Make a trip to the mall without packing on pounds

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If there's one thing Americans know how to do, it's spend money, and consumers are expected to spend even more this holiday shopping season than last year.

By Pure Matters

Endless food peddlers and long, frustrating lines can make the mall a disaster for normally healthy eaters who grow hungry and tired. But there are some smart (and easy!) ways to avoid stress and keep your waistline in check while you shop.

Put Time and Place on Your Side
There are some advantages to starting your mall mission late in the day. First, you'll avoid hectic crowds. And you can also time your trip so that you're heading out after you've had a smart, satisfying dinner at home. If you feel like you'll still be tempted too munch, make the drugstore your first stop. Save calories and money by grabbing a bottled water and a snack bag of pretzels that you can stow away for later.

If you make a daytime shopping trip, it's still smart to eat first. Instead of waiting until you're crazed with hunger, start your trip energized from a nice lunch at a sit-down restaurant.

And don't forget to consider location. If you can, shop downtown or at an open-air plaza where you can stroll the streets with less assault from food aromas.

Do a Little (Surprising) Dining Research
You may think you can easily pick the healthiest item on the menu. Choose the turkey sandwich over pizza and you may think you're being wise, but looks can be deceiving. A turkey sandwich at Panera Bread comes on focaccia with cheese and mayo and delivers 970 calories. Two slices of pepperoni pan pizza from Pizza Hut total 520 calories. So make sure to look up a restaurant's nutrition facts before you eat there. Many establishments offer nutrition information online or in the store, from Taco Bell to Subway -- you may be surprised at what you learn. We were when we checked out Baskin Robbins: A medium strawberry-banana smoothie has 80 more calories than a strawberry milk shake!

Rev Up Your Calorie Burn
Sure, a few hours at the mall can work your body. But despite all those walking laps, hauling around shopping bags, and loading and unloading the car, you burn only about 400 calories on a typical trip -- that's about 1/10 of a pound. Want to do better? Short bursts of intense activity burn more calories -- and up to 36 percent more fat, according to a study published in Journal of Applied Physiology. Strolling around the mall for an hour works off about 150 calories; pick up the pace one minute out of every five to burn over one-third more calories. To get yourself prepared to move as you shop, wear comfortable walking shoes, and leave your coat in the car.

Treat Yourself to a Little Indulgence
Stop for a sample of soothing bath lotions, or try out a relaxing massage chair. You'll be less likely to eat from stress.

And remember that it's okay to indulge ... a little. At the candy store, a single, decadent truffle (0.4 ounces) is about 60 calories -- a perfect low-cal treat.

Happy shopping!