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The traveler's top ten ways to stay trim on trips

Released: Thursday, May 26, 2005

BATON ROUGE - Just in time for summer, the dietary counseling staff at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center (PBRC) released the top ten tips to eat healthy while on vacation. With changes in season, temperature and unfamiliar restaurants, eating out for the health-conscience traveler can be as simple as following these ten easy steps:

1. Plan ahead. Become familiar with the places you might be able to eat at while on the road and once you reach your destination. Scope out your dining options. Skip the hot dog and pizza and look for eateries that serve fruit, soup and sandwiches. Enjoy local fresh specialties. Check out the local farmer’s market for fresh fruit to use as snacks. Have local seafood if traveling to a coastal destination.

2. Understand the menu. Look for “high fat” wording: fried, buttery, au gratin, etouffe, sautéed, rich, creamy, and breaded. As questions. Don’t assume a dish is healthy because it has chicken and vegetables. Ask about your sauces, toppings and methods of preparation. Always choose grilled, and preferably not basted in butter or oil. By choosing grilled instead of fried, you can almost cut the fat and calories of a food item in half. Stay away from cream sauces or dressings. Choose marinara or other non-oil based sauces to cut down on fat and calories. Also, beware of the breadbasket. The breadbasket always appears when you are hungry and ready to eat. If you can’t refuse the break, as the waiter to remove it from the table.

3. Think “outside the box.” Just because you always get the #4 doesn’t mean there are no other choices. Take time to look over the menu. Many fast food places have added healthy options for main meals and even offer fruit as a side dish.

4. Watch portion sizes. Split your entrée with a friend. Portion sizes in restaurants are typically far larger than the recommended portion size. By splitting an entrée in half, you are keeping yourself from overeating as well as cutting calories in half.

5. Be salad savvy. Though we all think of salads as a “healthy” option at any restaurant, some salads have more calories than a cheeseburger. Steer clear of cob salads with cheese, ham, egg, and bacon, Mediterranean salads with lots of feta and pine nuts, and taco salads with cheese, refried beans, guacamole and sour cream. You can make these salads healthier by asking your server to take the cheese and other high calorie items off the salad, or ask to add a little less. Choose lighter vinaigrette dressings and get them on the side. Most restaurants give enough dressing to cover two salads, which adds as much fat and calories as a double-decker hamburger!

6. Consider a condo or kitchenette. Discuss your vacation plans. Decide if you can book a place with some type of kitchen facilities. This can save calories and cash in the long run by limiting how many meals you have to eat in restaurants. Be sure to leave home prepared. Stock low calorie nutrient rich snacks to keep on hand while traveling to and from the hotel room. A cooler is a good idea for bottled water and low fat dairy products.

7. Watch the alcohol. Avoid the hard liquor and sweetened drinks. Choose light beer or wine instead. But be careful, because we typically let our good intentions go out the window even after just one or two drinks.

8. Be aware of your emotional response. If you eat more than you plan, be careful not to consider it a catastrophe. This will only set you up for failure. Get right back on track at your very next meal, and try to fit in some extra activity.

9. Plan pleasures other than food or drink and incorporate increased physical activity into your summer plans. Think about what you might like to do to stay active. Park further away, and walk when sightseeing. Consider biking on a beautiful, outside day, or participate in fun-filled water activities.

10. Hold a family meeting ahead of time. Talk about ways your family can help you to eat less, stay healthy and be active.

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The Pennington Biomedical Research Center is at the forefront of medical discovery as it relates to understanding the causes of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and dementia. Itis a campus of the Louisiana State University System and conducts basic, clinical and population research. The research enterprise at the Center includes approximately 80 faculty and more than 25 post-doctoral fellows who comprise a network of 50 laboratories supported by lab technicians, nurses, dieticians, and support personnel, and 19 highly specialized core service facilities.  The Center's more than 500 employees perform research activities in state-of-the-art facilities on the 234-acre campus located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.