How to Fuel Up without Filling Out at the Mall

By , SparkPeople Blogger
The food court can be convenient when you're ravenous during a day-long mall marathon, but it can also be a minefield of extra calories, fat and sodium. Most malls have a Chinese food option, like Panda Express, which can be a decent choice if you choose correctly. If you had to pick between Broccoli Beef and Orange Chicken from Panda Express, which would you eat to fuel your shopping excursion on fewer calories and fat?

The Winner: Broccoli Beef!
One 5.4-ounce serving of Panda Express Broccoli Beef clocks in around 120 calories, 4 grams of fat, and 660 mg of sodium. The Orange Chicken may sound innocent enough, but the glaze that it's topped with packs in the calories and sugar. One 5.7-ounce serving of the sweet stuff will set you back 420 calories, 21 grams of fat, and 620 mg of sodium—plus, 18 grams of sugar (that's 4.5 teaspoons of sugar!). Also keep in mind that side items like greasy noodles and fried rice can rack up some serious calories very quickly, so stick with just a small portion of steamed rice with your entrée.

Here are some more tips for surviving the mall food court:
  • Choose a meal or snack that's full of veggies and high in lean protein. Don't load up on cheesy carbs, like pizza or breadsticks—they'll only make you lethargic, and tend to be higher in calories. Salads, wraps and grilled chicken make great choices; just watch your portions and go easy on the high-fat condiments.

  • If you're shopping with a friend or family member, split a food court dish. You'll slash your calories and fat in half!

  • Take a water bottle with you to sip on while you shop. Oftentimes, we mistake thirst for hunger.

  • Many people think that a smoothie is a light and filling choice for fueling a full day of shopping, but look out--those sweet drinks can be packed with added sugar. Many smoothie places offer lower-sugar options, so do some research before you sip.

  • If you're hungry, eat! Don't wait to get so hungry that you'll eat anything in sight. If you start to get hungry during your shopping trip, grab a sensible snack from the food court, or better yet, plan ahead by bringing your own (pre-portioned trail mix, carrot sticks, or dried fruit are great choices). It's a much better solution than bingeing out of extreme hunger when you get home.  
What do you usually order when you're stuck at the mall food court? Do you ever bring your own snacks while you shop?