Healthy Fast Food: The New Norm?

Healthy Fast Food: The New Norm?
By: Laura Cipullo, RD CDE CEDRD CDN and the Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition Services Team

 

For all of you New Yorkers out there, have you noticed the new trend on the streets of NYC? And, no, we’re not talking about shoes, clothes, or fashion trends. We’re talking about fast food: healthy, fast food to be exact.

 

If you’ve walked down a city street recently, you’ve most likely noticed a new restaurant or food store. While New York City is known for its abundance of restaurants and diverse food scene, we’ve been noticing a trend among newly opened restaurants. Not only are they focusing on fast service, but also, they’re offering healthier menu options to boot. To name a few, we’ve made a list of some these healthier restaurants, a couple in NYC and a handful located across the US:

 

 

Chipotle

www.chipotle.com

Setting: Sit-Down/Takeout

Cuisine: Mexican

Kids’ Menu: Yes

Price: $$

 

Chipotle offers a Mexican cuisine with sit-down and takeout options. This restaurant is vegetarian and vegan-friendly, plus the majority of their menu is gluten-free, as long as you avoid the tortillas. We love the fact that many of the menu items have a high amount of fiber and protein; you can view this by using their nifty nutrition calculator! Their vast food options make Chipotle a great place to eat, whether you want to sit and relax or pick up while you’re out and about.

Photo Credit: Mr. T in DC via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Mr. T in DC via Compfight cc

Our favorite lunch options:

  • Veggie burrito bowl with black beans and brown rice. With just over 500 calories, this veggie bowl has over 30 grams of fiber and about 13 grams of protein, this veggie bowl makes a fast and balanced meal.
  • Chicken quesadillas with black beans and brown rice. This children’s meal option ranks in with under 500 calories, 12 grams of fiber and over 25 grams of protein. Even though it’s for the kids, we adults like to order this from time to time.

 

 

Fresh & Co

www.freshandconyc.com

Setting: Sit-Down/Takeout

Cuisine: Traditional

Kids’ Menu: No

Price: $$

 

Fresh&Co is a popular lunch choice for those working in Midtown Manhattan. With pre-prepared meals and freshly prepared items on their menu, you are sure to find something to suit your fancy. Fresh&Co serves locally grown foods that are free from synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and additives. They offer salads, pastas, and sandwiches on their menu, all of which can be calculated on their nutrition calculator found on their website.

Photo courtesy of Fresh & Co
Photo courtesy of Fresh & Co
  • Sesame Ginger Seitan with quinoa, kale, seitan, white cabbage, carrots, daikon, broccoli, scallions, pickled ginger and cilantro with soy ginger sauce this is a delicious lunch/dinner option that will surely satisfy.
  • Long Island Local salad with kale, baby spinach, baby arugula, grilled chicken, grilled sunchokes, and apples this salad is loaded with healthy greens and has over 20 grams of protein from the chicken, making this a great meal to grab during your lunch break.

 

 

Hu Kitchen

www.hukitchen.com

Setting: Sit-Down/Takeout

Cuisine: Natural

Kids’ Menu: No

Price: $$$

 

On its website, Hu Kitchen totes itself as the first “ultra-high quality restaurant and market” that makes food for humans. Hu Kitchen works under an 8 Pillar approach: “unprocess, count ingredients – not calories, pull plants – push animals, minimize grains – always whole, embrace fat, get back to animal too, sweeten wisely, and eat clean”. Located just below Union Square, on 5th Avenue, Hu Kitchen offers everything from fresh juices and coffee, to soups and burritos. Plus, their entire restaurant is gluten-free, and a good majority of the menu is dairy and grain-free. While the prices can be a bit steep, you know that you’re getting quality nutrition for your buck.

Our favorite lunch options:

  • Grandmaster Veg with eggplant, carrots, green cabbage, cashews, garlic, chili flakes, and a homemade marinara sauce this is a vegetable powerhouse of a lunch.
  • Hu Bowls with options of quinoa, vegetable mash, or a vegetable medley, these bowls are sure to please. Plus you can add beef, mushroom, or chicken on top for some added protein.

 

 

Hummus and Pita

www.hummusandpitas.com

Setting: Sit-Down/Takeout

Cuisine: Mediterranean

Kids’ Menu: No

Price: $$

 

This lovely establishment currently has two NYC locations, Chelsea and TriBeCa, and is a great option when you’re looking for a quick meal. Whether you want to sit at a table, order takeout, or have your lunch delivered to work, Hummus and Pita, Co can do it all! With a make-your-own-meal style, you can virtually customize any dish to your liking. There are a number of vegetarian options and while there is not a separate children’s menu, you can find a variety of options for kids. We especially love their large selection of hummus!

