Healthy Eating on the Go

By Kathleen Shannon

A hectic day and a healthy lunch don’t usually go hand-in-hand. If you’re hopping all day from appointment to appointment or are bogged down with family obligations, there are alternatives to that highway filled with fast food restaurants. Both busy moms and harried executives with a packed schedule can eat healthy while on-the-go.

One of Micky D’s new tag lines –  “Nutrition Journey: It’s all about delicious choices” – mentions nutrition and choice, but the online menu and listing of calories hasn’t really changed too much. A Big Mac, a large serving of fries and a medium milkshake provide 1570 calories, which is in the range for average caloric intake per day. This meal is loaded with sugar, salt and chemicals. While McDonald’s employees are now required to take an online nutrition course, the corporate nod to nutrition is pretty much window dressing.  There are sliced apples, oatmeal and fruit smoothies on the menu, but only the apples
are unadulterated.

Stephen Vassallo, proprietor of Nature’s Kitchen at the Allentown Farmer’s Market, warns his customers to avoid fast food chains and focus on healthier choices. Stop by Nature’s Kitchen and you’ll find organic chicken salad and locally made peanut butter, oatmeal and applesauce granola bar. There are always four or five soups to choose from and organic, vegan menu items. Vassallo acknowledges that at times fresh and local may be a little bit more expensive, but your health is worth it.

If you have time to plan and pack a lunch for your busiest days, he recommends fresh fruit and veggies along with an organic peanut butter and sugarless jam sandwich on whole grain bread.

Vassallo, who earned a biology degree from Villanova University, became interested in healthy food while talking with clients at his Body Elite personal training facility on Hamilton Boulevard, Allentown.  The more he spoke with them about combining healthy, whole food with their fitness program, the closer he got to one of his dreams: offering wholesome foods to the community. “I always wanted to have a spot for healthy foods.”

So, you don’t stop at MacDonald’s anymore and still need to pick up something for lunch?  Pizza Hut is appealing and tells you to “Choose Real Taste and Keep It Balanced.” But listen up. Two average sized slices of pan pizza total 720 calories. Toss in some fried cheese sticks and tack on another 300 calories, tipping the balance in the wrong direction.

Most fast food and chain restaurants now have calorie counts on their websites. You can check Arby’s, Burger King, Subway, Wendy’s and Taco Bell sites before you head out and you might find some low calorie efforts made to stay on the “get healthy” corporate bandwagon. But, if you’re serious about fresh, whole foods, the chemical additives still remain.

In Emmaus, Eric Stemp, owner of Baked, offers sandwiches made with his own store made, chemical free breads. Stemp, a graduate of the School of Culinary Arts in Denver, sources organic ingredients from Dutch Valley Foods in Myerstown as well as the garden behind his shop.

Baked offers breakfast, lunch and snacks, primarily organic because of his concern about chemical additives. Oatmeal, yogurt and savory tarts are available all day. Lunch offers a ham and brie sandwich or turkey, gouda and roasted red pepper jam, which he makes himself. The organic sun-dried tomatoes used on a turkey sandwich are also made by Stemp on the premises, as is the granola for yogurt.

Stemp says he and his wife offer healthy foods to their daughter at home and they don’t take her to fast food restaurants. But, they would allow her to go to McDonald’s if she’s invited there for a party.  “All things in moderation,” he advocates.

He says that as he’s gotten a little older, he’s more and more concerned about healthy diets and supporting the organic food movement. Stemp uses organic ingredients whenever possible, although he acknowledges that a few items, like chocolate, are simply too expensive to use on a regular basis.

In Spring 2013 he plans on making a variety of artisanal breads.  Of particular interest is the grain spelt, a hulled wheat flour. It originated in Egypt and has not been genetically modified. Spelt makes a coarse, pale loaf of bread and has a slightly sweet,
nutty flavor.

And where to Vassallo and Stemp go
for lunch?

Vassallo likes one of his neighbors, CaIi Burrito at 3104 Hamilton Boulevard, Allentown.  Cali Burrito specializes in organic fare, and doesn’t use trans fats, lard or MSG. Stemp is fond of Healthy Alternatives’ Café Santosha in Trexlertown. Specializing in gluten free and vegan foods, the café offers a wide menu including organic soups and lean, green salads.

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