Weight Loss Tips for Surviving the Mall Food Court

One of the biggest struggles facing those trying to lose weight is eating on the go. Certain places can be huge food temptation triggers, like mall food courts. While each mall can be different, there are common options that can help or hinder your diet and daily intake. Making wise choices when there’s almost too many choices can be the key to your success in the mall.

Food courts are like the buffet of fast food. They often provide a selection of foods that are greasy, fried, empty carbohydrate laden, and high in calories. These foods aren’t geared towards a healthy audience, and standing there with money in your hands can cause you to make a rash decision based on overwhelming feelings. So given the circumstances (being in a mall food court and hungry), let these tips help guide your mall court food decision without guilt…


What to avoid: Stay away from all the “tempura” or breaded and fried menu options. Sauces can also be laden with sugars and sodium.

Try this instead: Noodle soups, sushi, grilled meats, and stir fries are all healthy options that should be able to fit into your daily intake without disrupting your scale. When ordering a stir fry, you can often ask them to not use oil, and that will be an even bigger help.


What to avoid: heavy toppings like cheese and sour cream. Fried options are also a no-go if you want to maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle. It just adds unnecessary calories to an already flavorful menu.

Try this instead: fresh toppings like salsa and pico de gayo will add loads of flavor to your mexican favorites. Try lean meats like chicken, and protein rich options like beans. If there’s a “bowl” option instead of a taco/burrito, go for that, and save the calories from the wrap/shell.


What to avoid: carb heavy pitas and over-dressed salads. Pita’s may not be a bad choice, but filled with foods and sides, it’s unnecessary. Salads often come with an undetermined amount of dressing that can be difficult to calculate into your intake.

Try this instead: skewers of lean chicken souvlaki, tzatziki for dipping (which is protein rich, Greek yogurt based) and a side salad with dressing on the side.


What to avoid: try and stay away from the mayonnaise-rich mixes like chicken salad and anything “crispy” like crispy chicken (i.e., “crispy” usually means fried). Meatballs should also be avoided as they’re often made with high fat beef and will put you back a lot of calories.

Try this instead: a whole wheat or whole grain bun with lean meats like turkey, chicken, or seafood. Opt for lots of veggie toppings and light sauces. Cut out the cheese as well and you’ll be set.


What to avoid: breaded and fried meats with high sugar and salt sauces are a big pitfall to Chinese take-out menu options in a food court. Steer clear of fried rice and fried noodles as well. Say no to egg rolls too. They’re often around 200 calories each!

Try this instead: Steamed vegetables and rice, lean meats, and soups. There’s also steamed options like dim sum. Also, you can always ask the cook if they can prepare a stir fry fresh with little to no oil.

Burger Joints

What to avoid: try and stay away from pesky toppings like bacon, cheese, or mayo. Avoid the word “crispy” (i.e., crispy onions or a crispy chicken or fish burger).

Try this instead: if you’re really going for gold, take away the bun all together and do a lettuce wrap instead. If you can’t give up the bun, you can still win by choosing something high protein, low calorie (i.e., grilled chicken burger with vegetable toppings, and a light dressing on top). Skip the side of fries and pick another healthier option (i.e., side salad or fruit).


What to avoid: pizza isn’t all evil for your diet. Toppings, and dippings, can be. Stay away from high fat toppings like pepperoni, bacon, and extra cheese. Say no to the creamy dipping sauces too.

Try this instead: use extra veggies as a topping and go light on the cheese (or opt for no cheese at all). Lean protein toppings like grilled chicken strips or diced ham are also okay. Hot sauce or a light dressing is an okay dipping substitute as well. Stick to only one slice with maybe a side salad (with dressing on the side).

Julie Ching, MS, RDN, CDE

Julie Ching, MS, RDN, CDE

Julie Ching is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator in Los Angeles. She decided to become a Dietitian after traveling through Europe, South America, and Asia and discovered a passion for food. She now works with people of all ages and varying disease states to improve their health. She is passionate about teaching people about nutrition so they can live their best life while still considering their cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds.