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Food on the Move

From NYC to LA and several cities in between, traditional hot dog stands and food carts have evolved to something bigger and better. Mobile food trucks are making a name for themselves offering fresh, made-to-order menu items from a wide variety of cuisines. Well said in the Wall Street Journal article about food trucks, "The new breed of lunch truck is aggressively gourmet, tech-savvy and politically correct."

Why so popular? Trucks have gained popularity for a number of reasons. First, launching and operating a food truck requires much less start-up cost than opening a traditional restaurant. Secondly, just like we are, they're on the move! Many trucks keep customers informed of their whereabouts through social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter. Food trucks tend to be fast and easily accessible with more affordable menu items than dining in. Many trucks (or buses, vans, etc.) even have a commitment to being green, using local ingredients and other ways to reduce their carbon footprint.

Where did they come from? Mobile food truck owners and operators have diverse backgrounds- some are chefs, others lifelong restaurateurs and still others are no-name self-proclaimed "foodies" with a delicious idea and catchy concept. The majority of them like alternatives such as food trucks because they require less overhead, offer a limited menu, employ a smaller staff, and best of all allows for the acquisition of a fan base before opening a sit-down restaurant.

Are they safe? In case you're worried about how food safe these trucks are, have no fear. Food truck vendors are required to obtain state permits which mean they must follow strict sanitation regulations. In other words, these trucks may be on the move, but that doesn't mean they let their sanitation slide. Trucks can be inspected several times annually- a more stringent requirement than their brick and mortar counterparts. Vendors must have the necessary equipment to hold food at proper temperatures and they must have a way to wash their hands! In addition, most states require either a napkin or a glove be between the food and a bare hand. Check out this article for more food safety info.

Tanya's Tips:

• Try food trucks with friends! The more friends= the more dishes you can order= more variety!

• Look for the food truck's permit displayed in the window to ensure food safety standards are up to par.

• Follow your favorites on Twitter or Facebook.

• Support trucks that buy local. They're stimulating the local economy and supporting local farmers.

• Remember everything in moderation! Just because these foods are on the move doesn't mean they're void of calories.

Tanya Zuckerbrot, MS, RD is a nutritionist and founder of www.Skinnyandthecity.com. She is also the creator of The F-Factor DietaC/, an innovative nutritional program she has used for more than ten years to provide hundreds of her clients with all the tools they need to achieve easy weight loss and maintenance, improved health and well-being. For more information log onto www.FFactorDiet.com.