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How to make smart food choices on vacation

By Shanti Lewis, Special to The Baltimore Sun

10:50 AM EDT, April 4, 2012

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Each week a nutritionist from the University of Maryland Medical Center will provide a post on nutrition topics for The Baltimore Sun's Picture of Health (baltimoresun.com/pictureofhealth). This week, Shanti Lewis weighs in on vacation dining.

How do you eat healthfully and maintain your weight when you have long flights ahead and eat out almost every night while on vacation? Because of the limited fare on flights, many travelers indulge in fast food and choose beverages that can be dehydrating before boarding their planes. Remember these tips for your next trip.

Hydrate

Dehydration is a concern when flying. Since there is a lower level of oxygen available, passengers tend to breathe faster and increase their water loss. It is best to try to drink 8 to 16 ounces of water before the flight departs and aim for at least 8 ounces for every hour on the flight. Consider limiting alcoholic or caffeinated beverages that may contribute to dehydration. Since people cannot take liquid beverages through security, hydrating is important before getting to the airport.

Pack snacks

Most airlines have cut back on serving snack food on planes. Packing healthy snacks from home helps people stay on track with healthy eating and are friendly to the wallet.

Here are some snacks that are high-protein, low-fat, lower in sugar and contain fiber: nuts; small packages of water-packed tuna with whole-grain crackers; rice cakes and low-fat cheese; fat-free puddingx; protein bars; low-fat granola with at least 3 grams of fiber; half a peanut butter sandwich; raw vegetables; and small containers of hummus.

Make smart choices at the airport

Some things to remember:

•Aim for filling half your plate with vegetables or fruit by looking for salads and broth-based soups.

•Limit high-calorie condiments, such as cream in coffee, mayo and full-calorie salad dressing.

•Select grilled, steamed, stir-fried or poached menu items.

•Be careful with smoothies and coffee drinks; many contain more calories than a meal.

•Limit fried foods, cream-based sauces and foods covered with cheese.

•Check out the map of the airport before the flight for healthful food options near your gate.

Indulge wisely at your destination

Don't confuse hunger with boredom or anxiety. Enjoy local foods and cuisine. Forgive yourself if you overindulge one day. And make sure to sit down and really savor foods instead of eating them just because you are hungry.