We can’t really call the food truck trend a trend anymore. These kitchens on wheels are here to stay and that means that they’re working their way into the American diet more and more. Naturally, we felt the need to step in. I mean, after all, our job is to help you lead a healthy life and melt the love handles, based on the food you encounter every day. So, if your town or city has been struck with food truck culture, good news! We hit the streets to get some hands-on experience so that we could give you the A-Zs of health-ifying your street eats!
But first, a little history on these mobile eateries. From hot dog carts to ice cream trucks, American is no stranger to street food. But the trendy, unique food trucks we know and love today didn’t officially get their start until 2008 with a truck called Kogi BBQ that served Korean-Mexican fusion on the streets of LA. Soon, chefs around the country followed suit and hit the road with their own mobile kitchens, serving up creative, delicious, and downright strange creations to the masses. Strange, yes, but also awesome: sushi burritos, cereal milk popsicles, and chocolate covered bacon.
The best part? Street eats are pretty inexpensive. Healthy eating gets a bad rap for being a dollar-drainer since fresh, whole foods tend to be priced higher than fast food and processed, packaged foods. So, if you can master healthy eating at a food truck, then you’re on the right track for making more healthy choices down the road. And now that we’ve got your wheels turning, be sure to take note of these 20 Things You Should Never Eat at a Chain Restaurant.
Tacos Over Everything
Yes, this is for real. Why tacos? Well, think about it. Tacos are usually filled with meat and vegetables—protein and fiber—and getting more of those two nutrients might as well be at the top of our list of 50 Best Weight Loss Tips. Plus, most street tacos are wrapped in corn tortillas. Corn tortillas are much less processed than flour tortillas. When processed, tortillas lose many of their nutrients (like fiber) and get some icky artificial ingredients added in. Also, corn tortillas are smaller, which means fewer calories, carbs, and sodium per taco.
We went to Korilla BBQ in New York City, a taco truck that serves up Korean-Mexican fusion (pictured above). Not only do they serve their tacos on corn tortillas, but they also offer a naked option (no tortilla, just greens). We packed on the veggies to get the most nutritional bang for our buck and proved that tacos are the way to go when you want a healthy meal on wheels.
Whether you’re ordering tacos, a burger, or some other hand-held meal, this tip is make-or-break for your waistline. Grabbing a fork is a great way to fill up on the good stuff and to actually experience the tastes and textures of your food. Instead of going hand-held, leave your food in the dish and eat it with a fork. No, we’re not saying avoid the wrap/bread/bun/pita entirely—just use your fork to get more of the nutrient-packed food inside it rather than wasting your fullness on the empty calories of the outside.
We found that we were much more satisfied when we ate like this and we were full by the time we got to the bun! At the Souvlaki GR truck, which serves up authentic Greek cuisine on the streets of New York, we ate our gyros with forks and broke off pieces of pita here and there. This cut out nearly 300 calories and 33 g carbs from our meal—and we were still so content afterward. For other crazy-easy weight loss hacks like this, check out our 42 Ways to Lose 5 Inches of Belly Fat.
Go with Friends
Moderation is our favorite word. We believe through and through that eating healthy when you can and consuming treats in moderation is the key to successful, sustainable weight loss. So, when heading to the food truck, go with friends and share everything. Not only will you be able to sample more things, but you’ll be eating smaller portion sizes. Eating smaller portion sizes is on our list of 32 Ways to Lose Weight Faster because it’s a great way to still be loyal to your health goals without feeling deprived.
Don’t Get Too Saucy
One of the most consistent things we noticed during our food truck trials is that sauce is boss. We found a truck called Frites N’ Meats, which is exactly what it sounds like: burgers and fries. They’re known for the sauces that come with their fries (like garlic mayo and chipotle aioli).
Sounds tempting, but this means you’re not only eating fattening, sodium dense French fries, you’re also loading them with fattening, sodium dense sauces. We’ll admit that these fries were as delicious as we suspected, but make sure you ask for sauce on the side. That way, you’ll be able to sample the taste of these sauces without overloading your food with extra guilt. Hint: If you need that extra flavor burst, always choose the hottest sauce; adding spice to your food is a great way to boost your metabolism.
