Going on holiday means freedom from regular life. There’s no fixed schedule. There’s no alarm clock. But if you normally watch what you eat, be prepared for a lot of temptation in the form of food and drink.
So how can you eat healthy when you travel? It’s not easy, but it can be done. With a little willpower and the tips below, you can stay on track the next time you’re on the road.
1. Watch the booze
Those fruity tropical drinks are plentiful, cheap and oh-so-tasty. But they’re also loaded with empty calories. A mai tai can pack 350 calories. A piña colada contains 400 calories. And Long Island ice tea? Try 700 calories, and that’s just for one! Most mixed drinks are loaded with calories. Beer (150 calories/355 ml or 12 oz) and wine (80 calories/120 ml or 4 oz) are lower in calories, but you may consume more.
If you do drink, drink in moderation. Drink hard liquor on the rocks or use diet mixers. And, if you like cocktails, choose drinks made with 100% juice – like a bloody mary (120 calories).
2. Back away from the buffet
All-inclusive resorts and most Vegas hotels offer all-you-can-eat buffets. If you’re paying, they’re a great deal. If they’re included, they’re an even better deal. But they can be terrible for your diet. If you must hit the line, be sure to pick foods that aren’t deep fried, breaded or lathered with high fat sauces. Start your meal with a bowl of non-creamy soup – it will help fill you up. Keep your portions small and only hit the trough once. If there’s a dessert buffet, you’re on your own. Just remember where that cheesecake is going to end up.
3. Don’t graze
Whether you’re out exploring or hanging in your hotel room, it’s easy to nibble. You might not be hungry, but if there’s a bowl of candy handy, it takes a lot of willpower to say no. When you’re playing tourist, schedule three meals a day. If you’re stuck inside, choose healthier options like veggies and fruit to snack on.
4. Don’t forget to exercise
Unless you’re lounging on the beach all day, you’ll likely get more exercise than normal just from all the walking you’re going to do. But if you’re used to a regular workout at home, there’s no excuse not to continue your routine on the road. Most resorts and hotels have gyms. If not, you can always buy a day pass at a local fitness facility.
5. Water is your friend
Drinking lots of water has many benefits while travelling: it cleans out toxins, it keeps you hydrated and it keeps you feeling full. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty, either. According to the Mayo Clinic, “if you drink enough fluid so that you rarely feel thirsty and produce 1.5 liters (6.3 cups) or more of colorless or light yellow urine a day, your fluid intake is probably adequate.” They also recommend a glass of water with each meal and between each meal and also before, during and after exercise.
6. Pack snacks
If you’re flying or driving long distances, consider packing fruit and vegetable snacks, or even simple meals like sandwiches made with whole wheat bread. Have a picnic instead of hitting the drive-thru. In the air, snack on healthy alternatives instead of what the airline offers – if they offer anything at all.
7. Skip the sides
In restaurants you can control excess calories by asking for sauces and dressings on the side and choosing entrées that are more protein and less carbs. Ask your waiter how things are prepared to get an idea of what you should be avoiding (excess butter, fat, rich sauces, etc). Ask about smaller or half-portions and don’t feel obligated to finish everything on your plate.
8. Choose plane food alternatives
Before hopping on a plane, make sure you eat first. This way you can avoid airline food/snacks if the flight is only a few hours long. For longer flights, call the airline in advance and request a specialty meal. The diabetic meal is healthier and just as filling. Many hotels will also restock room fridges with diabetic-friendly foods upon request. Avoid butter, dressings, etc. And, as mentioned above, bring your own healthy snacks and drink lots of water. Remember that booze and coffee dehydrates.
9. Read your labels
Most packaged foods list their ingredients, the number of calories and the grams of fat. Is something high in fat or calories? Avoid. Is sugar the number one ingredient? Run away! A little reading will go a long way to helping you make smart choices.
If you watch what you eat when you’re home, just apply many of the same rules while travelling. You’ll return home happy, rested and without extra baggage around the waist.