If you've been using the USDA food pyramid to achieve your weight-loss goals, you may be wondering how you can apply the same strategies to eating out. Balancing your calorie scale away from home can be more challenging. A vacation, a business trip, and even a local outing all take you away from the familiarity and discipline of your usual routine. But you can maintain control over your calorie intake no matter where you are or what you're doing. You just need some additional strategies to keep you on the weight-control track. In this article, you will learn how to eat healthy outside of your own kitchen. Let's get started with some basic tips:

Calorie Control on the Road

Whether you're running errands or off on a trip, you're never far from food. The temptations are everywhere, from gas stations to street vendors to full-service restaurants. So be like a Boy Scout and be prepared! Here's how.

An Ounce of Prevention. You'll have much more success staying within your daily calorie requirements if you don't let yourself get overly hungry when you're away from home. Nutrition wisdom flies right out the door when you're starving. Your instincts will guide you to foods that will fill you up fast, and those tend to be foods that are higher in fat, because fat makes you feel full and satisfied.

By eating before you get to that "I'm starving" point, you'll ultimately make wiser choices and eat fewer calories. In general, choose snacks that have only 100 to 150 calories per serving. Eat just one serving, and drink plenty of sugar-free fluids along with it.

Halting the hunger monster. Keep nonperishable, low-calorie snacks with you wherever you go. You'll need something to stave off hunger, whether you're in the car, on a plane, or in a hotel room. You don't need to get fancy. Something as simple as a baggie of whole-grain crackers and a water bottle can hold you over until you can have a normal meal. And a mixture of raisins and nuts (roasted without oil) will provide protein and beneficial fats to tame your appetite.

Granola bars and power-type bars are easy to tote, but check their calorie content before you decide to eat one. Some bars, especially power-bars, can harbor an entire meal's worth of calories in a few bites. If you're using the bar as a meal replacement, then a high calorie count is fine; but if you're not, choose wisely or eat only part of the bar. Be similarly cautious about those ubiquitous small bags of trail mix, nuts, or yogurt-covered pretzels at convenience marts or newsstands. Many of those foods are prepared with added fat, so be a label looker. Plain pretzels or dry-roasted nuts are better options. "Single serving" bags of chips, crackers, and cookies also can carry a calorie punch, so read the label to check how many servings the bag contains -- many actually have more than one -- and to determine which will give you the fewest calories.

"Bank" your calories. When you know you're going to be eating away from home, consider saving or "banking" some calories for the event. You can bank a few or a lot of calories, depending on how you go about it. Eat a smaller or lower-calorie breakfast and/or lunch to put away some calories for a higher-calorie lunch or dinner out. You can even do this for a couple days or more in advance. Burning more calories by stepping up your physical activity in advance -- either on the day you're dining out or for a few days ahead -- is another good way to bank calories. And if you combine a reduction in caloric intake with an increase in calorie expenditure, you'll have a sizable calorie bank account to use.

Vending Machine Values. Vending machines aren't known for stocking the healthiest or least-caloric snack choices. And you'll most likely find yourself in front of one when your resistance is lowest. Reading the Nutrition Facts panels on vending machine stock is out of the question, so how do you choose the items most likely to have less than 150 calories? Look for the words baked, light, low fat, or roasted on the front of the package, and choose the smallest size available.

The following are common vending machine items that will do the least damage to your weight-control plan:
  • Pretzels

  • Light popcorn

  • Baked potato chips, baked corn chips, baked Cheetos

  • Goldfish crackers

  • Graham crackers

  • Animal crackers

  • Cereal bar

  • Low-fat granola bar

  • Low-fat cookies

  • Fresh fruit

  • Dried fruit bars, small size

  • Roasted nuts and sunflower seeds, small size -- or eat just part of the package
If the vending machine you're facing is refrigerated, you'll have additional choices. The best are:
  • Nonfat or low-fat milk (be careful; many containers are two servings)

  • 100% fruit juice, small

  • Fresh fruit cups

  • Vegetable packs

  • Light yogurt

  • Bottled water or seltzer water
When you're on the road, preparing a home-cooked meal isn't an option. The next section will cover eating healthy at restaurants, no matter which type you choose.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

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