Grab-n-go salads are a staple of many grocery store deli sections but while they may seem like a solid choice, they tend to skimp on fresh veggies and go heavy on toppings like tortilla strips, sugared nuts, dried and sweetened berries, processed meats, fatty cheeses, and rancid dressings, Woodward says. The green leaves just become decoration at that point, he points out. Skip the pre-fab stuff and take the extra two minutes to build your own from the salad bar where you have a lot more control over which ingredients you use and your portion sizes, he says.
Kids need grab-n-go meals too which is why you’ll often find Lunchables and similar prepackaged meal “kits” in the deli section. The healthier of these products generally consist of crackers, meat, and cheese combined with a juice box and a piece of candy. It goes downhill from there with pizza or nacho options—all full of preservatives, artificial flavors, and colors, and more sugar than a child should eat in an entire day, says Julie Cunningham, MPH, RD, a certified diabetes educator in Hendersonville, North Carolina. “These have no vegetables, no fiber, and definitely aren’t a good way to teach kids what a healthy lunch should be,” she adds.
Instead, choose a hard-boiled egg and a tangerine for a quick meal that will be more filling than a Lunchable. Or if they love the kit option, look for child-friendly versions made with non-processed meats, whole grain crackers, bottled water, and dried fruit.
Nobody thinks fried chicken is the healthiest choice for a quick dinner but how bad can it really be? Pretty darn bad, says Melissa Mitri, RD. Fried chicken is loaded with calories, salt, and saturated fats, not to mention the often-rancid oils it is fried in, she explains. Don’t be tricked by its seductive aroma; this meal will leave you bloated, tired, and not feeling so hot.
Opt for less-processed protein sources instead, like lightly seasoned chicken from the salad bar. If you must have a taste of the crispy chicken, ask for a few small strips you can cut up over a large green salad.