For the past few years, vacations with my family have been cruises or floating buffets. It can be difficult to manage your weight while still having a good time and treating yourself. Weekend getaways, BBQs, weddings all make it hard in the summer time as well. Luckily as a dietitian, I have some practice with this. Here is a guide to a healthy, but still indulgent, summer.
Planning Ahead for Traveling
1) Pack a meal. Finding a healthy meal in the airport or on a road trip can be quite the feat. Rather than searching for the one healthy choice on menus, why not be prepared and bring along a healthy sandwich? Pack your meal in an insulated bag with an ice pack for food safe traveling. For shorter trips, eat a healthy meal before you leave to make sure you don’t travel hungry.
2) Don’t forget snacks. Bring portion controlled snack choices like fruit, sliced veggies, granola bars, nuts, whole grain pretzels or crackers and string cheese for each member of your family so you don’t feel tempted to stop at fast food restaurants. Bring non-perishable snacks for the duration of your vacation too.
3) Pack exercise clothes. Don’t forget to bring clothes to workout to stay active on vacation!
4) Stay hydrated. Especially when traveling by airplane, you can easily dehydrate. Before getting on the plane, make sure you have water bottles to keep drinking during the flight. Alcohol will only dehydrate you further so stay away from alcohol during the flight.
5) Bring activities. If you tend to eat when you are bored, make sure you have plenty of activities to do on the airplane, in the car, etc. Eat only when you actually feel hungry and keep yourself and your family occupied with a movie, a book, cards, travel games, and car games like trivia
6) Take breaks. When traveling by car, take the time to pull over and take meal breaks. Stretch your legs, go for a walk, drink water and seltzer, and have a balanced meal from home to make sure you are well nourished for a long trip.
7) Get a good night’s sleep. No one likes to travel tired. If you are tired, you are also more likely to pick unhealthy choices.
When you get there…
1) Visit the grocery store. If you are staying in a hotel, it’s a great idea (and fun) to visit the local grocery store. Stock up on healthy snacks and water bottles.
2) Exercise daily. As much as you try, you are going to eat more than usual on vacation. Therefore, it’s important to offset the damage by staying active. Try to get in a workout everyday; swim laps in the pool/lake, go for a hike, go kayaking or canoeing, play tennis, go for a run on the beach, visit the gym, etc. Consciously include at least 30 minutes of exercise daily. I find it helps to start your day with physical activity to get it out of the way, especially if you are planning on enjoying some R and R poolside later on…
3) Be mindful when eating out. Eating out every meal on vacations, can be dangerous for weight maintenance. Here are some tips to make it through:
v Plan ahead and read the menu of places before you make reservations. Make sure they have healthy options to choose from.
v Use concierge and hotel recommendations to pick healthy restaurants.
v Think of your meal like a budget and determine how you want to spend your calories. Do you want an extra roll with dinner or another glass of wine? Alcohol or dessert? Make healthy substitutions to fit into your budget. Have a cappuccino instead of dessert, salad instead of an appetizer.
v Order 2 appetizers or half portions instead of full meals.
v Order as many vegetables as you can to fill up on fibrous nutritious calories. Try as much as possible to make ½ your plate full of non-starchy vegetables.
v Share options. Everyone can grab a spoon and have a bite of dessert.
v Question how foods are prepared. Don’t hesitate even if the menu says something is fried instead of baked. Waiters are more than happy to help you make healthy changes if you ask nicely!
v Look our for high fat cues including “alfredo, au gratin, basted, battered, béarnaise, benedict, breaded, buttery, casserole, country-style, creamy, crunchy (unless pertaining to vegetables), cheesy, crispy, dijonaise, escalloped, fried or deep fried, hollandaise, loaded, pan-fried, pink sauces, smothered, white sauce.”
v Order child sized portions. Want ice cream daily on vacation? Get a kiddie cone.
What about more tips specific to BBQs, weddings and parties?
v Eat sensibly the rest of the day. Choose a light healthy breakfast, for example, to offset damage for the rest of the day. Don’t skip meals!
v Get a good workout in beforehand to offset the damage.
v Don’t go hungry. Eating a snack beforehand if it is for a meal time party of a meal if is just for snacks.
v Keep track of passed appetizers, limiting yourself to just a few and fill up on crudités instead.
v Limit high calorie alcoholic beverages. Choose wine, straight hard alcohols, mohitos, wine or vodka spritzers, Skinny Girl alcohol options. Separate drinks with club soda or water.
4) Make one meal a day your indulgence. Stick to your general plan with 2 out of 3 meals per day. For example, if dinner will be the big meal each day, go easy on breakfast (omelet, fresh fruit, yogurt) and lunch (salads, light sandwiches) and enjoy your dinner.
5) What about the cruise ship?
Cruise ships and all-inclusive resorts are buffets with endless food choices. Here are some additional tips specific to these types of vacations:
v Scan the buffet first before picking any food options.
v Fill at least ½ your plate with healthy non-starchy vegetables.
v Take small portions and only fill your plate once.
v Don’t eat what you don’t like.
v Pick healthy options for the multi-course dinners. Choose fruits and vegetable options for your appetizers to reduce calories.
v Remember a snack is not a 4 or 5th meal. Snack on healthy choices like fruit, vegetables, dry cereal, peanut butter, yogurt from the buffet line. It also helps to bring snacks from home for day trips.
v We don’t need to be eating all we can eat! Have one plate full per meal.
6) Remember you are on vacation! It’s OK to indulge a little on vacation. If you work hard to be healthy all the time, it’s nice to have dessert at dinner or that extra glass of wine. You are not going to break the bank with one special treat per day especially if you are physically active.
Happy Summer Everyone!! Enjoy your vacations and weekend get-aways!!
--Amy Santo, MS RD CDN