November 13, 2014

As December approaches, more of us find that the time we spend at shopping centres increases. Regardless of our best intentions, we often find ourselves hungry and at the mercy of the food court offerings. So how do you go about surviving the food court?

Next time you’re in a food court, have a look at the sorts of foods and drinks on offer. You’ll always see outlets for burgers, chicken, Asian, pizza, kebabs, sandwiches, a carvery, a juice outlet, and a couple of cafes. Most of the food is fried, battered, or sauce’d, or based on bread of different varieties. Drinks are either coffee or sugar-drinks. This is hardly the food landscape that will help you reach weight and wellness goals.

Of course, if the meal is just a ‘one-off’, there is little to be concerned about. For most of us, though, we seem to be at the shopping centres at meal times a lot more than once.

With all the tempting smells and sights and sounds, willpower can be tested. Add to that the stress of finding the right gifts, spending too much money, battling the crowds, and having spent the past few hours on your feet in varying states of indecision, and the last thing you want to be concerned about is your food choice.

The answer? Go in with a plan.

The first and most obvious plan is to avoid shopping at meal times. Sounds easy, but often we don’t have the absolute luxury of being able to choose exactly when our shopping excursions can take place.

In the food court, have a look for the healthiest and freshest option you can find. Salad outlets offer pre-made salads, or at some places they’ll make the food fresh to order. This is your best option.

Some Asian-style food is really good, but some has ingredients that you might not want to be eating. It’s impossible to know for sure so these sorts of foods are best avoided simply due to uncertainty.

Some sandwich outlets will do a salad bowl for you. Even if it’s not advertised, ask and you might be surprised. Many kebab outlets will do a plate of their salad with some meat or felafel. A carvery can be a great option, but it’s usually best to avoid the gravy.

As for drinks, water will be the best option. If you prefer a hot drink, black tea or black coffee are suitable, or you can add some milk or cream. Don’t be tempted by flavoured coffee or tea – the flavouring is usually provided via the addition of sugary syrup.

Avoid juice, even if you think it’s healthy. Juicing the fruit involves removing the fibre, so all that’s left is flavoured sugar-water. This provides a large dose of carbohydrate without the fibre to fill you up or blunt the dramatic rise in blood sugar. These are both conditions that sabotage your weight loss.

Soft drinks are just as bad as juice: the regular variety has a lot of sugar, while the diet variety a lot of chemicals. Neither are good for quenching thirst, and neither contribute positively to your weight loss plans.

The ‘silly season’ is silly enough with a plethora of social gatherings, without caving in to temptation on a shopping trip. You best food court meal might be a bottle of water with a freshly made salad or a roast meal.