Even if you know to steer clear of the bread basket, it turns out the average restaurant meal clocks in at a whopping 1,128 calories—yep, 1,128—making it easy for even the most health-savvy among us to think we’re eating well while eating out, when we’re not.
Last time, it was what to eat at all those holiday parties we just survived. This week, it’s the food truck! Here’s what you need to know before you get in line.
Heather Bauer’s food truck menu navigational nugget
You might skip the cupcake truck and the gourmet hotdog guy who seems to follow you on your evening jogs, but at even the healthiest of trucks, toppings can be your downfall. Each adds an average of 100 calories, Bauer says (we’re looking at you, cheese, sour cream, and who-knows-what’s-in-’em sauces). If you get two healthy fish tacos, but load up on extras, you can easily add 500 calories. “That’s your whole workout!” she warns.
But the awesome thing about food trucks is that the chef is right there. Take advantage of that, Bauer says, by requesting healthier preparations: Ask for a light cooking spray, for example, before the chef grabs the butter.
WHAT TO EAT
1. Veggie chili—a smart choice on many types of menus, from barbecue to farm-to-table joints (on wheels). It’s hearty, light, and filling…just say no to cheese and sour cream.
2. Simple veggie salads or sides. Another staple item at most food trucks, and a great way to get your veggies. Ask for light dressing if possible.
3. Hard boiled eggs. Put down the powdered donut—it is possible to order a healthy breakfast snack from the morning coffee cart. It’s protein-packed and easy to eat on-the-go.
1. Pita with grilled chicken. If you’re doing Mediterranean, order half of a whole wheat pita with grilled chicken, lettuce, tomato, and tzatziki—the yummy yogurt sauce.
2. Whatever grilled lean protein is on the menu (not fried!), with a side veggie or salad. Simple and filling, and a great way to really taste the flavors of whatever cuisine you’re lining up for.
3. A bun-less burger—most burger trucks will let you wrap yours in lettuce (as West Coasters know, In-N-Out famously calls it “protein style!”). And hold the cheese, please.
WHAT TO SKIP
1. Deep dish pizza. When you’re at the pizza truck, remember: Thin crust is always better.
2. Guacamole. Ugh, we know! But as great as avocado is, guacamole is one of those taco truck add-ons that can really drive up the calories, Bauer warns—partly because it’s so hard to have just a few bites.
3. Hummus and pita. People think a giant portion is healthy, but it’s an easy way to overload on carbs without even realizing it, Bauer says. Ditto if it comes with fried falafel.
Hungry for more? Next week, Bauer’s spilling her secrets to ordering healthy at an American joint. Or check out her most recent guide to eating healthy at parties.