Food trucks have come a long way since being misconstrued as the cousins of state fair food vendors and questionable taco joints. Most of us who keep up with the media and begrudgingly watch our waistlines have probably heard of the slew of “lifestyle” diets that have become popular: Paleo, Primal, Gluten-free (celiac disease), Vegan, GAPS, Vegetarian, Specific Carbohydrate Diet, etc. Many of these diets require a significant lifestyle change that can make eating out difficult… very difficult. For instance, the Specific Carbohydrate Diet is extremely restricting, and calls for the elimination of most carbohydrates, including all grains, starches, dairy, sugars, alcohol, caffeine, and any preservatives or artificial ingredients. Consuming only specific carbohydrates that require little digestion aids in the reduction of inflammation in the small and large intestines and helps many people with gastrointestinal disorders and food allergies. Whether you follow a specific nutritional diet or not, many people simply want to eat healthy and stay fit. Eating out and on-the-go takes time and preparation, especially if you don’t live in West Coast health-nut hotbeds like LA, San Francisco, and Portland.
As you can see, one’s food and lifestyle options can be severely hindered by a bevy of restrictions. And what brings people together better than food? A whole congregation of food from around the world! Food trucks often team-up and form pods of trucks for events and lunch gatherings. These food trucks have answered the call for affordable, inventive, gourmet street eats, but have they addressed the recent trend for a healthier lifestyle as well?
Eating out is a social affair, and you shouldn’t have to make excuses to avoid hanging out with friends or hitting the late-night trucks after a concert. There are now many food trucks that carry healthy options and an even larger assortment of trucks where you can easily choose certain menu items to fit your needs. I promise, this CAN be done. I am not a nutritionist, and most certainly not a doctor, but I am one of the lucky few who must follow a specific carbohydrate diet for my nutritional regime… ok, ok, I have the self-control of a four-year-old in front of brownies, so I “cheat” from time to time, but I know you are all more strong-willed than I, so get out there and feed the beast! Check out a few of these tips to help navigate you through the streets.
TIPS FOR EATING WELL AT FOOD TRUCKS:
DO SOME RESEARCH
Find which trucks are in your area and take a peak at their menus. You can even use Roaming Hunger’s truck map for your city to see their real-time location. Keep these trucks in mind, so next time you need a quick meal or are out with friends or co-workers you can suggest one of the trucks you know you will be comfortable eating at. “Foodie cities” are usually the easiest to find organic, locally-sourced, vegan, and even paleo-friendly trucks, like Outside the Box in Seattle, but there are hidden gems everywhere.
TALK TO THE OWNERS AND COOKS! SERIOUSLY… ASK QUESTIONS
For those that don’t just want to eat healthfully but have serious food allergies, make sure to ask lots of questions. More than likely, they will be happy to answer. Ask them what kind of oil they cook in and see if they can make any substitutions. For instance, ask if they add any sugar or preservatives, can substitute guacamole for for salad dressing, or whatever else suits your individual needs. If all else fails, you can always bring along a small container of Tamari (gluten-free soy sauce) or different dressings from your house.
GET GROOVY WITH SMOOTHIES AND BOWLS
Smoothies can be a great choice for the conscious eater… drinker? Either way, smoothies are filled with vegetables and fruits that contain essential vitamins and antioxidants. They are great on the go and can be very filling. Similar to smoothies, acai bowls, often contain superfoods, like chia seeds, hemp, goji berries, and whey/soy powder or peanut butter for protein. Blenders and Bowls, out of Austin, Texas, even serves both! There are plenty of smoothie and bowl trucks out there and they are an amazing, delicious option.
CORN TORTILLAS, CORN TORTILLAS, CORN TORTILLAS
For those who eat gluten-free or want to cut down on carbs, praise the power of the taco. With so many unique food combinations and fusion trucks, tacos don’t have to only be a Mexican affaire, so look for trucks that have lots of protein and seafood based combinations as their main attraction. If they double-up your taco tortillas, see if you can manage with just one or double up on meat instead. For you gluten-free folks, just remember to make sure there is no hidden wheat or gluten if they are store bought tortillas, and if you are very sensitive (have celiac disease), check that the fat used for frying has not previously been used to cook food that contains gluten. And if you can’t have corn, take a page from the tip below, and just eat the yummy innards!
TAKE OFF THE BREAD
Taking off a bun or any white flour bread is easy and can be applied to many food truck menu items. A well-cured pulled-pork sandwich can be just as delicious if you only eat the meat and slaw. Alternatively, some trucks might be able to wrap your item in lettuce in place of bread. Keep an eye out for Asian-inspired trucks that often have healthy protein, veggie, and brown rice bowl options. There are also many all vegetarian and vegan trucks cruising around, like the Veg-it-Up food truck in Silver Lake, Los Angeles.