(10 seconds each to read and are almost that quick to prepare)
By Lisa Messinger
Food and Cooking at Creators Syndicate
Although homemade meals are the gold standard, there are also ways to improve occasional restaurant meals to your family's advantage. The same logic can kick in if you are in the car a lot running errands or driving from one kidlet appointment to another.
I've found that, in addition to packing healthy snacks that don't require refrigeration for car rides, what can fill in the missing nutritional gaps at roadside restaurants for occasional necessary quick stops are mini packs of secret weapons.
These are the kind of foods nutritionists recommend, but don't often appear on menus and can be popped almost like magic bullets before the meal. For instance, dietitians often advise a small portion of a "good fat," like nuts, along with lean protein and vegetables at meals, as well as talking up a few bites of antioxidant-filled gems like dried fruit. Whole grains, which they tout, may also be in short supply from short order cooks.
Following are a few ideas of what to bring, along with simple suggestions from most menus that can make a significant difference while leaving the cafe's flavor fest intact.
Fun fare like this also proves improving food can be easy, nutritious, inexpensive, fun - and fast. The creative combinations are delicious proof that everyone has time for creating specialties, even on the road, and, more importantly, always enjoying the healthy family togetherness that goes along with it!
--- FROM YOUR OWN STASH:
- MEANINGFUL MEDLEY
Combine golden and dark raisins, dried cherries and dried blueberries.
- GOING NUTS FOR NUTS
Combine shelled pistachios, almonds, walnuts, and hazelnuts.
- GRAB A GRAIN
Combine oat, whole wheat, and barley ready-to-eat cereals to eat a few bites dry.
--- FROM THE MENU:
- CHECK YOUR OIL
Ask for olive oil and vinegar and drizzle a few dashes on every salad or hot vegetable you order, as well as compatible items, like soups, omelets, chili and casseroles.
- AIM FOR AVOCADO
Add this "good fat" to sandwiches, salads, omelets and burgers.
- BREAKFAST-FREE BOWL
Order a dry bowl of whole-grain cereal and eat a few bites dry or sprinkle on dishes, like soups, salads, hot vegetables, macaroni and cheese or meatloaf. Or order a side of brown rice and add a few tablespoons to burritos, wraps, hot vegetables or soups.
QUICK TIP OF THE WEEK: There's the old saying "You don't know what you don't know." If part of that exasperation is not mastering how to properly eat lobster and other culinary quandaries, an apt guide is Ashley Blom's "How to Eat a Lobster: And Other Edible Enigmas Explained" that's also handsomely illustrated by Lucy Engelman. Topics, such as cracking nuts, eating a whole fish and how to open a coconut, are broken into easy-to-follow steps. Practice a few times and, voila, you are a connoisseur, or at least probably won't embarrass yourself.
Lisa Messinger at Creators Syndicate is a first-place winner in food and nutrition writing from the Association of Food Journalists and the National Council Against Health Fraud and author of seven food books, including the best-selling The Tofu Book: The New American Cuisine with 150 Recipes (Avery/Penguin Putnam) and Turn Your Supermarket into a Health Food Store: The Brand-Name Guide to Shopping for a Better Diet (Pharos/Scripps Howard). She writes two nationally syndicated food and nutrition columns for Creators Syndicate and had been a longtime newspaper food and health section managing editor, as well as managing editor of Gayot/Gault Millau dining review company. Lisa traveled the globe writing about top chefs for Pulitzer Prize-winning Copley News Service and has written about health and nutrition for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate, Reader's Digest, Woman's World and Prevention Magazine Health Books. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com.