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My idea of a great summer Saturday is being in Sea Isle City with good friends, power-walking in the morning with my yellow Lab, Hannah, playing a round of tennis, then sitting down with a big plate of steamed shrimp as the sun sets. I am convinced food just tastes better down the Shore. Eating on vacation is something we all look forward to. There are those special foods most of us associate with happy summertimes, but, without some planning, it’s easy to pack on the pounds.

Here are some summer eating tips to keep vacations fun and you healthy:

Conscious eating. You should be aware of everything going into your mouth and plan accordingly. If you eat consciously, you’ll actually enjoy food more and can arrange for treats without overdoing it.

Traveling. Car trips can be a caloric disaster. It’s easy to stop at every convenience store or fast-food restaurant along the way. Instead, pack a cooler with healthy snacks of nuts, fruits, granola and bottled water. If you want those french fries on the Boardwalk later, why not make sensible choices earlier?

Breakfast. I can’t stress enough how important this meal is on vacation. Having a good one (and I don’t mean the pancake house every day) will give you energy and prevent the extreme hunger that can lead to poor food choices. This is especially true for beach-goers. Do not head to the sand and surf without eating — you can become dehydrated and lightheaded when there’s no fuel. And there’s the risk you’ll be so hungry you’ll pounce on the first hot dog or ice cream cone you see. Eating a piece of fruit, some cereal or yogurt early in the day is the way to go.

Barbecues. Be aware of the menu and make wise choices. Have a burger, but opt for a turkey one if possible, and think about skipping the roll. Eat the veggies, green salad and watermelon and be conservative with mayonnaise-filled salads. There is nothing wrong with having a taste of everything, but don’t overload it — this isn’t the last supper. Leave the party feeling good, not like you’re so stuffed you can’t breathe.

Drinking. We forget beverages can be sugary and fattening. Limit alcoholic drinks to special occasions. Soft drinks are really liquid candy. Even some of those flavored iced coffees are loaded with hidden fats and calories. A big glass of unsweetened ice tea with lemon, orange or mint leaves is cool and refreshing. And drink plenty of water, as it cools and hydrates the body, especially during a workout.

Exercise. If you have been working out all winter, terrific. If not, summer is the perfect time to get started. So have your favorite Kohr Brothers’ custard, but burn off the calories. Walk, swim or join classes. Get off the couch. Move, breathe and transform yourself.

Debra Mazda is an exercise physiologist, certified personal trainer and president of ShapelyGirl Fitness, which includes workout DVDs, CDs and an online community at www.debramazda.com. Contact her at debra@debramazda.com.

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