Committing to healthy eating habits can be a challenge. You have to pay particular attention to how you shop for groceries, which products and ingredients you buy and the exact recipes you prepare. But eating healthy at home is only half the battle. When you commit to a healthy eating lifestyle, restaurants, family gatherings and travel can seem like obstacles in your path to being well fed and nutritionally fit. What are some good choices you can make when dining out? How can you turn a family feast from a decadent overindulgence to a guiltless delight? Whether it"s a family vacation or business travel, what can you do that will keep you on task with the commitment to eat healthy? Let"s start by reviewing the basics. Jillian McMullen, a registered and licensed dietician in Northeast Florida, provides a brief overview of ideal daily caloric intake. "While individual needs may vary, for weight loss I generally recommend a daily intake of 1200 to 1500 calories," McMullen says. "That daily amount should include 40 to 45 grams of fat, 130 to 180 grams of carbohydrates and 60 to 75 grams of protein." She goes on to say fat grams should account for 25 to 30 percent of daily calories, carbohydrates should be between 45 and 50 percent and protein should range from 20 to 25 percent. To meet those dietary guidelines, she suggests that people strive for three moderate-sized meals that are approximately 300 to 450 calories each and three small snacks around 100 to 150 calories each per day. Also, be sure to include a lean source of protein like lean meats and poultry, skim milk, low-fat yogurt, cottage cheese or string cheese. These foods digest slower, keeping you satisfied longer. With the basics in mind, let"s explore some strategies for dining out. A)Make Smart Drive-Thru Choices Fast food doesn"t have to be unhealthy. When you are too busy to slow down, fast-food chains are quick, easy and inexpensive. As a general rule, McMullen says breakfast sandwiches, wraps or English muffins tend to be better choices than biscuits or croissants, which are both high in fat. For lunch or dinner, order a single-patty cheeseburger or hamburger, or a grilled chicken sandwich without mayonnaise. You can also stop by Subway for a low-fat sub. When you have the choice, opt for a side salad or fruit instead of fries. Check out Apple"s fast food calorie counter download "" it"s compatible with the iPhone and iPod touch and can help you make better choices at the drive-thru. B)Be a Techno-Savvy Eater When eating at a casual or fine-dining establishment, use technology to maximize your experience so you can eat healthy without compromising taste. Research the restaurant online ahead of time. Nearly all restaurants with a website list their menu options. Restaurants like Chili"s and Applebee"s have special menus for healthy eating, while places like P.F. Changs and Outback list nutritional information. P.F. Changs, for example, reveals calories, fat, protein, carbohydrate and fiber content; Outback provides nutritional information on the restaurant"s healthier items and includes an FAQ section that answers questions geared toward specific dietary needs. McMullen also recommends visiting ..calorieking.. where you can search nutrition facts on nearly 55,000 foods. You can also find calorie-counting booklets in many bookstores. C)Know the Lingo When it .es to dining in sit-down restaurants, have a clear understanding of the descriptive words written on the menu. Look for items that are baked, broiled or grilled as opposed to breaded, battered or fried. If you are having pasta, select a marinara sauce instead of an alfredo sauce. Ask for vinaigrette instead of a cream-based dressing. Words like "buttery," "cheesy" and "creamy" usually mean "Yes, this is fattening." You can also request that your meal be prepared with less oil or butter than is typically used. D)Less is More Be cognizant of portion sizes. "Restaurant menu items have grown to two to eight times the size of what is considered a healthy portion," McMullen says. She also cautions against added fats typically found in condiments. "Condiments can add tons of hidden calories to meals that otherwise would have been good choices. Ask for dressings and sauces on the side and veggies without butter or oils. This way you control how much of them you eat, not the cook," McMullen advises. Also, split the meal with a friend or ask for a box and put half of the meal in the box before you start eating. Either way you"ll get more for your dollar, by paying half the tab or making two meals out of one. You can also order an appetizer and side salad as your full meal. E)Stay Hydrated McMullen re.mends drinking eight to ten glasses of water daily. "Dehydration leads to fatigue, sweet cravings and even hunger. If you are hungry, try drinking one to two cups of water. You may find that the hunger disappears after about 20 minutes. In fact, about 75% of American adults are chronically dehydrated. We are simply not drinking enough water." Be a Well-Fed Traveler Restaurants are one thing. How do you turn down a favorite aunt"s dessert at a family gathering? McMullen says that it"s okay to partake as long as it"s not a regular occurrence. And while the occasional indulgence is fine, when your social calendar is full, take steps to cut down on calories. If you"re at a family gathering, focus on the .pany instead of the food. And rather than slump onto the couch after dinner, go for a walk with a few family members. If you are headed to a gathering you suspect to be particularly gluttonous, offer to bring a big healthy salad for your host. Finally, when it"s time for dessert, keep your portions small or share with someone. When you are on vacation, kick back and relax, but be aware of how much you are eating. If elaborate dinners out are included in your plans, be sure to eat sensibly at breakfast and lunch. Also, bring along snacks so you aren"t famished and making poor choices at mealtime. Shift your focus, too. Instead of centering your vacation on dining experiences, explore the terrain and build memories around activities like golfing, hiking, skiing, snorkeling and diving. Or, visit a local farmer"s market. Not only will you stock up on fresh fruits and veggies, but you"ll have the opportunity to check out local culture and fare. If you are out of town on business, make sure your hotel has a refrigerator and microwave and stock up on healthy snacks at a local grocery or natural food store. Anytime you are staying in a hotel, take advantage of the lighter fare at the continental breakfast. On the Healthy Road Again No matter where you are, .mit to an eating plan"and follow it. When you incorporate healthy routines into your day "" even when you"re away from home "" you travel farther down the path to healthier living. By doing your homework and making smart choices while dining out, healthy eating be.es less of an obstacle and more of a way of life. Enjoy"in Moderation Gone are the days when dining out was reserved for special occasions. When you dined out a few times a year, a little indulgence was okay. According to the National Restaurant Association, restaurants will generate $558.3 billion in sales in 2008, up from $379 billion in 2000. 2008 Florida sales alone are projected at $26.9 billion. Since we are eating out more than ever, the simple fact that we are in a restaurant doesn"t merit indulging in a large fried entre or a decadent four-layer dessert. The National Restaurant Association provides the following tips when it .es to eating healthy at your favorite restaurant: 1)Select leaner cuts of meat 2)Enjoy seafood and fish flavored with spices and fresh herbs since they often have less fat and sodium. 3)Instead of depriving yourself of dessert when you are in the mood for something sweet, opt for fresh berries or yogurt. 4)If you"d like a particular entre modified, speak up and ask; the restaurant industry is customer-centric and is happy to ac.modate.