We know you’re getting ready to do some serious school shopping before Labor Day. The malls will be packed with hungry parents and kiddos trying to find the latest and greatest clothing and back to school essentials. The mall will also be loaded with unhealthy food choices that even the most patient vegan family will grab just to curb tummy grumblings. Instead of letting the crazed shopping and stress drive you to derail your diet or feed your kids junk, try these diet-friendly tips to healthfully navigate the food court and make the best food choices for your family.
1. Go for low-cal and low-fat options
Steer your family towards vegetables and grains while scoping out the food court. Avoid fried foods and go for fresh produce. Veggie sandwiches and wraps are smart choices. Also, always ask if seemingly healthy foods are vegan-friendly.
2. Careful on the condiments
Unless you bring your own condiments, the vegan-friendly condiment pickings can be slim. Mustard and ketchup are typically good options but beware of too much sodium if you are watching your salt intake.
3. Be smart with salads
Salads are usually a smart choice for vegans but avoid any cream-based dressing and, if available, ask to read the labels on the dressings to choose the healthiest option as well as ensure it is vegan-friendly. Order your dressing on the side and get salads that are loaded with dark leafy greens and vegetables and modestly garnished with nuts and seeds.
4. Pack your own snacks
Since you don’t know always know the food offerings before you go shopping, consider bringing your own snacks with you when you go shopping. Go for vegan-friendly snack bars, bags of trail mix, and fill portable cups with smoothies. Packing your own snacks will keep you from grabbing junk food and it will give you good-for-you fuel when your energy levels start to bomb.
5. Plan ahead
If you know the food court is going to lead you astray — choosing unhealthy foods or ditching your vegan diet for the day — simply plan ahead and eat well before you and your family head out. Be sure your bag is packed with those healthy snacks, too.
6. Stay healthfully hydrated
Avoid the soft drinks and high-sugar juice drinks, even if they are vegan-friendly. Go for water, unsweetened iced tea, and dairy-free alternatives, such as soy or almond milk, if available. When ordering specialty coffees, choose the lowest-calorie ones and be sure to ask for dairy-free additions to your drink.
7. Let the mall be your gym
Many people are using the mall for their fitness because malls are large, well-lit, and are large enough for a power walk. Some malls even offer walking programs if you have the time, but you can also use your shopping as a way to get in some exercise. Walk briskly and always take the stairs in place of the elevator or escalator. Though this won’t get you the same intensity of exercise you’d get at the gym, when you’re pressed for time, you make the best of your schedule to fit in physical activity.