How to Eat Healthy at Your Local Food Cart

By DNAinfo Staff on December 10, 2012 7:07am

NEW YORK — Belly-bombing tacos from the Mexican truck. Greasy halal lamb with yogurt sauce over rice. Chocolate sauce-soaked waffles with ice cream.

The city that never sleeps has a bottomless appetite, and food trucks are an easily accessible option, seemingly waiting around every corner to threaten any healthy eating pledge.

But nutrition experts say there are still plenty of healthy options at a food cart to keep you on the dietary straight and narrow.

"If the food cart has any kind of vegetable within a 10-foot radius, that's a good place to start," said Megan Fendt, a nutritionist at Beth Israel Medical Center’s Friedman Diabetes Institute.

"If you can add peppers and onions to what you're eating, and add to the fiber you take in, you feel more full.  So even if you have something higher in calories at that one meal, you tend to eat less the rest of the day," she said.

Fendt urged health-minded shoppers to remember the two Ps — price and portion.

"The cheapest thing is usually not the best thing," she said.

"I can get lunch for a buck fifty, or for $5 — it can be really tempting, but sometimes it's worth springing the extra two dollars."

In terms of portions, she said to pick places that will be satisfying, but not gluttonous.

"You can have a hot dog, but not three hot dogs," she said.

With that in mind, here are some of the food truck options to keep you healthy and fit:

HOT DOG CART:

ORDER: Hot dog with bun: Calories: 270

AVOID: Italian Sausage: Calories: 450

Adding onions or peppers can help add some fiber to keep you fuller. Even sauerkraut contains vegetables that will help keep you full. But steer clear of fat-laden toppings like chili, which will drive up the fat and calorie intake.

MEXICAN TRUCK:

ORDER: Beef or Chicken Taco without sour cream or cheese. Calories: About 220



AVOID: Beef or Chicken Taco with sour cream, cheese, and guacamole: Calories: About 400

Reducing or eliminating heavy sour cream to a dollop and shredded cheese to a sprinkle can help keep this delicious lunch from becoming a calorie bomb. Two tablespoons of sour cream can add 60 calories. A quarter cup of shredded cheddar cheese can throw on an extra 115 calories.

HALAL TRUCK:

ORDER: Halal Chicken over lettuce: Calories: About 150

AVOID: Halal Lamb on pita bread with rice: About 575

Lamb is fine in moderation, but chicken would be a better choice, Fendt said. As always, load up on whatever vegetables they offer and if you're getting rice, try to keep it to a baseball sized portion.

WAFFLE TRUCK:

ORDER: Plain Waffle with whipped cream: 
Calories: About 350

AVOID: Waffle with whipped cream, chocolate sauce, and powdered sugar: 
Calories: About 600



Limit the amount of whipped cream, and ask them to go easy on Nutella or other sweet spreads. A plain waffle is sweet enough on its own. Try it with a light maple syrup, and skip the heavy-handed toppings, Fendt said.

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