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posted: 7/2/2012 6:00 AM

Don't let traveling diet weigh you down

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A few weeks ago, I attended the Food for Your Whole Life Health Symposium in New York City. Dietitians, nutritionists and other health professionals came to hear the latest food fads and fables presented by experts such as Dr. Mehmet Oz, best known from his Emmy-award winning television show, "The Doctor Oz Show"; Dr. Michael Roizen, chief wellness officer of the Cleveland Clinic; and Dr. David Katz, founding director of Yale University's Prevention Research Center. Oz and Roizen co-authored the "You" series of New York Times best selling self-help health books. The symposium covered all facets of healthy eating and healthy living. One of the main focuses was on the growing problem of obesity in our country. According to Roizen, obesity in the United States is far out in front of the rest of the world. And because of the cost of this "growing" problem, manufacturing companies are forced to go overseas to employ healthier workers, which affects our country's financial bottom line.

This is a "weighty" problem for the airlines as well. The passenger's bottom line also affects the airlines bottom line. Heavier passengers require more fuel to stay airborne. However, most frequent fliers will tell you, eating healthy when you're on the wing can be a challenge. Because of different time zones and customs, it often seems impossible to maintain a healthy diet. But, according to the experts, you can have your cake and eat it too when you travel. Here's how:

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Brown bag it. Don't even think about the in-flight meal -- not that you'll find one. Many airports offer food stands with fresh fruit near your boarding gates. The key word is "fresh." No telling how long it has been on the stand. Better to bring your own. Before Kathy Kuffner flies, she fills her carry-on with carryout. She loads up on whole-grain crackers, cheese and a variety of fruit.

Go nuts. Roizen packs bags of walnuts in his briefcase. "Walnuts are loaded with Omega 3s, are good for your heart and curb your hunger. They take 'fast food' to a whole new level."

Oz agrees. "Thirty minutes before a meal, eat a handful of nuts." It will curb your hunger and you'll be less likely to reach for a high-sugar content food.

Know what you're eating. According to Katz, "We need to love food that loves us back." To do that, we have to know what we're eating. That's particularly difficult when you're at a restaurant in a country where you don't speak the language. Before you dine on barbecued pig intestines or fried cat, ask questions and check your translator for information.

Make good choices. A proper British breakfast includes blood sausage, eggs, fried toast and a host of other heart-attack-on-a-plate items. It's not necessarily proper for you. Avoid it. Stick to yogurt, fresh fruit or oatmeal. Save the surprises and local fare for dinner.

Travel is a time to experience with new cultures and new foods. But in order to stay healthy, it takes discipline. According to one dietitian, "Eat to live, don't live to eat." This doesn't mean you shouldn't enjoy the local food and try new things. But limit portions and use restraint. After all, you can always go nuts!

• Gail Todd, a freelance writer, worked as a flight attendant for more than 30 years. She can be reached via email at gailtodd@aol.com.

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