Our favorite lunch options:

  • Falafel pita with beet salad, chickpeas, hummus and tzatziki. This lunch option comes in at just over 500 calories, 16 grams of fiber, and over 20 grams of protein.
  • Chicken taboon bowl with baba ganoosh, corn and carrot salad, brown rice and tahini this meal is a great source of protein, complex carbohydrates and fat.

 

 

Muscle Maker Grill

www.musclemakergrill.com

Setting: Sit-Down/Takeout

Cuisine: Traditional

Kids’ Menu: Yes

Price: $$

 

This franchise first opened shop in Colonia, New Jersey. Due to its increasing popularity, owner, Rod Silva, officially made Muscle Maker a franchise in 2007 and now has over 200 restaurants across the US. The restaurant offers salads, wraps, and shakes, just to name a few items. Plus, they provide a children’s menu, cater to vegetarians and offer some gluten-free options. With so many locations, Muscle Maker Grill makes a great option for those looking for a quick, and healthy meal.

Our favorite lunch options:

  • European wrap with grilled chicken, spinach, roasted peppers and Parmesan cheese. This meal boasts over 40 grams of protein which will leave you feeling satisfied until dinnertime.
  • El Mexicana with grilled chicken, fajita vegetables, cheese and salsa all served over brown rice and beans. It’s a tasty dish making it a great choice for lunch or a convenient dinner.

 

 

Prêt A Manger

www.pret.com

Setting: Sit-Down/Takeout

Cuisine: Traditional

Kids’ Menu: No

Price: $$
If you live in NYC, you’ve probably seen a few Pret A Manger’s around. This franchise is a great place to go when you’re looking for a salad or wrap to go, or if you want to sit and enjoy a coffee. With a café-like environment, Pret A Manger offers a nice environment and good quality food. Their website states that they create handmade natural food and avoid ‘prepared’ and ‘fast’ foods. They offer online ordering and are conveniently located around the city, making them a great option for your new lunch spot.

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Photo courtesy of Prêt A Manger

 

Our favorite lunch options:

  • Balsamic chicken sandwich with antibiotic free chicken, avocado, mesclun, and balsamic vinegar served on granary bread. This meal is an easy grab and go sandwich with 8 grams of fiber and 19 grams of protein. So when you’re in a rush and literally need to pick up a sandwich, you can find this tasty sandwich waiting for you at Prêt A Manger.
  • Aztec quinoa chili with cannellini and pinto beans, quinoa, amaranth and millet, this grain-filled chili won’t disappoint. Not only is it suitable for vegans and vegetarians, but it also has over 10 grams of both protein and fiber.  

 

 

 

We have to ask: do you think that these establishments are changing the face of fast food? We love the fact that we can purchase food conveniently without having to sacrifice nutrition or taste. We’d love to know your thoughts on these healthier fast food options!

 

Lunching Revelations While With Your Nutritionist

Photo Credit: caribb via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: caribb via Compfight cc

Lunching Revelations While With Your Nutritionist
A client of Laura’s opted to go to lunch with Laura one day. Here are her notes on the experience:

A belated happy “Take your Nutritionist to Work Day”! Okay, so it’s not a real holiday…yet (give politicians or Hallmark a hot minute), but I celebrated it a few weeks ago.

 

See, I have this love-hate relationship with my office cafeteria. My midtown office “caf” is just like most office cafeterias. It’s run by one of the big companies that do these sorts of things, and they offer a lot of selections—hot foods, ethnic food days, taco stations, salad bars, soups and sandwiches. I’ve been eating at the caf off and on through five jobs and for a total of 17 years now. And the experience still stresses me out! So I decided to seek professional help and get nationally recognized nutrition expert and general fun person Laura Cipullo to help me out.

 

I’ve been working with Laura for a couple of years now. I’ve participated in her meal group (“Supper Club” we called it, even though it wasn’t at all like a Supper Club…starting with the “no alcohol” part) and seen her individually as a private client. While growing up, my parents always expected me to clean my plate. Now, I’m trying to get accustomed to “Mindful Eating.” But I’m getting better at it…and I have fewer food rules. I learned a great deal during our lunch together—both about how to navigate a caf lunch (as well as lunch generally) and my eating habits.

