Healthy food truck eating? It can be done
Summer is finally upon us, and it is sure to be filled with festivals and carnivals where meal options include food truck fare.
WellSpan York Hospital clinical dietitian Dale Green took a recent Friday afternoon to explore the offerings available at Food Truck Friday in Springettsbury Park and give some advice for staying on the healthy side.
“If you’re going to go eat lunch at a food truck, make your food choices after you eat a nice breakfast, so you’re not hungry when you get there,” Green suggested. "If you’re starving, you’re going to be on a ‘see food diet’ and eat everything you see.”
Green suggested first surveying the area to explore your options.
“You get there, there’s usually a number of food trucks to choose from — survey the area first. Go to each food truck. Figure out what the options are.”
Next, look at the cooking methods used.
“The obvious choice, at first, is to look for things that are not deep fat fried — choose things that are grilled,” Green said. “Stir-fried would be a possibly healthy option. If they are using fat in cooking, see if they’re healthy fats — something like canola oil. It’s becoming very popular to use in the food truck industry.”
Also take note of ingredients in the foods, she suggested.
“As you’re walking around, look for items that also have a lot of vegetables in them, or fruit. Either one of those is going to be high in fiber, high in potassium," Green said. "You’re going to be eating healthy, not only more nutrients, but you’re going to be getting less calories if you’re trying to watch your weight, as well.”
And don't forget that you can ask for changes, she said.
“When you’re making the choices, standing in line, you do have the option — at most of the food trucks — to personalize (your order),” Green said. So, if you’re watching carbohydrates, for example, you request that your order be served with no bun, noodles or bread. You could also order it as normally served, but choose not to eat all of the starch.
Suggestions: Some tips for making your meal healthier:
- Light on the cheese: If choosing a quesadilla, for example, choose grilled chicken, a vegetable and perhaps less than the normal amount of cheese — just enough to hold it together. “A lot of fast food trucks serve the entree with cheese. You have the option of saying, ‘without the cheese’ or ‘light on the cheese,'" Green said.
- Lean meat: “If you’re going to a barbecue place, most of them have pit beef as an option. It’s usually lean meat.“
- Drinks: “Beverage choices are important. If you choose a large soda, you can get as many as 400 calories — which you’re almost doubling the calories you’re taking in at a recommended meal, so whenever possible, choose water,” noted Green. “Some of the places have tea that’s unsweetened.”
- Fruit: “If you opt for a smoothie, go for the fresh fruit option. If you want to add some protein, you can add yogurt” or “soy milk, if that’s available.”
- Vegetarian: “Some of the burger food trucks have a vegetarian option, such as a black bean burger, or a heart-healthy turkey burger.”
- Top it off: “As far as toppings go, in general, go for things like salsa or mustard or pickles,” said Green. “Try to avoid the mayonnaise and ranch dressing options if you’re looking to spare your calories.”
- Share: Lastly, Green suggested, “Take some friends along with you. Studies have shown that you actually eat less food if you can share different food items with people.” This option includes the added benefit of being able to sample more of the offerings.