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FINDING LOW-CAL FOODS TO FUEL YOUR TRIP

Many of us will hit the road this summer, and that means fueling up - our cars and ourselves. Convenience stores are becoming quick-service restaurants in our time-starved culture - a phenomenon that can be costly if you're counting calories. Take a look and see if you can make the "right choices" to stay fit.

7-Eleven Slurpee or a pint of Haagen-Dazs chocolate ice cream

Of course the ice cream has more calories, but the difference is smaller than you might think. A Coca-Cola Classic Slurpee has 330 calories and about 88 grams carbs for about 22 ounces. The 40-ounce Slurpee is nearly double at 600 calories, 160 grams carbs. By comparison, a pint of Haagen-Dazs has 1,080 calories. But a Haagen-Dazs Vanilla & Almonds Bar has only 320 calories, 12 grams fat and 22 grams carbs.

Fit Tip: Try a 12-ounce Crystal Light Raspberry (or Lemon-Lime) Ice Slurpee for just 50 calories or a 22-ounce for 90 calories. Or have the Diet Pepsi Slurpee - it's virtually calorie-free!

Potato chips versus terra chips versus peanut butter sandwich crackers

They're all pretty much the same calorie-wise, because the chips typically come in 1.5- or 2-ounce bags.

-Terra Chips (per ounce): 140 calories, 7g fat, 18g carbs

-Wise Potato Chips (per ounce): 150 calories, 10g fat, 14g carbs

-Frito Lay Peanut Butter Sandwich Crackers (one package): 210 calories, 10g fat, 23g carbs

Fit Tip: Choose the smallest bag of chips - don't pretend you're going to share or save some for later. Or try a fresh-fruit cup or an apple, orange or banana for a lower-calorie, more nutritious snack.

Sausage, egg and cheese on english muffin versus a banana walnut muffin.

The banana muffin may sound safe, but it's quite "expensive" at 605 calories, 30 grams of fat and 72 grams carbs. The breakfast combo is a much better deal at 450 calories, 24 grams fat and 37 grams carbs.

Fit Tip: Go for small packs of cereal (90 to 150 calories) and use skim milk. Also, if you're getting an egg sandwich or burrito, choose either sausage or ham or cheese - not both meat and cheese. And you can always remove one of the links or take off some of the cheese before you heat it up.

7-Eleven 1/4 -pound Big Bite versus Don Miguel beef steak burrito

The 1/4 -pound Big Bite hot dog has 365 calories, 34 grams fat, 2 grams carbs and 1,138 milligrams sodium, plus 120 calories for the bun, which adds up to 485 calories. It's close, but the 7-ounce burrito has 390 calories, 8 grams fat, 61 grams carbs and 930 milligrams sodium, making it the better bargain.

Fit Tip: Get the 1/8 -pound Big Bite hot dog for 280 calories (including the bun) - not bad if you only have one. Watch the condiments - especially the cheese and chili, which can add more than 250 calories. When it comes to burritos, stick to the 5-to-7-ounce size (300 to 500 calories) and avoid the 10-ounce (600 to 700 calories).

Ready Pac chicken caesar salad versus Mediterranean-style turkey sandwich versus a hot Pocket ham & cheese

Be careful - the salad package reads 230 calories, but there are two servings, so the total is 460 calories, 42 grams fat, 8 grams carbs and 1,220 milligrams of sodium. The Hot Pocket Ham & Cheese is the worst at 540 calories, 18 grams fat, 74 grams carbs and 1,410 milligrams sodium. The turkey sandwich (400 calories, 14 grams fat, 43 grams carbs and 1,540 milligrams sodium) is the winner. Turkey is normally a healthy choice, but beware - most convenience-store sandwiches are prepackaged, so you can't "hold the mayo" or the high-calorie special sauces.

Fit Tip: Sauces load on calories, so scrape off any excess - just 1 tablespoon of mayo (the typical base for many sauces) has 100 calories. Look for low-calorie soup; many times all you have to do is heat it up or add hot water.

Nutri-Grain Bar versus Power Bar versus Clif Bar versus Snickers

The Nutri-Grain Bar is lowest in calories, but it's also about a third of the size of the others. If it satisfies you and you don't mind the sugar, the trans fat and the processing, it would be your best bet.

-Nutri-Grain Bar: 140 calories, 3g fat, 27g carbs (contains high-fructose corn syrup and trans fat)

-Chocolate Power Bar: 230 calories, 2g fat, 45g carbs (contains high-fructose corn syrup)

-Chocolate Brownie Clif Bar: 240 calories, 4.5g fat, 45g carbs (organic and contains no trans fat)

-Snickers bar: 280 calories, 14g fat, 35g carbs (contains sugar, saturated and trans fat)

Fit Tip: Probably the hardest part of leaving a convenience store without buying anything unhealthy is staring at the candy bars while you're waiting in line. Stay focused and avoid impulse buys.

Arizona iced tea with ginseng versus Gatorade versus orange juice

The iced tea has 175 calories and 45 grams carbs for a 20-ounce bottle, while 16 ounces of Tropicana Pure Premium Orange Juice Original has 220 calories, 52 grams carbs, 900 milligrams potassium and all that vitamin C. In terms of calories, however, Gatorade wins with 50 calories, 14 grams carbs per 8 ounces.

Fit Tip: Choose no-calorie flavored coffee, like 7-Eleven's chocolate cherry coffee, and use skim milk.

Charles Stuart Platkin is a syndicated health, fitness and nutrition columnist. Write to info@thedietdetective.com.