Choose Lean Meats
Most food trucks have options. At Korilla BBQ, you choose your meat, three vegetable toppings, and any amount of sauces you want. (Oof, here we go again with the sauce!) We went with lean meats like chicken and tofu for our protein, which is essential for muscle growth, revving your metabolism, boosting your brainpower, and trimming your waistline. But choosing the right protein is vital. Fatty cuts of meat like bacon are rich in saturated fats which put you at risk of heart disease and stroke and essentially negate the nutritional benefits that protein provide. However, lean meats like chicken, fish, and certain cuts of steak (see: sirloin) offer a major amount of belly blasting protein without threatening your heart. So, next time you hit the food truck for lunch, make sure you choose lean meats to kick your metabolism into four-wheel drive.
Avoid Fried Foods
This one’s obvious, we know. But chances are you’re going to run into some fried food when exploring different food trucks. However, chances are also high that not everything on the menu is fried. Go for grilled, boiled, roasted, and baked over fried any day. And if the specialty is some sort of fried food, then be sure to share it with friends rather than devour the whole thing yourself.
Walk the Block
Another thing we noticed is that food trucks tend to congregate. There were six of them on one block during lunch one day. And over the weekend, it feels like all the NYC food trucks gather at a Brooklyn fair known as “Smorgasbord.” Instead of diving into the first thing that looks good, take a moment to do a lap and peruse. This way, you’ll be sure to make choices that please both your taste buds and your body. If you eat something hastily, then you’re more likely to find something else you want way more and scarf that down, too. To save your belly, be sure to browse—and check out this list of 25 Best Foods for a Toned Body to know which foods to look for.
Take Pictures of Everything
Food truck dishes are totally Instagrammable and a lot of trucks take food presentation as seriously as the actual cooking. After all, without a brick-and-mortar presence, a solid buzz on social media can help keep the truck’s business going strong. This aspect of the food truck scene is great news for you, too—not only will your feed be on point but your waistline will benefit, too! A recent study out of the University of Wisconsin found that taking pictures of your food helps you lose weight. They’re calling it the “flash diet” and they found that snapshotting is the key to slimming down since it makes you more aware and critical of what you’re putting in your body.
Eating vegan is super trendy, but did you know it’s also incredible for your health and body? A recent study out of the Journal of General Internal Medicine found that veganism is the most effective diet for weight loss. Thankfully, you no longer have to hit the farmers’ market to get your daily dose of veg. From California to New York, food trucks are parking their vegan eats on a street corner near you.
To try it out, we sampled Van Leeuwen Ice cream in Manhattan. They make their ice cream from all-natural ingredients like cashews and coconut milk. We here at Eat This, Not That! love all things coconut and we love healthy swaps for unhealthy foods even more. Their vegan ice creams have about half the sugar and calories as traditional ice cream, making this an Eat This! approved swap. Next time you walk the block, be sure to keep an eye out for a vegan vehicle. It could help you get all the flavor you’re looking for without forfeiting your health!
Only Drink Water
A lot of these places offer fun, inventive drinks on the side. Yes, they’re fun at the moment but often rely heavily on sugar—and drinking your calories is on our list of 50 Little Things Making You Fatter and Fatter. Not only will you be saving money by sticking to water, but you’ll also be boosting your metabolism for all-day calorie burn. According to a study in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, drinking just two glasses of water can increase your metabolic rate by 30 percent. The researchers speculate that drinking six cups of water a day could help you burn an extra 17,400 calories over a year! So, stick to H2O at these on-the-go restaurants. And if you’re ready to get started on your water-drinking right away, check out our list of 50 Best Detox Waters for Fat Burning and Weight Loss for a fresh way to get those glasses in.
Eat Standing Up
One thing we struggled with while eating at these food trucks was where to eat our food. Some people hate the whole food truck thing because there’s nowhere to sit down to eat. But we did a little research and found out that this can actually be really good for you. Not only does standing burn more calories, but it also stalls your body from storing food as fat and helps prevent acid reflux. A recent study in journal Diabetes found that those that stand while eating activate the lipase in their body, the enzyme that helps break down fat and prevent storage. Embrace street eat etiquette and stand with your food to take a stand against fat! For more sneaky weight loss tips like this, check out the 20 Weight Loss Tricks You Haven’t Tried.
Photos 1, 2, 4, 6, and 9 by Ashlyn Heller.