Healthier Choices at the Food Court
Prevention editor-in-chief Liz Vaccariello walks you through a virtual food court to show you what to choose and what to avoid the next time you hit the mall.
The Burger Stand
If you're in the mood for a nice juicy burger, Liz points out that usually the bun is the most caloric portion of the sandwich. "Avoid the bun and have a lettuce wrapped burger instead," she suggests. "Or, if it's a sandwich with three pieces of bread, remove the middle piece, or even eat the burger without a bun." Liz also recommends leaving off the mayo, and going with a really strong-tasting cheese like sharp cheddar so you'll use less of it.
For a side to your burger, neither French fries nor onion rings are ideal because they're fried in oil, but Liz suggests picking the fries. "They have some vitamin C, some vitamin B, some potassium ... the only thing onion rings have is that odor-causing sulfur so you're not getting any nutrients."
When choosing between high-fat toppings like cheese, sour cream and guacamole, Liz recommends the guacamole because avocados are quite healthy. "Or, use vegetable-based salsa as a universal topping. It's virtually calorie-free. Corn or black bean toppings have a few more calories, but they're healthy so don't worry about it."
If you're debating between crispy or soft taco shells, Liz explains that the crispy version has about 128 fewer calories than its soft counterpart. Also, choose corn over flour. "That has about 40 calories, whereas the flour could be up to 200 calories."
The Coffee Shop
Liz offers some surprising - and pleasing - advice for those looking to indulge at their favorite coffee place. "If you have a very specific craving for a treat at the coffee shop, or your favorite coffee drink, have that very thing!" she declares. "People wind up having something else and then having their favorite thing anyway, so let yourself have that treat." But Liz adds that you're getting an iced drink, ask for extra ice because that will fill up the cup and you won't even notice the difference.
If you have to pick between a slice of cake (two-fingers wide) or a large cupcake, choose the cake because it will have fewer calories.
The Sub Shop
When ordering your sub sandwiches you may already be making the right choice of requesting wheat bread over high-calorie breads like garlic cheese, but Liz warns to make sure it's whole wheat. "Plain wheat is just white bread with caramel coloring," she clarifies. For toppings, go with oils and vinegars over mayonnaise-based dressings; vinegar or lemon juice is practically calorie-free. And Liz points out that you shouldn't discount ham as a healthy option because it has virtually the same amount of calories as turkey. "But avoid salamis and prosciuttos because they have more calories and higher sodium."
"They have small portions, you can pace yourself, and fish is healthy," Liz notes about the sushi stand, though she suggests sashimi (just the fish without the rice) along with the sushi. "You can have two pieces of sashimi with your soy sauce and wasabi for the same amount of calories as one of the sushi rolls - the rice is where the calories and sugar is."
Liz warns that when looking at the menu, avoid terms like "tempura" because that means it's breaded and fried, or "spicy" because that means mayonnaise is added. And beware of the crunchy toppings because that's another way calories can sneak into your food.
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