5 Rules for Eating Healthy in a Food Desert
Like many other underserved urban areas across the country, Far Rockaway is federally-labeled food desert. Residents don’t have consistent access to healthy food options, fresh fruit and vegetables, or non-fast food restaurants. Instead, the options that are readily available are the deli, chinese takeout, mexican fast food, fried chicken, and burgers & fries. Particularly for low-income and poverty-impacted residents, obstacles like pricing, lack of time or kitchen space to cook, and distance from grocery stores can make eating out a regular necessity. But eating low-quality foods regularly can raise your risk of serious health problems, such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and more. If you order fast food or takeout often, use these 5 rules to make the most of your money and eat as healthy as possible.
1. Steamed or grilled, not fried
Go for steamed or grilled foods rather than fried. Frying adds extra fats and nutritionless breading in the process of cooking. Opting for foods that were steamed or grilled instead of fried is an easy way to cut back on sodium, fats, and empty calories. Ex: steamed vegetables, grilled chicken sandwich, spring rolls instead of egg rolls.
2. Sauce on the side
Sugary, high-sodium sauces and dressings can heavily unbalance the nutritional value of a meal. Asking for sauce on the side lets you control the portion to your own taste, or to opt out entirely. Using less or no sauce or dressing can make for a much healthier meal. Most takeout restaurants will allow you to order sauce on the side, even if it’s usually cooked into the food. In addition, light sauces are often better than creamy sauces. Ex: salsa instead of sour cream, sweet and sour sauce on the side, dipping instead of smothering.
3. No white rice, no white bread
Opt for brown rice and whole wheat bread instead of white rice and white bread whenever possible. White rice and white bread are empty carbs with very little nutritional value. This simple switch can make your meal much healthier overall — and make you feel full for longer, too.
4. Put plants on your plate
Make sure you get at least one serving of vegetables with everything you order. Whether it’s adding lettuce, pickles and tomatoes to your sandwich, going for broccoli with your chicken, swapping out fries for a side salad, adding (brown) rice and beans — seek out the veggies on the menu. An adult eating 2,000 calories a day should aim for 2½ cups of vegetables. The most brightly colored produce is often the most nutrient-rich, so it’s also important to eat a wide variety of colorful vegetables. If a vegetarian can’t eat happily at your restaurant of choice, you probably shouldn’t eat there too often either.
5. Go easy on sodas, cheese, and red meat
Opt for lean meats like chicken or turkey instead of beef and pork. Drink water or natural fruit juice instead of soda or other sugary drinks. Go for one slice of cheese instead of two, or swap cheese out entirely. Moderation is important for all three of these foods, but depending on your favorite fast food order, it can be easy to eat too much of them. Break the bad habit gradually by asking for less cheese, having a small soda instead of a large, and exchanging red meat for poultry or seafood regularly.