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5 Leisure Activities That Could be Sabotaging Your Diet

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After a hectic work week, it's nice to relax with a shopping spree, a trip to your local movie theater, or a day at the beach. The problem: These popular leisure activities often go hand-in-hand with unhealthy food traps. Use the tips below to make healthier choices as you indulge in a little relaxation.

1. Happy Hour

With an abundance of unhealthy options like nachos, chips and dips, beer, and cocktails, happy hour can be a major diet disaster. Just four mozzarella sticks alone contain more than 400 calories, 22 g of fat, and 9 g of saturated fat and provide few nutrients.

Damage Control: Eat every couple of hours during the day and have a nutritious snack prior to happy hour. If you're hungry, order a small salad, chicken skewers, or a fruit plate. Also, sip slowly on your beer or cocktail, and limit yourself to one or two drinks.

2. Movies

The biggest problem with the movies is mindless eating. You're so distracted by the film, that you aren't paying attention to the serving sizes or hunger cues. This can be a problem considering that a large tub of movie popcorn contains 16-20 servings, has more than 1000 calories, three days worth of artery-clogging saturated fat, and 1500 mg of sodium.

Damage Control: Skip the over-priced snacks, and eat at home pre-movie. Stash a couple of bottles of water and put a small bag of light popcorn or unsalted pretzels in your purse to satisfy cravings.

3. Beach

A day at the beach can leave you dehydrated, overheated, and heading toward the closest ice cream stand for a frozen treat or beach-side bar for cocktails and fried fish. Just two scoops of ice cream will set you back about 600 calories and 32 g of fat, and a frozen daiquiri can pack 300-800 calories.

Damage Control: Chose frozen yogurt, sherbet, or Italian ice over ice cream and opt for grilled seafood instead of fried fish. Pack a couple of water bottles in your beach bag and sip frequently throughout the day to avoid dehydration. If you want an alcoholic beverage, opt for a lower-calorie drink like a mimosa or vodka soda or a light beer. For more healthy beach snacks, click here.

4. Shopping

The food court is filled with greasy, high calorie foods. You'll find everything from Chinese noodles and fried rice to deep-dish pizza and cinnamon buns. A cinnamon bun alone has 900 calories, 36 g of fat, 17 g of saturated fat, and more than 8 servings of carbs, while a side order of fried rice from Panda Express has 530 calories and 850 mg of sodium.

Damage Control: Skip the fat-laden choices and choose a sub on whole wheat bread with lean cold cuts like turkey and fresh veggies (skip the mayo and oil), or order a salad with light dressing. For something sweet, try a frozen yogurt or a small flavored coffee with light milk.

5. Sporting Events

Sporting events are synonymous with hot dogs, Cracker Jacks®, steak and cheese subs, corn dogs, candy, soda, and beer. A single hot dog contains about 300 calories, 15 g of fat, and about half the daily recommended intake of sodium. Even worse, they often contain questionable ingredients, including artificial flavors, preservatives, and unspecified animal parts.

Damage Control: Stash snacks like pretzels, popcorn, nuts, carrot sticks, or fruit in your backpack or purse. If you want to eat at the game, choose a grilled chicken sandwich or a turkey burger over a steak and cheese sub, hot dog, or corn dog. Also remember to drink plenty of water, especially for summer day games, to stay hydrated and help manage your appetite.

Here’s some more damage control: Keep in mind the 80/20 rule for nutrition. Indulging in an extra snack or eating out one night doesn't mean your day is lost. Get back on track at your next meal. Be mindful of what you eat 80 percent of the time. Then, if you want, enjoy foods that may not meet the healthiest criteria the other 20 percent of the time. This is the 80/20 rule, and it’s a sensible approach to balance your cravings with your body’s needs. If your 20 percent becomes more like 50 percent, don’t feel discouraged. Click here for tips to recover from a blown day of eating.

Tags: Beverages, Health, Leisure Time, Eating Out, Snacks, Food