Photo Credit: alykat via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: alykat via Compfight cc

“Walk around,” Laura says, whispering like we are in a movie theater… without the popcorn smell or the movie! I tell her she doesn’t have to whisper; we can talk like grown-ups. She explains that at lunch, we want to get the most nutritional bang for our caloric buck. “Keep it basic,” she says. She tells me to skip the hot food—that it’s better to spend those calories on food when there’s a nice environment and I can really enjoy it. I like my desk, but she’s right. Even when I grab a minute and sit down to eat at a table (ideally with someone), it’s not the swankiest setting. “I want to savor my cornmeal crusted calamari at a fancy restaurant,” Laura says with a smile…and I agree. She’s right about these things!

 

Still in the cafeteria, I bump into some good friends and introduce Laura. By now, she is using a normal inside voice. She reminds me that there is no “perfect”— and that this is a choice, not a rule. Good thing, because I’m starting to feel a little stressed. She asks me about breakfast and dinner plans. We talk about what I have brought with me for a snack…or what I could pick up.

 

I end up with one of my regular go-to meals—a salad from the taco station made out of lettuce, black beans (a little soupy), mango, corn and jicama, mixed with a chipotle dressing. I get some guacamole added on the top plus about eight corn chips. She gets a salad from the salad bar with chicken and cheese as her protein. She notes the salmon and the steamed green beans that are the chef’s special along with wasabi mashed potatoes. Laura says that would be a good option if I passed on the mashed spuds. She also okays my go-to veggie burger (no fries). I do know that the buffalo chicken wings (available every Friday)—even if I put them on top of a nice bunch of arugula—are a “Sometimes” food, so I don’t bother to ask about them.

 

Laura and I then head over to the salad dressing station to talk about the hidden dangers lurking thereon. Later, she texts me that the little plastic dressing cup which looks so cute and innocent­ actually holds four tablespoons— TABLEspoons! The salad dressing station is like a little island of deceit! Laura recommended to stick with the oil & vinegar and limit the reduced fat dressings – they’re often higher in sodium and added sugars. Laura’s all about the olive oils!

 

We check out (I’m a privacy lawyer, so I’m using my anonymous credit card that’s not tied to anything that knows I’m me), and I can tell that Laura’s scanning the next aisle to start on a discussion about snacks. I’m glad; I need all the help I can get.

 

I long ago realized that my biggest issue was letting myself get way too hungry—generally for dinner. But by then, I’m not able to think rationally about portions…or listen to how hungry I am…or even to figure out what foods go together. While knowing the problem is always the first step to solving it, there are still times when I look up from my computer and realize that I have skipped having a snack. And then I’m beyond hungry and don’t have any snack with me!

 

Laura suggests that I eat half of my salad, take the other half back to my office, and then check in with her in an hour and a half to two hours. We chat about travel plans and what’s going on generally. (Uh, did she tell you that she authored a Rodale cookbook? Ahem!)

 

We spend 35 to 40 minutes eating—far longer than I usually put into lunchtime chewing if I’m on my own and eating at my desk. I confess that I’m satiated for now with the half-salad, but I wonder (out loud, she flits over my shoulder even when she’s not really here, for goodness sakes) how much of that is because I ate it so slowly…relatively slowly!

 

And back to the snack dilemma: Laura picked out a Kashi bar (yum) and a yogurt for snack options. I went with the Kashi bar and expanded my horizons (yogurt is my usual snack).

 

So to summarize:

  • Those little plastic salad dressing containers are not to be trusted unless you have measuring spoons.
  • Eating at my desk makes me eat faster and more.
  • I overthink lunch…and pretty much everything else too! “More healthy and less fancy,” Laura said.
  • Salad dressings are not to be trusted! Stick to the vinegar and oil.
  • As in so many things, keeping it simple is best!
  • And there’s still no “perfect”!

 

For more tips and tricks on navigating food choices in the office environment, take a peek at Laura’s blog on her sister blog Mom Dishes It Out by clicking here.

Eating in “Peace”

Photo Credit: catface3 via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: catface3 via Compfight cc

Eating in “Peace”
By Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE, CEDRD, CDN

 

No matter our age, our education or our past experiences, we are always able to learn more…especially new and different things. Two Fridays ago, alongside my peers, Andrea Gitter, MA, LCAT, and Jill Castle, RD, I delivered a presentation on Intuitive Eating and Diabetes to the New York City Nutrition Education Network (NYCNEN). After the presentation, NYCNEN offered the attendees a mindful lunch meal experience. I was super excited to partake with other registered dietitians and to share lunch with some former colleagues. However, when I arrived at the mindful lunch space, I was told we would be, believe it or not, eating in silence.

