Throughout my fitness and health journey, my life and habits have changed tremendously.
I do not go out and party often. I go to bed early and wake up early. I have become a pickier eater -- in a good way.
I have written before that I will try anything once, and there really is not a food that I have tried that I hate; even lamb liver and intestines didn't taste all that bad to me.
But I have high standards about what foods I put in my body, and rarely do I stray from it.
My friends get a kick out of me when we go out to eat because I usually choose an item and then pretty much change everything about it to make it to my liking. If I am going to be eating out and paying for my food, I'd better get exactly what I want, or what is the point?
I prefer to eat at home. I very rarely eat out and usually convince friends who want to go out to eat to come over and let me cook for them instead.
I do travel a lot for work, and I cannot always pre-make my meals and put them in my suitcase if I am going somewhere for a week.
Breakfast is always the hardest when traveling because I am used to waking up and eating breakfast right away.
What usually happens is a gas station stop on the way to wherever I have to be that day. Yes, there are tons of pastries and doughnuts that I could get, but I have found that a lot of gas stations have yogurt -- if I am really lucky it is Greek yogurt. That is usually what I will go for, with a banana and a protein bar. My favorite protein bar is power crunch. I try to remember to pack those with me when I travel, but if I do not have one, then I choose one with the most protein and lowest sugar alcohol levels.
For lunch it is usually a sandwich, because a sandwich shop is really easy to find pretty much wherever you go. A lot of grocery stores also have delis where you can get a made-to-order sandwich.
My perfect sandwich is whole-wheat bread, mustard, avocado, turkey, lettuce, tomato, onion, banana peppers and some fresh ground pepper. I leave out the fat from mayonnaise and cheese, using a good fat like avocado instead.
For dinner I try to always make it protein and vegetables.
If I am going out somewhere then I just look at the menu online and choose before I get there so I do not have to open the menu and be tempted by anything else. If I do not do that, then I just order a grilled piece of meat or fish with grilled vegetables.
One thing I have realized is that a lot of restaurants grill their vegetables and meat, but also add a lot of salt. My mom gave up salt when she was 19 and very rarely used it to cook with, so now I can detect it from a mile away. I never put salt on anything unless I'm making protein bars and the recipe calls for it. I always ask for the waiter to tell the kitchen to please not use any salt, minimal oil and no butter on the food I order.
It is your money and your body when you are eating out, so you are in full control of it. Don't be afraid to send food back. I do it all the time, especially when I ask for my dressing on the side of my salad but they pour it all over.
I ask that my food be prepared this way for a reason, not because I want to see if the waiter can get it right. Having control over what I'm eating is the main reason I love to cook my own food and eat at home.
I am not saying you should never eat out; just use these habits and ideas to be more prepared when you do.
Lunden Souza, a Merced native, is a personal trainer, health and wellness coach and writer in Southern California. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.