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5 Tricks to Cut Calories on the Road

Healthy eating on the road is a challenge. We all know that. But healthy travel depends on our ability to do so. When traveling, you have three approaches to healthy eating: 1) You can look for higher quality, healthier food options, 2) You can be mindful about the quantity of what you eat or 3) You can do both. Unfortunately, depending on where you are, it may be difficult to find the quality food options you want. As a result, being mindful of how much you eat is important when healthier choices aren’t available.

In general, I’m not a big believer in counting calories. Being mindful of how you eat, however, is a great strategy. It requires that you be tuned in to your hunger levels, how often and how quickly you eat, what you eat, and how you feel when you eat so that you naturally limit or reduce your caloric intake. That said, here are some travel tips for healthy eating that will help you be more mindful, while effortlessly limiting calories.

1. One Plateful – One Time: We often rely on visual cues, such as an empty plate, to decide when to stop eating.  Cornell University researcher Dr. Brian Wansink created a bottomless soup bowl, which secretly refilled during a meal.  He found that diners who ate from the refillable bowl ate 73 percent more soup than diners who ate from a normal bowl.

What can you do? Forgo buffets and “bottomless” items on menus when dining out. Choose two appetizers or one entree to ensure that you don’t overdo it on portion sizes.

2. Eat Small Meals, often: Waiting for traditional meal times can cause your metabolism and energy levels to wane between meals. Further, if you wait too long between meals, you will become ravenous and risk over-eating when you do eat.

What you can do: Instead of eating three large meals a day…breakfast, lunch and dinner…decrease portion sizes and eat five smaller meals or snacks a day. Doing so will help you eat smaller meals, ward off hunger throughout the day and keep you feeling satisfied and energized. Here’s a good schedule to try:

  • Breakfast: 7:30am to 8:30am
  • Morning Snack: 10:00am to 11:00am
  • Lunch: 12:30pm to 1:30pm
  • Afternoon Snack: 3:00pm to 4:00pm
  • Dinner: 6:00pm to 7:00pm

3. Bulk-up on Vegetables: If you have been reading the posts on this site, you already know that I’m a huge fan of fiber. It helps maintain regularity and it also makes you feel full between meals. Fibrous vegetables (E.g., greens, spinach, carrots, peppers, etc.), however, provide even more benefit: They fill you up but are very low in calories.

What you can do: At lunch and dinner, always start your meal off with a basic side salad. Ask for the dressing on the side and choose a vinaigrette instead of a dressing made with cream or mayonnaise. If you order an entree, choose vegetables as your side. Avoid starchy vegetables, however, such as potatoes or yams. If you enjoy salads, I recommend making a salad your entree. Salads, however, can become very unhealthy very quickly, so avoid salads with cheese and nuts. Although these can be healthy in small doses, many restaurants overload salads with these items. Finally, ensure your salad comes with some lean protein, such as chicken breast or fish.

4. Drink Up: Proper hydration is an important part of healthy travel, as well as healthy eating. When we drink enough fluids, especially between and right before meals, we tend to eat less due to our stomach feeling full from the liquid.

What you can do: It is good to drink an amount of water that is equal to your weight in pounds divided by 2. (E.g., if you are 150 pounds, you should drink 75 ounces of water). Drink 8 to 10 ounces of water prior to every meal and snack. Not only will this help you stay hydrated, but it will help you limit your chances of over-eating and consuming too many calories.

5. Eat Slowly: Business travelers are always on the run, and so, we often eat quickly. It takes 20 minutes, however, for our brains to process that we have eaten enough food to be satisfied. As a result, eating slowly will give our brains the time it needs to register that we’ve eaten enough.

What you can do: Slow down! At every meal and snack, take small bites and chew slowly. Take a drink of water between each bite to increase the volume of fluid and solids in your stomach.

Do you use any tricks to keep your caloric intake in check when traveling?

Adapted from Get Real and Stop Dieting! Copyright © 2009 by Brett Blumenthal. All rights reserved.

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