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Keep it Healthy at the Mall

Por Claudia M. González, MS, RD, LD/N* -

After a shopping spree at the mall, you feel tired and hungry and don’t know what to eat. With so many tempting foods that are high in calories, be sure to take your time to make the healthiest choice. 

Food available at shopping malls comes in a variety of flavors, textures, and aromas. Deciding what to eat can become a challenge because of the variety of food at your fingertips. The culinary mix of cultures and countries can turn into an international experience. Be careful not to get so caught up in the experience that you make a meal choice that can cost you a large amount of extra calories.

What can I eat?

When possible, eat at home before going to the mall. Some malls do not offer a lot of healthy choices. If you are a vegetarian or follow any other special diet, your choices become even more limited. If you like to eat out, follow these simple tips:

Chinese food

Combining food groups is a smart choice. An entrée may consist of chicken, vegetables and rice. Be aware that approximately 65 to 80% of the calories in Chinese fast food come from fat. Order boiled/steamed rice instead of fried. By doing so, you can eliminate 13 to 20 grams of fat (some 3 to 4 tablespoons of oil). Combine rice with an entrée containing more vegetables and less beef and sauce. Order steamed vegetables when possible.

Italian food

Italian cuisine is the most popular ethnic food in the United States. Most Italian dishes, like pasta, pizza, and risotto, are high in complex carbohydrates. Olive oil is also an important part of this cuisine. Order dishes that contain the words "primavera" or "marinara" (these are prepared with vegetables and tomato sauce) instead of "fritto" or "creamy" (these have more calories). Order pizza with thin crust and vegetables.

Mexican food

Those huge enchiladas, chimichangas, and burritos can ruin any dieting aspirations you may have. The ingredients used in Mexican food, like beans, rice, and vegetables, are healthy, but the combination of all of them, plus the beef and fat, turn these delicious dishes into large amounts of calories. Order a bean burrito or chicken fajitas. Avoid or control the portion sizes of the dishes that contain ground beef, cheese, sour cream or bacon. Season your food with pico de gallo, salsa, or chili pepper.

American food: hamburgers and sandwiches

Ordering a combo meal (hamburger/sandwich, french fries/potato chips and a soda) is practical and cheap, but the price you pay is higher than the money you save. A combo-type meal can contain 1,200 calories or more. To burn them off you would need to walk approximately 6 hours at the mall. Order a salad to satisfy your appetite. Order the children’s meal and share the french fries. Cut down on calories by avoiding mayonnaise, cheese, and sauces.

Remember, the idea is not to give up your favorite dishes, but to think before ordering them. Consider splitting a meal with a friend or co-worker and don't forget your health when ordering.



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