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Road-trip meal tips

The Doctors | 8/15/2013, 8 p.m.

USA WEEKEND Health

Whether you're heading out for a romantic weekend getaway or driving to Disney with a minivan full of kids, don't let your summer road trip derail your diet. Here's how to eat healthy along the way:

Before you go.

Load the car with healthy foods, such as unsalted nuts, pre-washed fresh or dried fruit, cut-up raw veggies, whole-grain crackers, plain popcorn or peanut butter. Smart packing strategies:

* Pre-portion snacks. Never bring the whole box -- it's too easy to overeat. Divide into single-serving bags.
* Bring a cooler. Stock with low-fat cheese, low-fat or fat-free yogurt and low-fat hummus or guacamole.
* Avoid sweet and salty. Focus on protein, fiber and healthy carbohydrates.

Drive-through fast food.

A 14-year study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine shows that menus at popular chains haven't improved much in nutritional quality. Tips for healthier picks:

* Choose the smallest sandwich. Burgers with extra patties can contain more than 1,000 calories; a regular hamburger has about 250. Broiled, grilled and roasted are better choices. Pickles, onions, mustard and ketchup add flavor without fat.
* Swap out fries. Instead, add a garden salad, fruit slices or yogurt parfait to your order.
* Skip salad extras. Cheese, bacon bits and croutons add calories. Choose an entree salad with grilled chicken, shrimp or vegetables with fat-free or low-fat dressing on the side.

A pit stop at a family restaurant.

One average restaurant meal contains almost an entire days' worth of calories, fat and salt, according to two new studies. Stay in control:

* Get an appetizer. And add a salad to round out your meal.
* Split an entrée. And skip all-you-can-eat or unlimited salad and food bar options.
* Share dessert. Usually a bite or two is enough to satisfy your sweet tooth.

The Doctors is an Emmy-winning daytime TV show with pediatrician Jim Sears, OB-GYN Lisa Masterson, ER physician Travis Stork, and plastic surgeon Andrew Ordon. Check www.thedoctorstv.com for local listings.