 

Ugh! I was not at an Ashram! I was definitely disappointed by this pronouncement. Of course, I wanted to chat and be mindful at the same time. After all, I live in NYC because, by genetic make-up, I am a confirmed, card-carrying multitasker. This was precious time I could be using to write, work and/or run errands. But I quickly had to let this mind set go and embrace the “silent eating.” I listened to our mindful meal leader Rachel Knopf, RD who was wonderful and engaging.

 

I took out the meal I had brought with me for the occasion: Thai chicken salad over primitive kale salad with two rather small rolls from Hu Kitchen—one of my favorite lunch spots! Rachel handed each luncher a page from Discover Mindful Eating that posed “Five Simple Questions”…

  1. What am I seeing? (bright green, wet kale leaves; red, mush and chunks – Thai chicken salad; toasted brown and shiny lumps, perhaps millet in the little bread-like rolls)
  2. What am I hearing? (crunch of the kale, not much else)
  3. What am I smelling? (the bread has this hearth-like smell)
  4. What am I tasting? (sweet, yet tart while the mini rolls were earthy and hearth like)
  5. What am I touching or feeling? (the rough texture of the goji berries, the wet kale leaves, the cool temperature of the chicken salad)

 

I immediately thought to myself…I already know to use my five senses when eating! I just want to talk with these fascinating women. But then I reminded myself that I surely could learn from this “silent” experience…and I did. When we are truly quiet and have nothing to do but pay attention to our food and/or our body, the experience of eating becomes like no other. While I regularly lead mindful meal groups, this experience was truly different because there was absolutely no speaking—from start to finish. Although there were people around me, I sat totally immersed in my own thoughts. I observed how I would so easily and quickly move from concentrating on my five senses while eating to diverting to my to-do list and what I wanted to chat about with my colleagues. Back and forth. Back and forth. I chuckled at the idea that I was really not doing a very good job of being mindful. I thought this must be what it feels like for my clients when they can’t settle their thoughts or focus on their meals.  But just then I noticed this ever so slight small change seeming to indicate I was about full. I thought to myself: “Will this hold me for about three hours?” I wasn’t 100% percent sure…or 100% full. As I sat there, I noticed that I still had a physical need to eat more. So I took a few more bites. The experience reminded me of the very subtle feelings of fullness and the need to return to quiet at times during my own meals so that I can really check in with my internal cues. Note to self: I need to be more mindful than I have been of late.

 

Photo Credit: Robert S. Donovan via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Robert S. Donovan via Compfight cc

So what else did this “quiet” experience teach me? Well, Rachel helped me to understand that in the world of meditation, mindfulness is simply the act of observing our present thoughts. She helped me to recognize that my thoughts about eating versus my thinking about my to-do list actually were the mindfulness. And switching back and forth between the two was 100% appropriate because I was both aware and observing. I also decided that it may be helpful to engage in this “silent eating” experience with the women who work with me. There is just something transcendent about eating in peace and quiet for an entire meal. I typically encourage people to start with the first few bites only. But if tolerable, it would be an extraordinary learning opportunity to eat a complete meal or snack in silence while just observing personal thoughts. I am so thankful to Rachel and this experience because, quite honestly, I never would have sat down for a meal with a bunch of friends or colleagues and even dared to suggest being 100% mindful instead of talking. And by the way, I also realized that I didn’t care for the Thai chicken salad or the little bumps of bread, but I absolutely love Hu’s kale salad!

 

So now, I challenge all of you to arrange a meal or snack where you eat in peace and quiet at least just once! We would love to hear what you learn!

A Day at the Beach: So What’s for Lunch?

With school out and warm weather, it can only mean one thing… it’s time to hit the beach!

Screen Shot 2013-07-23 at 3.11.52 PM

As bathing suits, towels, sunscreen, cameras, shovels, and pails are being carefully packed up, lunch is usually thrown together at the last minute and sometimes leading to unhealthy food choices. Along with trying to make the healthiest choices, you also have to consider which foods are the safest to bring to the beach and which ones should probably be left at home. But don’t worry, we are here to make packing lunch for the beach a little easier!

In order to make a quick lunch that still tastes good, some planning must be involved. What kinds of foods do your friends and family enjoy? What foods should you leave at home so that you can avoid food contamination at the beach? What foods are the most nutritious and will help keep everyone satisfied and fueled for the day?

