With between 30 minutes and an hour to snag something for lunch each day, it’s not always easy to pick up a healthy meal when you’re on the go. But local dietitians say a busy workday doesn’t have to spell disaster for your waistline.

Trying to eat healthy during the workday can seem like a second full-time job.


With between 30 minutes and an hour to snag something for lunch each day, it’s not always easy to pick up a healthy meal when you’re on the go. But local dietitians say a busy workday doesn’t have to spell disaster for your waistline.


Though they may not be the most frequently ordered items on the menu, most fast food restaurants offer some sort of salad for purchase. While choosing a leafy meal over a fried option may leave you feeling guilt-free, Cathy Schneider, a registered dietitian with The William W. Backus Hospital in Norwich, said there are a few things to watch out for when choosing a fast-food salad.


“They’re a good option, but you have to be careful with the dressings. If they offer it, go with a vinaigrette. Those tend to be lower in fat than the creamy type of dressing,” Schneider said. “Pick something with grilled chicken, rather than fried, because those are going to offer you more protein without the fat.”


The Mandarin chicken salad from Wendy’s, minus all of the toppings (assorted nuts and fried rice noodles), is a healthy choice, as is the Asian chicken salad from McDonald’s, said Diane Bussolini, a dietitian in private practice from East Hampton.


“Another option is the fruit and walnut salad at McDonald’s. Most restaurants are looking at other things they can offer besides just fried food, and some are coming up with really tasty options,” she said.


Dawn Morin of Woodstock said she consciously avoids eating fast food too often, but if she has no other choice, she knows what to do to skim some of the fat and carbohydrates out of her meal: She chooses grilled chicken and skips the bread.


“And for most people, in the time you can sit in line at the fast food restaurant, you can run into the grocery store and grab something healthier,” Morin said.


In case that’s not an option, Bussolini said having no time doesn’t have to mean not having options. High atop her list for best lunch picks is the turkey breast sandwich from Subway. With just 4.5 grams of fat and 280 calories in the 6-inch variety, the sub is one of the healthiest choices available for a quick lunch.


“You’ll get a lot of flavor that way. But the only thing people have to be careful of is not to slather it with mayonnaise, and skip the cheese. At some point, maybe they’ll offer a low-fat cheese option, but for the time being, skipping it is the best way to go,” she said.


Suzanne Gerety, the clinical dietitian manager at Windham Community Memorial Hospital in Willimantic, said even making healthy food choices can leave you overweight. Selecting low-fat and nutrient-rich beverages is also important.


“If you see it, go for a low-fat milk instead of a soda, where you’d be missing out on that opportunity to get calcium into your diet,” she said.


Though vegetable-packed sandwiches and salads may seem the best route to go when it comes to choosing a fast yet healthy lunch, Gerety said portion control and avoiding a few menu pitfalls is the most effective way to lose weight.


“Lean meats like chicken or turkey are better, while choosing buns that are whole grain are also much healthier. Choosing fresh fruit as a side is also a wise choice,” she said. “There are plenty of ways eat healthy without sacrificing flavor.”


Contact Amy Lawson at alawson@norwichbulletin.com.