Eating on the Go
Our days are so rushed, sometimes it's impossible to find time to shower. Why would you wake up an extra 30 minutes early to sit down and eat breakfast? With all the responsibilities you're juggling, how do you find time for lunch and dinner?
You find you're eating your meals on the go, grabbing a slice of pizza, some granola bars, or whatever is handy. While it's true that skipping meals can leave you feeling lethargic, confused, and grumpy, eating fast food can drain you of strength, energy, and mental functioning.
To avoid skipping meals, or filling up on prepackaged foods, take an extra five or ten minutes and pack a meal to take with you. The meals don't have to be large, just nutritious so that you have the energy to get through your day without feeling exhausted or binge eating Pringles and ice cream at midnight.
- Why Eat Breakfast?
- Breakfast on the Go
- Why Eat Lunch?
- Lunch on the Go
- Junk Food
- Healthy Snack Choices
Why Eat Breakfast?
Breakfast is the first step in eating well and being alert throughout the day. Your breakfast will set the tone for the rest of your day's food intake: if you do not eat enough at breakfast, you will likely overeat at the next meal, which can throw off the rest of your meals for the day.
People who skip meals have lower energy and tend to eat too many snacks because they get so hungry. As a result, skipping breakfast may actually make you gain weight! Eating breakfast can help you avoid feeling tired, distracted, and overly hungry or snacking on unhealthy choices during the rest of the day.
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Breakfast on the Go
If you tend to skip breakfast, it helps to pack a healthy snack (like a granola bar or a piece of fruit) in your bag so that you have something to kick-start your day.
Here are some fast breakfast ideas:
- Instant oatmeal with milk and a handful of raisins, cranberries, or chopped nuts
- Low-fat yogurt with your favorite cereal
- A smoothie with banana, berries, and low-fat milk or yogurt
- Flour tortilla with peanut butter and sliced bananas
- Toasted English muffin with a slice of turkey and slice of cheese
- Toaster waffle topped with yogurt and a fruit
- Toaster waffle topped with applesauce
- For more ideas: Power-Up With Breakfast [PDF Download]
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Why Eat Lunch?
Lunch sets a trend for the rest of the afternoon and evening. Skipping lunch may cause headaches, low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), tiredness, and overeating later in the day.
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Lunch on the Go
The key to a healthy lunch is to choose plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grain products, lean meats or sources of protein (chicken, turkey, beans), and foods rich in iron and calcium. Instead of skipping lunch, plan ahead to take a variety of healthy foods that will allow you to eat regularly and nutritiously throughout the day.
If you don't want to eat just three meals a day, break each meal up and take an assortment of food with you so you can eat four to six smaller meals a day. If you are packing a lunch, remember to mix it up and be creative.
There are some tricks to having a successful, packed lunch. Keep things easy to pack and easy to eat – sandwiches are great choices! Remember, protein is what will keep you going strong throughout the afternoon so include foods like cheese sticks, yogurt, sliced meat, peanut butter, beans, or nuts.
Ideas for a quick, healthy lunch:
- Cut open and microwave a potato and top with reduced-fat cheese, salsa and spinach
- Stuff a whole-grain pita with hummus, spinach, tomatoes, or bell peppers
- Fold up a whole-wheat tortilla with grated Monterey Jack cheese, salsa, spinach, and microwave
- Toast bread and top with tuna (mixed with mustard instead of mayonnaise) and lettuce
- Microwave a cup of low-sodium vegetable soup and enjoy with whole-grain crackers
- Take a whole-wheat tortilla, spread on mustard and top with a slice or turkey, low-fat cheese and lettuce.
- Toast an English muffin, top with tomato pasta sauce, sprinkle with low-fat cheese and eat with a side of baby carrots.
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Even for people who are concerned about their health, junk food is hard to resist. Junk food consists mainly of empty calories, and does not contribute in anyway to a healthy diet. That's not to say you cannot eat junk food every once in awhile, but always in moderation.
One basic idea to keep in mind is the "80/20 rule". This means you eat well 80 percent of the time, and the other 20 percent you allow yourself to eat something that you have been craving, which may include junk food. One small bag of chips a week is not going to kill you, but nobody really needs to eat a third piece of cake. If you have a sweet tooth, try finding alternative ways to satisfy it, such as strawberries with chocolate sauce instead of chocolate cake.
By limiting your intake of sugar, you can avoid situations where your blood sugar level spikes and then crashes to a low level, which will likely leave you feeling sweaty, hungry, dizzy, and sleepy. The 80/20 rule can help you moderate your intake of sugar and junk food.
Whenever you find yourself tempted to snack, ask yourself, "Why am I eating this right now?" and "Am I bored, stressed, or procrastinating?" Emotional eating is common, but is not a healthy coping mechanism, and it can throw off your well-balanced diet. When you eat mindlessly (meaning, without paying attention to the food) you tend to eat more than your body needs. Check out the Sutter Health Mindful Eating article to learn more about mindful vs. emotional eating.
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Healthy Snack Choices
Many of us love to snack, and that's okay. Sometimes waiting four to six hours between meals is just too long, and we need an extra boost of energy to get through the morning or afternoon. However, it's important to know how to snack in a healthy way. Be sure you have some plastic sandwich bags or small containers on hand to easily pack your snack when you're on the go!
Ideas for healthy snacks:
- Baby carrots or celery (with hummus if you like)
- Whole wheat bread or crackers
- Rice cakes with tuna, sliced turkey, or peanut butter
- Banana or apples dipped in Low/Non- fat Yogurt
- Dried Fruit
- A mix of nuts, dried fruit and whole-wheat cereal
- String cheese
- Chocolate Milk
- Smoothie made of fruit and low-fat milk
- Toaster waffle topped with yogurt, fresh fruit or applesauce, and cinnamon
Want to improve your diet? Track your progress on your health goals using your Young Adult WAY2GO! Dashboard.
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- Sonja Swenson, public health education intern
- Nicole Aguirre, college writer
Reviewed By: Nancy L. Brown, Ph.D.
Last Reviewed: July 2013
Download these useful PDF documents:
"Healthy Snacks for Kids" or "Smart Snacking for Adults and Teens" from the American Dietetic Association for ideas for easy and fun snacks!