Red Light, Green Light: The Best and Worst Food Truck Options, USC Edition

As previously mentioned, USC has never been known for its culinary establishments. But in addition to the cherished local favorites (Chano’s, Traddies), and the newer crop of healthy upper-scale cafes and restaurants (Lemonade and The Lab), food trucks have inched their way into the daily lives of students. Hanging out on McClintock, Hoover, and Jefferson Blvd, the food trucks offer Trojans new, specialized and often fusion-inspired meals every day. While some of the trucks are incredibly indulgent (hint: avoid The Buttermilk Truck), most of them have a few healthy options on their menus. Read on to find the healthiest and unhealthiest options at these four food trucks:

Nom Nom Truck
(Nom Nom Truck’s menu is arranged in steps: 1. Pick your nom-vehicle; 2. Choose your protein; 3. Add the works).

Red Light: Vietnamese Sandwich; Cold Cut; Pork Liver Paté
A wheat baguette adds 300-400 empty calories and too many refined carbs. The cold cuts, which include uncured ham, steamed pork loaf, cheese and pork liver pâté — plus a spread made with pork liver pâté — adds tons of saturated fat and more than a day’s worth of sodium.

Yellow Light: Taco; Pork; Fried Egg
The taco option has pros and cons: they’re filled with fresh vegetables like pickled carrot, daikon radish, cucumber, and cilantro (which, when piled on top, make this dish look deceivingly healthy!). But it also comes with two corn tortillas, which offer no satiating fiber, plus sriracha aioli — which is essentially spicy mayonnaise. The pork is a better option than cold cuts, since it’s grilled and flavored with soy and garlic; and the fried egg offers high-quality protein and nutrients like choline and B vitamins. Still, this choice is relatively high in saturated fat, so consider saving one taco for later.

Green Light: Salad; Chicken or Tofu; Vegan Mushroom Pâté
Choosing a salad will hike up your vegetable count for the day, but don’t ruin all that goodness with a heavy dose of the house Vietnamese vinaigrette — so ask for it on the side. Grilled chicken and tofu (steamed and grilled, respectively) rely on lemongrass and chili for flavor instead of fat, and vegan mushroom pâté adds immunity-boosting vitamin D.

The Dim Sum Truck

Red Light: Pan Fried Pork Spare Rib Buns
Spare ribs are one of the fattiest cuts of pork, with 102 calories and 2.7 grams of saturated fat per ounce (compared to pork tenderloin, which has 33 calories and 0.3 grams of saturated fat). Add in sugary sweet and sour sauce and the white-flour bun and you’re looking at around 400 calories for just two small buns.

Yellow Light: Peking Duck Taco
Duck is high in saturated fat and the sweet plum sauce accompanying the taco is high in sugar and calories — so if you order this, balance it with healthier sides. On the bright side, it does come with a dose of pickled vegetables to add fiber and nutrients.

Green Light: Shrimp Har Gow Dumplings
Made with shrimp, chestnuts, scallions, and a light dough, shrimp har gow provides quality, lean protein for minimal calories. Each dumpling offers 44 calories, so you won’t feel guilty finishing off an entire portion.

Crepe’n Around

Red Light: S’more Crepe
Made with marshmallows, graham crackers, powdered sugar, whipped cream, and chocolate sauce, this crepe is too much sugar and calories for even dessert, let alone breakfast, lunch or dinner! This crepe packs 65 grams of sugar with no fiber, protein or nutrients to balance it out. If you must have it, share it with two friends.

Yellow Light: Chicken Pesto
Seared chicken breast offers lean protein, but a heavy addition of smoked provolone adds unnecessary calories and saturated fat. And don’t be deceived by healthy sounding pesto mayo: it’s still mayo, with just a touch of pesto for flavor.

Green Light: Maple Braised Pork
This crepe depends on walnuts and apple chutney for flavor, much better options than cheese and mayonnaise. Walnuts add mood-improving omega-3 fatty acids, while chutney offers antioxidant-rich spices and big flavor. Skip the side of garlic fries and eat a healthy salad at home for a balanced meal.

India Jones

Red Light: Butter Chicken
As its name indicates, this popular Indian entree gets its rich flavor from butter. It’s also flavored with cream; tomato puree and spices play supporting roles. And because the chicken is often deep-fried in oil — adding more calories — this is an entree you’ll want to avoid.

Yellow Light: Lamb Frankie
Roti, a type of thin flatbread made of whole wheat flour, is a better choice than paratha, which is often thicker and fried in oil. Lamb is similar to beef and pork in terms of fat and calories, but it often has less marbling — which means less saturated fat. Cilantro tamarind chutney and chopped onion add flavor without calories and fat, unlike many other Indian food accompaniments.

Green Light: Lentil/Bean du jour
Lentils and beans are an excellent source of low-fat protein and fiber, which will give you the energy to make it through your afternoon classes. Because this option is du jour, the ingredients and sauces will rotate; beware of lentil and bean dishes in cream-based sauces, like Dal Makhani.


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