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Millionaire Money Habits

September 29th, 2009 at 10:12 am

Cheap, Healthy Ways to Eat Out

When I look down some of the main roads where I live, I can expect to see mostly fast food and burger joints.  I definitely wouldn’t call myself a health nut—I enjoy a good burger and fries loaded with ketchup, and I had pizza for dinner last night—but on the whole, I prefer to eat healthy.  When making healthy choices becomes a natural habit, you start to notice how good and energetic you feel when you snack on fruit, as opposed to feeling a little slower after snacking on a frosted brownie that’s just hanging out in your stomach like a rock.

And while making your own meals at home is always the cheapest and easiest way to eat healthy, it’s inevitable to want to get out of the house!  That’s okay—you’re not limited to the greasy, fried stuff if you want to keep it cheap.  Even with so many fast food places staring at you, you can make cheap, healthy choices when eating out.

Where To Go

What places come to mind for you when you think of eating healthy?  Subway might be at the top of the list.  Other places like Noodles and Company, Panera Bread, and Cosi might show up, too, and Chipotle has even been mentioned as a healthy option.  The truth is, you can eat healthy just about anywhere.  The trick lies with your personal choices.

Choose the Right Drink

Let’s start with the drink.  Just say no to that almost-expected soda, even a diet one.  It’s overpriced, caffeinated, high-fructose corn syrup.  Your best bet is always water.  It’s free, it’s clean, and it makes up 80% of you.  Coffee and tea can be healthy and cheap options; just keep any additives like cream, sugar, honey, etc., to a minimum.

Plenty of Meal Options

Now for your meal.  You’re not restricted to a boring salad.  In fact, even if you do choose a salad, watch out.  You’ll want to shy away from creamy dressings, too much cheese, and any other ingredients that are notorious for high calorie and fat content.  Also watch out for salads with too much of each healthy ingredient—they may be good for you, but you still need to watch calories.  Stick with simple dressings like a balsamic or raspberry vinaigrette, or ask what their light dressing options are.  So in other words, avoid the taco salad and go with the grilled chicken salad.

If you’re looking for a sandwich, similar rules apply.  Just because you’re in line at Subway doesn’t mean that any sub is a healthy choice.  You still want to look for lean protein like chicken, shy away from the cheese (or at least don’t ask for extra cheese), and say no to bacon and creamy dressings again.  At a place like Panera or Cosi, be sure to analyze the ingredients.  A turkey and artichoke panini might sound perfect, but take a look at additional ingredients like cheese or a cream sauce or anything that could add grease and extra fat.  If you’re at a pasta place, stick with simpler items like pasta with marinara sauce.  Beef stroganoff or mac and cheese are probably not the lightest fare available.

Read the Nutritional Information

It’s a good idea to check the nutritional information before choosing, if possible.  It can help put some of the menu items in perspective—you might see something whose name implies that it’s a healthy choice, but it’ll cost you two days’ worth of calories!  Ask how certain items are prepared, if possible.  An entrée might come with vegetables, but if they’re sautéed in loads of butter and oil, they’re just as bad as the burger you avoided.  Don’t be afraid to ask if something can be prepared differently, or placed on wheat or whole-grain bread instead of white.  Most places will accommodate without an extra fee, but if they do and it’s reasonable, go with it.  This is your health you’re talking about!

If you’re simply dying for a big, juicy burger, don’t deny yourself the pleasure.  Just don’t do it everyday!  And don’t let yourself feel guilty about the times that you indulge.  If you don’t give in occasionally, you’re more likely to go on a binge and let your diet start to slide.  You don’t have to go all or nothing.  Just be sure to watch portion sizes and enjoy your indulgences in moderation.  Happy eating!

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