Eating healthily on the go can be a real challenge, especially when you’re stranded without your usual tupperware containers packed with healthy homemade meals.

Food packaging can be misleading and often trick you into thinking it’s a healthy product, when in fact it couldn’t be further from the truth.

Over the years, we have developed a keen eye for screening shop-bought foods, knowing exactly where to look and what to look out for. Here’s our top tips to keep you out of trouble:

Scan the ingredients

BuyingFoodOnTheGoIngredients

This might seem obvious, but it is the first step we take to identify whether a product is really healthy or not. Try to avoid products containing vegetable oils, sugars and artificial sweeteners.

We also try to avoid products made using flour (including bread), as flour is highly processed and not an optimum carb source. On top of that, we also try to avoid mayonnaise, as it is usually made on the cheap using vegetable oils full of bad fats.

Avoiding certain ingredients is made more difficult as food producers often sneak unhealthy additives into products using different names. For example, added sugar can be listed under any of the following names: dextrose, maltodextrin, barley malt syrup, corn syrup, sucrose and glucose. Simple sugars are to be avoided, as unless consumed around strenuous exercise, they will be stored by your body as fat.

Vegetable oils to avoid will either be referred to as plain old vegetable oil or sunflower oil. Vegetable oil is high in omega 6 fatty acids and can upset your body’s natural balance of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids, which can lead to many inflammatory conditions in the long term.

The key offenders in terms of artificial sweeteners are sucralose (Splenda) and aspartame (NutraSweet, Equal, NatraSweet, Canderel, Spoonfuls, DiabetiSweet). Artificial sweeteners have been found to have many detrimental side effects too long to list here, and can cause the body’s insulin levels to be spiked just like simple sugars, so they don’t have the same effect as consuming zero calories!

Check the nutritional information

If the product has passed in terms of its constituent ingredients, the next thing you’ll want to check is the nutritional information.

What is right for you depends on your current diet, so if you are eating a diet low in carbs, you will want a product with plenty of protein and good fats, whereas if you are looking for something post workout you might want plenty of carbs and protein for recovery.

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Be careful here, as nutritional information is often listed in different ways, sometimes ‘per serving’ and other times ‘per 100g’ or per ‘100ml.’ Using a little mental maths, you can work out exactly how many calories, carbs, fats & proteins are in the entire product you will be consuming – sometimes you can be lucky and this is already listed.

The ‘per 100g’ measure is also extremely useful for comparing two products side-by-side, as you can then easily see the percentage of carbs, proteins and fats compared to other products.

First you will want to make sure the calories fit into your diet, so if you’re on a restricted intake of say 1500 kcal a day, you don’t want to buy a sandwich with 750 kcals as this will likely mess up your entire diet for the day. Be sensible here and you will be fine.

Next, always check for anything in excess. Sugar is the main offender here. Many sandwiches, salads and snacks are excessively high in sugar, as guess what, our taste buds love it. Unfortunately it won’t help you get you in great shape, so aim for products with well below 10% sugar – the less sugar the better.

Protein is often the next thing to check, as protein sources, such as meat and fish, are generally more expensive than carb sources, so manufactures tend to skimp here. If you are recovering from the gym you will want at least 20g of protein, possibly more if you are larger and more muscular.

Finally you can check the carbs and fats. This should be based on your diet’s macronutrient ratios, so we can’t recommend anything specific. We generally avoid anything high in saturated fats, as in shop-bought products these are more likely to be from unhealthy sources. Be aware that some healthy products such as nuts and avocado will intrinsically be high in fat as that is primarily what they are made up of.

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What healthy drinks are out there?

Once you have selected your food, you’re probably going to want something to drink too. This really is very simple as there are very few drinks that aren’t sugar-loaded or packed full of artificial sweeteners.

We tend to stick to plain old water, or if we fancy something warm, then a green tea is our beverage of choice. If you’re not already sold on green tea, check out our article on its amazing health benefits.

Coffee is also reasonably healthy in its purer forms (read more about it here), espresso or a regular coffee with a dash of milk, but avoid the creamier derivatives such as lattes and mochas, and no more than one coffee a day as otherwise it can become an unhealthy addiction on which you become reliant for energy.

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Examples of healthy meals you can buy on the go

Here are just a few examples of what we might choose if we’re stuck out and about without our usual pre-prepared food.

Fast food:

  • Pret-A-Manger: Tuna Nicoise Salad

  • Nandos: Butterflied chicken breast with sweet potato mash & macho peas

  • Mission Burrito: Chicken rice box with guacamole, without cheese or sour cream

  • Subway: Chicken Breast salad without cheese or sauces

  • Costa or Starbucks: Green Tea or Espresso

Supermarket snacks:

  • Salads without sauces. Add a packet of sliced roast chicken breast for protein.

  • Fish/Seafood Sushi, but avoid those loaded with sugar or mayo

  • Greek yogurt, 0% fat if you’re on a low calorie diet (avoid greek-style as these have less protein)

  • Nuts: Macadamias, Almonds and Walnuts without any flavourings or added salt

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