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Feed yourself before fighting mall crowd


Energize your shopping this year. Stop for a quick bite before you indulge in shopping fun.

Nothing is worse than shopping on an empty stomach, whether you're skipping lunch to squeeze in chores or hitting the stores straight from a hard day's work.

Going too long without eating makes most people tired, cranky, irritable and just no fun to be around. Feeling hassled drives the joy from the holiday preparations that would otherwise give us lots of pleasure.

Malls and shopping districts have set a festive stage with plenty of lights and decorations. Many showcase carolers at noon as well as evening, to add to the holiday spirit.

Food courts are ready, too. They offer a wide variety of healthy choices to fuel your shopping and speed you on your way.

I was pleasantly surprised by a smallish mall last week. It had only eight food shops, but each offered several choices, ready in no time, tofit any shopper's healthy eating plan.

An Oriental food express featured a steamed vegetables with chicken and rice special, as well as low-fat soy-flavored chicken with broccoli. For vegetarians, it served tofu over rice.

The Italian shop offered both plain cheese and vegetable pizzas. One or two slices, along with their garden salad and/or minestrone soup would make a satisfying high vegetable, low-fat meal.

A shake place with a soup bar featured clam chowder, Maryland crab and chicken noodle soups. Any one of those would go great with the grilled chicken sandwich, and a fruit shake for dessert.

A totally turkey stand offered seven kinds of bread ad both honey and bran mustard. Its heart-healthiest selections list both fat and calorie counts. Interesting variations include a turkey pasta salad and turkey with barbecue sauce.

Farther along, a deli bar offered lean roast beef, imported ham and sliced chicken breast for sandwiches, a variety of soups, and cooked vegetables like carrots and green beans.

Most surprising of all, two shops blatantly dedicated to greasy food also offered low-fat choices.

The burgers and fries shop served baked potatoes as well as grilled chicken sandwiches. The cheesesteak store offered grilled ham, turkey or chicken on a garden salad; a turkey or chicken sandwich topped with grilled onions, mushrooms, green peppers and cheese; a grilled vegetarian sandwich and a side salad.

Even the premium ice cream stand offered super low-fat cones at only nine calories an ounce.

At all these places you'll want to watch portion sizes. If servings are too big, share with a friend. Also, order salads and sandwiches with dressings and spreads on the side, so you retain control over added fat.

Everyone's getting into the act to keep us healthy and happy throughout the holidays. Take a little time to eat, relax and enjoy before you start you shopping spree!

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