Health Watch -- Nutritious Travel

Health Watch is a Public Service of the Office of News and Publications and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.

The best diet intentions seem to fail when you hit the road. How can you travel without gaining weight?

When you're on the road, it seems like there's just one fast food restaurant after another, providing fried, fatty food for breakfast, lunch and dinner. But nutrition experts at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas say you don't have to sacrifice your nutritional goals when you're on vacation. With a little planning, you can protect your health, and your wallet, too.

For nutritious lunches, try hitting the grocery store instead of the burger joint. You can pick up whole-grain bread or rolls, low-fat lunch meats and fresh fruits and vegetables, then have a picnic. Carry carrot sticks and cut-up fruit instead of potato chips for car snacks. If you bring a cooler, get a hotel room with a mini refrigerator or find a convenience store near your hotel.

You can also skip the fatty fried breakfasts you find in restaurants. Bring nutritious cold cereal with you and buy skim milk and fruit juice along the way. You can get on the road faster, save money and cut your fat consumption. By taking these steps, you can splurge a little on your evening meal, eating in a nicer place and enjoying a few treats -- but it's still best to avoid anything battered or deep-fried.

Even if you eat out, there are numerous options available for those who watch what they eat.

Even fast-food restaurants have added salads to their menus. But beware. Nutrition experts at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas say just because something is called a salad, it doesn't mean it's low in fat and calories. Many of these fast-food salads come with extra toppings like nuts, croutons, cheese, bacon and fatty dressings.
If you used all these extras, your salad could have as much fat and as many calories as a hamburger. Lona Sandon, a UT Southwestern nutrition expert, says you can manage the fat and calorie content by not using all those extras. There's more than one serving in those fast-food dressing packets, so only use a little. Avoid adding the other extra toppings, or shove some to the side if they come on the salad. Look for salads that offer grilled chicken instead of "crispy" or fried chicken.

Restaurant portion sizes can also be a problem. Most restaurant portions are about twice the recommended serving size of these foods. Remember that a serving of meat should be about the size of your palm, and a serving of rice or pasta should be about half a cup. At home, you can take some of your meal home for later, but that's harder to do on the road. Instead, ask your server if two of you can share an entree.