How to Eat Healthy in the Mall Food Court
After spending a glorious afternoon splurging on the latest Spring trends at the mall (asymmetrical ruffle skirts and short shorts are SO hot right now), you’ll probably need to refuel before you start round two. But despite its convenience, the mall food court is *packed* with notoriously unhealthy grub that can ruin your diet with a single bite. Luckily, Lose It! advisor, RD, and nutrition expert Kristin Kirkpatrick is here to help us navigate mall food in a way that won’t make our mega-healthy BFF cringe. Her are her five pro tips for health-conscious snacking in a sea of fast-food chain restaurants.
1. Be a savvy calorie spender. “You wouldn’t spend $1,000 if you only had $500 in hand, so why not apply that mindset to your meals,” asks nutrition rockstar Kirkpatrick. If you’re planning on staying healthy while you’re out, create nutrition guidelines for yourself before you leave the house (AKA determine if you’re going gluten-free, paleo, low-carb, or simply how many calories you want to eat per day). This will help you mentally prepare for the type of snacks you know you can munch on — plus, it makes it easy to eliminate certain fast food chains that you know won’t meet your standards from the get-go.
2. Go heavy on the veggies. It may seem obvious, but you really can never go wrong by packing on the greens. “With just the right amount of dressing, salads and stir fry veggies can be your friend,” says Kirkpatrick. Even if you don’t see salads on the menu, most local sandwich and wrap shops can turn normal subs into filling chopped salads, Kirkpatrick advises.
3. BYO-Munchies. If you know that you’re going to spend a lot of time at the mall and don’t really want to splurge on high-calorie grub, pack yourself a few munchies to help you power through a mid-shopping spree. “If you have some nice crunchy crudités on hand, like celery, apple slices, and a hard-boiled egg, you can curb hunger so you’re not famished by the time you pass the food court.” It’s much easier to stick to the good stuff when you’re not starving!
4. Keep sweets small. “Newsflash: Small tastes the same as large,” Kirkpatrick councils. “If you’re hankering for a sweet, try a mini or a junior option, or opt to split it with a friend.” The difference between a mini and a large banana split at Dairy Queen is over 500 calories — so while you can probably afford to treat yo’ self with a large, you should definitely consider savoring a mini size instead of devouring a whopping portion. Also, Kirkpatrick warns to resists having a huge smoothie as a meal: “It may seem healthy, but there’s a TON of sugar in there.”
5. Focus on hunger, not on deals. After a long day of bargain shopping, your mind is probably already set on finding the most amount of grub for the cheapest price. “Resist the urge to buy a box of cookies or sweets just because they’re on sale,” says Kirkpatrick. “Try to see a food for its nutrients, not its quantity.” Even though you’ll get more bang for your buck if you buy those dollar menu mozzarella sticks, a slightly more expensive salad will give your body more nutrients that’ll help you stick to your dietary goals. Bonus points: It’ll make it easier to shop longer without crashing too!
How do you stay healthy at the mall? Tweet us by mentioning @BritandCo.
(Photo via Getty)