. These options allow you equal hunger satisfaction while keeping out the empty calories of higher carb options.
Eating healthy can be delicious and easy, if you keep these tips in mind. You’re in New York, so you obviously have options for when and where you choose to eat, but remember these tips the next time you choose street food. Good habits will help to consistently shed extra pounds, or to keep them off.
About the Author: Trevin spent several years in New York before returning to the Pacific Northwest. He loves running, staying healthy, and spending time with his family.