Busy schedules demand fast meals–not necessarily fast food. Houston offers a bounty of healthy alternatives for on-the-go eating.
By the Editors of My Table, Houston’s Dining Magazine
Last summer, we had a great time at My Table picking out vittles for our picnic story. We surfed around Houston reaching into prepared foods cases, testing out earth-friendly food vessels and we even dabbled in boxed wine and cans of Champagne. One of the trickiest parts of pulling together information on the editorial side wasn’t finding ideal picnic locations around town for the whole family, or how to pack best for a date night al fresco, but instead finding healthful, prepared meals for little foodies.
Road trips, day camp, baseball games and soccer practice all mean that someone has to eat in a car (or with the other siblings and parents on the bleachers) and with busy schedules of working parents making food to-go can be easily forgotten or even just not feasible. For obvious reasons, driving through for fast food is a last resort for most parents. We’ve made a list of wholesome, healthful meals to-go that you can find in your neighborhood. Perfect to throw in the cooler for a trip to Galveston, or even to catch a bite in the car.
The bulk prepared foods cases can be intimidating, but just breeze past it. To the left of the island of cases are the kids meals, sandwiches, salads, sushi, chopped fresh fruit, diced cheese and stacked crackers bundles and crudités with dressing, already to go and in individual, controlled portions. To the right of the island are sparkling waters, root beers, juices (both fresh squeezed in bottles and pint-sized for little hands) cool, colorful, and ready to go. You needn’t stand in the main grocery check-out if you’re just running in to grab snacks before picking the kids up and taking them to the next stop: you can check-out at the coffee booth or the café cashier right there in the to-go foods area.
One of our favorite picks at Local Foods are to select your own trio of salads or sides for $11. Unless your kids are the type to eat anything, this probably isn’t best for fussier eaters. But you’ve got to eat too – grab a trio for yourself and some hummus to-go for the children.
Relish Fine Foods
Similar to Central Market’s prepared foods section – meaning Relish Fine Foods is predominantly a to-go joint, made for those who need to nosh on the run or just don’t feel like cooking – the options are lush in design but fewer in options. Which may be a good thing, as for many consumers the paradox of choice makes occasions like this even more stressful. We’re partial to Relish’s sticky brown butter Rice Crispy treats, and their selection of Houston Dairymaids cheeses and Grateful Bread cured meats means you can dine on charcuterie, if that is your calling. Check their menus online and call in your order 15 minutes ahead of time to make it even easier.
There are people who swear by the caprese subs that are prepared and ready-to-go in the deli case at Trader Joe’s. In our office, we can vouch for the varied prepared salads that they’ve got in the same case – they’re small and they don’t explode in your face when you open them. (We suggest the spicy ranchero egg white salad and the roasted butternut squash, red quinoa and wheatberry salad.) If you haven’t fall victim to the dried fruit and nut selection, count yourself as lucky. While the bags of dried apricots and apples, trail mix, pistachios and Brazil nuts aren’t small and snack-size, many of them are re-sealable and side into a purse without risking a peanut leakage. A word of warning, though, about the crunchy Inner Peas snack found on the chip aisle at Trader Joe’s: They are addictive. You kids will be begging for baked peas as a snack.
Easy enough, Whole Foods has prepared meals and snacks that are portion size appropriate and wholesome. While the spring rolls are delicious (and huge) and the pair can satisfy an adult, they’re too big and messy for back seat diners. Look for the small fruit, yogurt and granola parfait (don’t forget the spoon!) or finger foods such as the cheese cubes and fruit boxes and the kid-sized sandwiches in the same case.