Eating in the Food Court

I recently started a new job at the local shopping mall. One of the great perks of my new job is a paid lunch as long as I stay in the mall. So my first week I went down to the Food Court to see what my meal options were. As part of my Paleo lifestyle I’m trying to avoid eating (mostly in this order) grains, dairy, processed sugars, and beans. And I realized pretty quickly the restaraunt options available in the Food Court were not exactly “Paleo friendly.”

I had my choice of,

a Taco place
a Cheesesteak place
a Pretzel place
an Ice Cream shop
a Gyro place
a Chicken Sandwhich place
a “breaded stir fry” Chinese place
and a “hibachi grill” Chinese place

So I walked around and looked at each menu at each restaurant and determined what my choices were. Now, for starters, I’m an adult. I can eat whatever I want. Certainly if I wanted to eat tacos or cheesesteak sandwiches or pretzels or ice cream, I can. And those would all be delicious. And it would have been much easier and there’s nothing wrong with any of that. But rather than just give in to that, I wanted to see what better choices I could make.

I could eat a taco salad at the taco place with just lettuce and salsa and meat and guacamole. I could eat a chicken salad at the chicken sandwich place with meat and fruit and lettuce and veg. I could order a gyro without the tzatziki sauce and just dump out the meat and onions and eat that. Or I could go to the hibachi grill place and order a double order of veg instead of rice.

I ended up at the hibachi place. The veg was steamed cabbage, carrots, and broccoli, and the protein was plain chicken. They did pour a little teriyaki sauce on at the end of the cooking which probably contained both soy and sugar, so it wasn’t a perfect decision. But it ended up being a huge meal of steamed vegetables and (mostly) plain grilled chicken breast. It tasted great, it filled me up, and I felt a lot better than if I’d eaten the breaded Chinese chicken, or the supreme burritos, or a pretzel the size of my head.

When you’re under duress or your choices are limited, it can be difficult to make healthy decisions, and easy to justify making unhealthy ones. But even in those circumstances you can still make better, healthy-er decisions. Or eat the ice cream. You get what you pay for.

I’m looking forward to trying some of my other Paleo friendly Food Court options. And to trying to find some new ones. There are other restaurants at the mall I haven’t looked at yet, and ways I can make simple adjustments to some of the dishes I may have overlooked originally to fit them into my plan.

When have you been in a situation where you had limited options and had to find a creative way to make a healthy choice? What are the fallback foods that you rely on when you’re in a pinch? How do you eat Paleo when you’re stuck eating fast food? Leave a comment below!

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