How to Eat Healthy and Still Have Fun on Vacation
The thing is, even if you're among the lucky few who actually make it to your goal figure before setting out the beach umbrella and blanket, you're still not in the clear. Eating healthfully and maintaining a workout regimen while on vacation can be even harder than normal because you're taken out of the familiar environment that is your own kitchen and gym and plopped down somewhere unusual where the temptation to overeat and over-relax—is there really such a thing?—can be overwhelming.
My thought is this: Why would I spend six months getting ready to enjoy myself and a week letting all my good habits go to waste? It makes any vacation decidedly less fun when the results you've worked so hard to achieve start slipping away and you're left hanging loose in more ways than you wanted. I'm certainly not an advocate of ruining a vacation by worrying about working out or eating healthily, but it's possible to find a good balance and enhance your vacation experience through your healthy choices.
Next: 10 tips to help you get the most fun and health out of your vacation
Don't feel like you have to stick to the same old boring workout video you've been doing for the last month. I like to develop special vacation workouts that are different than anything I could do at home. For instance, on a recent trip with my family, the driveway to the hotel was long and winding, with quarter-mile uphill stretch along a cliff overlooking a beautiful lake. Family members and I developed a special run that made the most of this natural beauty and exhausting terrain, which transformed the workout into another way to explore the area.
Granted, I was very excited to return to flat ground at the end of our stay, but it was definitely a memorable and unique workout I could only have experienced on that particular holiday. Whether it's a rock climb, hike, mile-long swim or outdoor yoga, almost every destination holds a unique opportunity to work out in a way that doesn't feel anything like the elliptical at home.
2. Eat Off the Land
Whenever you're traveling somewhere with beautiful, fresh produce, try sticking to "real" foods that haven't been overly processed or slathered in sauce. Not only will these whole foods be some of the freshest and most vibrant flavors around, they will help you to crowd out some of the less healthy alternatives. In the United States and Western Europe, it's usually safe to eat fruits and veggies raw, though it's still a good idea to wash them first. If you're headed somewhere where hygiene or food poisoning might be an issue, make sure you're eating cooked or peeled produce only.
3. Get Cultured
Eat plenty of yogurt while on vacation. This will ensure you have a healthy balance of intestinal flora to help fend off invading bacteria from the food or environment in a new place. Also, yogurt is a great source of protein and, with a little bit if fat, it will help you stave off hunger pangs as a midmorning or afternoon snack. It's also really interesting to taste the difference in dairy products around the world, based on how the cows are raised. In the United States, for instance, factory-farmed, corn-fed cows create dairy products with a pretty bland taste all around, whereas European pasture-grazing cattle provide for really rich and creamy dairy.
4. Sample the Local Flavor
I try to eat a primarily vegetarian diet while at home, but when I head out of town, I make sure to sample at least a small bite of all the local specialties—like alligator carpaccio in South Africa, which was totally foul but so worth trying. Often, these unique textures and flavors help color my travel memories better than anything else. If you decide to switch your vacation diet to primarily local foods, chances are you'll eat smaller portions and won't be tempted by something you could have at home, like ice cream or cake.
5. Fiber Up!
Do you routinely experience "traveler's constipation"? It's probably a result of too little fiber and water intake. Additionally, when you're in unfamiliar territory and your body doesn't know whether it will have a chance to pass a bowel movement in safety—good old evolutionary protection mechanisms—it will try to hold it in. To make sure everything flows smoothly, travel with fiber supplements and to be sure to drink at least half your body weight in ounces of water every day (for instance, a 140-pound woman should drink 70 ounces of water). Once your body has a chance to relax and settle in, things should regulate on their own too.
Just like at home, it's good to stop eating a couple hours before bedtime so that your body isn't up all night digesting a hearty meal. Additionally, it may be easier to get a reservation at your preferred spot if you eat at off-peak hours. Of course, eating late can't always be avoided. If that's the case, skip your main course and opt for a second, appetizer-size portion instead. Also, consider sharing a bunch of appetizers around the table so that you get to sample a maximum number of dishes without eating a huge meal. The uniqueness of flavors and settings offered when you're on vacation can make smaller portions more satisfying than usual.
7. Eat Carbs Early
As I mentioned before, I'm a huge fan of sampling local specialties, even if that means eating something I'd try to avoid at home like a simple carbohydrate-laden special pastry or a unique kind of bread, pasta, rice dish. Complex carbs are preferable, of course, for their fiber and protein content.
To minimize the weight gain from simple carbs, try to eat them earlier in the day. This gives your body a chance to use up the sugar (calories) they offer up to your blood stream so readily. Unless it's unavoidable (e.g., made fresh on the premises by a master baker), try to skip bread and other simple carbs at dinner and then enjoy your pastry again in the morning, guilt-free!
8. Take in the Sights
One of my favorite ways to explore and experience a new place is to check out the farmers' markets. You really get a sense for the vibrancy of a place and get to see what the locals eat. Moreover, you might get an opportunity to visit a farm and see the whole thing for yourself. Make your eating an adventure, whether it's picking your own peaches or catching your own fresh fish, and you can fit eating healthy food and daily exercise into one activity.
9. Pack Comfortable Shoes
If you're staying in a place where you could walk to see the sights or get to the town center, take in the sights on a power walk. There's no easier exercise than the kind you don't even know you're doing, so distract yourself with an adventure while you burn the calories from your scrumptious, extravagant meals. You never know the kind of hidden gems familiar vacation spots can reveal when you try a new path.
You're supposed to be on vacation, after all. Leave some time for R&R so that, when you arrive home tan and svelte, you're ready to hop back into life full-speed.
What are your stay-healthy secrets when you vacation? Share your comments below.
Daphne Oz is the author of the national best-seller The Dorm Room Diet—now available in paperback—and The Dorm Room Diet Planner and creator of the Dorm Room Diet Workout DVD.
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