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Savvy Shopping Tips for the Food Court

"One of the sure signs of autumn's arrival is a surge of traffic around area malls as stores up their advertising for big fall sales and fashionistas hit the racks in search of the must have shapes and colors of the season. The hunt is on for shoe booties, chunky sweaters, cropped jackets, wide leg pants, waist cinching big belts and everything goes with gray! This fashion mission is a lot of work and you can really work up an appetite. But, before you lament in front of a dressing room mirror that those skinny jeans just don't look the way they do in the magazines make sure that your trip to the mall's food court doesn't add inches to any problem areas. No need to find comfort in the alluring aromas of a hot cinnamon bun if you arm yourself with some savvy shopper tips for snacks or meals at the mall.  Every smart shopper knows you start with a list and know your budget to prevent wandering off course when you walk into the temptation of gorgeous displays of merchandise. The same goes for navigating the diverse choices at many food courts today. There's everything from fried chicken to Chinese food and as enthusiastic folks behind the counter offer tastes to lure you in – you have to be strong in your resolve to continue surveying the scene until you find what fits you best.  
Shopping List for Healthy Foods at the Mall

1.       Great taste never goes out of style: it has to be something you like to eat. Don't sulk with a dressing-less salad and bottle of water. If you crave something tasty then add half the packet of dressing to the salad or choose a low fat dressing. Order unsweetened ice tea with a splash of sweet tea or lemonade.   
2.       Don't blow your budget: choose a meal that fits your fat and calories limits. Sure that chocolate chip cookie the size of a hub cap looks really delicious but blowing all of your calories on that is like spending all your money on a pair of shoes and having none left over to buy the dress you wanted.     
3.       Choose slimming foundations: whole grains, lean meats, low fat dairy, fruits and vegetables should be the base of your meal. So, at the Asian stir fry place request lots of veggies with just a little oil. Getting a salad? Make sure it's full of vegetables- not croutons and blue cheese crumbles. Feel like a chocolate milk shake? See if there's a place with chocolate low fat or non fat milk and see if that calms the craving. At the Italian place rather than a heaping plate of pasta and meatballs; request two or three meatballs with some cooked vegetables or a side salad.
4.       Beware of flash in the pan trends: just because "everyone's eating it!" doesn't mean a food fad is good for your diet. Let's face it. The color gray is not attractive on everyone and if consuming deep fried candy bars or gigantic fruit smoothies is all the rage now- you don't have to play along. But, trends can be a good thing too. Many places now offer whole grain versions of their sandwich bread, wraps or pizza crust so take advantage of that relatively new healthy option.
5.       Think about what it adds to your look: certain nutrients in foods can help you meet health goals. Rather than worrying about what NOT to eat; cruise the food court in search of foods and ingredients that add good nutrition. Pile that pizza slice high with whatever veggies they have on hand. Ask to biggie size the lettuce and tomato serving on your burger. At Chic-fil-A, I request a roll toasted without the usual butter and use their carrot raisin salad to add a flavor and texture twist to the chicken sandwich. The 4 ounce carrot raisin salad contains 170 calories but it counts as a vegetable serving and provides 2 grams of fiber and 210% of your vitamin A needs for the day.   
6.       Accessorize wisely: condiments and beverages can sabotage an otherwise stylish meal. You can ruin an outfit with too many baubles, bangles and beads and same goes for adding accessories to your plate. Go easy on the shredded cheese added to salads, melted butter on popcorn, gooey cheese sauce poured over nachos, pepperoni and sausage added to pizza, crushed candies and chopped nuts on frozen desserts.  Less is more in fashion and in food and nutrition.


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