Food Safety at the Beach
When considering food safety, many things come to mind but with the addition of the sand and the sun of the beach, food safety takes on a whole new meaning. The biggest thing to consider when it comes to beach safety is the steaming hot temperature. When you combine foods that need to be chilled with the blazing hot sun, things do not end well. According to the FDA’s Qualitative Risk Assessment, once intact fruits and vegetables, such as melons and tomatoes, are cut and protective barriers are open, microorganisms can grow more easily. Once heat and humidity are introduced, the rate at which bacteria grow increases significantly. Therefore, it is best to bring whole fruits and vegetables to the beach. Some ideas for whole fruits and vegetables are oranges, grapes, cherries, strawberries, blueberries, peaches, grape tomatoes, carrots, celery, and raw broccoli. If you decide to bring fruits or vegetables that need to be cut or sliced, it is safer if you do so while you are at the beach. Bringing proper utensils to cut/slice these foods will make it a lot easier. For example, bringing an apple core to slice an apple or a pear is easy. Also, using a knife to slice veggies such as cucumbers or peppers is also quick and simple! Make sure you are storing these foods in appropriate containers and at cool temperatures to keep them fresh before you cut them! Prevent sand from touching the food and fruit juices from leaking; use a lockable container like Sistema or Black+Blum.

Another food that should be avoided at the beach is undercooked chicken, fish, or meat as well as different kinds of “salads”. Not only do these kinds of foods allow for a large number of food borne illnesses, but they also can cause cross contamination with other foods. A research study that appeared in Letters in Applied Microbiology, has recently suggested that Salmonella (one of the most common food borne pathogens) contaminates raw/undercooked chicken and meat products at the highest rates over the summer. Also, different chicken salads, egg salads, and tuna salads can cause cross contamination due to the mayonnaise, if they are not chilled to the correct temperature. These different kinds of “salads” containing mayonnaise can still be enjoyed if they are transported and kept at the appropriate temperature. Foods containing mayonnaise must be stored at 45 deg F or lower. To be sure of this, use freezer gel packs to keep food and beverages cold and at a safe temperature.
These types of foods should be stored in containers that can be kept cold such as Kangovou, which is made from food grade stainless steel.

When keeping food safety in mind at the beach, it is also important to consider how you are going to transport and eat your lunch. It is important to pack your food in a cooler with ice (or ice packs) so that the food stays cold and fresh. Also, finger foods tend to be the easiest for the beach and help to avoid “sandy” lunches, so think whole fruits and sandwiches! Don’t forget to wash any fresh produce you pack with you!

So, what are 5 safe and healthy lunches to bring to the beach?

1. Whole-wheat bread with natural peanut butter and banana – The bread won’t get soggy and the peanut butter and banana will give you fuel for hours!

2. Whole-wheat pita with grilled chicken and veggies with hummus –Pack celery and raw broccoli florets to dip in hummus. Single-serve hummus packs are a great way to eat more healthfully and to enjoy finger foods!

3. Whole wheat crackers with low-fat cheese and a handful of grapes or cherries, and carrots or celery sticks – Having a variety of food can make lunch at the beach fun and make it feel like a picnic!

4. Whole-wheat wrap with lean turkey or lean ham with veggies and homemade trail mix (dried fruit, cereal, and nuts) – Homemade trail mix is a fun and healthy way to eat some of your favorite foods!

5. Grilled chicken sandwich on a whole-wheat bun with dark lettuce – pile more veggies on your sandwich for more flavor!

Don’t forget about snacks! To keep everyone satisfied and happy, think about quick and healthy snacks such as whole fruits, veggie sticks with low fat dip/hummus, homemade trail mix, whole grain granola bars, and popcorn. And don’t forget to pack plenty of water!

References
Scott J (2012). DRAFT Qualitative Risk Assessment Risk of Activity/Food Combinations for Activities
(Outside the Farm Defintion) Conducted in a Facility Co-Located on a Farm. Center for Food Safety
and Applied Nutrition, Food and Drug Adminstration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. ,
1-95.
Zdragas, A K Mazaraki, G Vafeas, V Giantzi, & T Papadopoulos (2012). Prevalence, seasonal
occurrence and antimicrobial resistance of Salmonella in poultry retail products in Greece.. Letters in
Applied Microbiology, 55(4). retrieved May 31, 2013, from
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22943611