We’ve all been there: towns or environments where the only food options include fast food, gas stations, and other less-than-ideal choices.
Sometimes we have to improvise and do the best we can.
It’s not our fault we can’t find real food in the average American town. The food industry keeps real food off the shelves because it’s simply not as profitable to sell vegetables, fruits, and nuts as it is to sell snack cakes, candy bars, and chips.
Yet even in those situations, there’s hope.
We can find healthy foods just about anywhere, even if they aren’t as abundant as junk food. We don’t need access to farmers’ markets, gourmet food stores, or even health food stores. We can usually just visit a regular grocery store and find what we need.
In even the worst situations, these five tips can help us improvise and make the best possible choices in what seems like the most hopeless food desert:
- Pack healthy staples. When we drive, we can take healthy staples like almond butter, nut milk, coconut oil, wild-canned fish, olive oil, nuts and seeds, and other nonperishable items. Apples, berries, pomegranate, avocados, and lemons also fare well on the road. If we’re flying, we can make room for some of these items in our bags. When we want something sweet, a 70-percent raw, organic dark chocolate bar can hit the spot without guilt.
- Make a list. Making a shopping list before we hit the grocery store saves us from wandering the aisles aimlessly and subsequently impulse-buying junk food. Stick to the store’s periphery. After all, whole, fresh foods are stocked on the outside, not inside, shelves. When we buy beef or meat, we should choose grass-fed, hormone-free, or organic whenever possible.
- Load up on essentials. If we can’t travel with these, we can pick them up once we arrive. Mine include extra-virgin olive oil, coconut oil, nuts and seeds, nut milks, coconut milk, olives, apple cider vinegar or balsamic vinegar, sea salt, black pepper, and other spices.
- Eat out smartly. If our family wants to eat out, we can research restaurants online and suggest a few options. Most people are happy when someone else makes the decision, and choosing puts us in the driver’s seat to find healthy options. Most places have online menus. Look for those with high-quality foods like grass-fed beef, wild-caught fish, and organic produce. Restaurants usually have side dishes like steamed veggies or sweet potatoes. Likewise, almost any restaurant can make a grilled fish or chicken dish with a large plate of vegetables steamed or sautéed in olive oil.
- Connect in the kitchen. When we travel to see family, we can use our visit as an opportunity to connect in the kitchen. This provides a great opportunity to introduce our family to new, healthy recipes we’ve been enjoying.
If you travel or otherwise find yourself in a less-than-ideal food environment, what strategy would you add here? Share yours below or on my Facebook page.
Author: Dr. Mark Hyman
Editor: Emily Bartran