Coming home from a great trip doesn’t mean having to lug back extra pounds you slapped on while sampling exotic food on your vacation. In fact, one of the first trips I took after my last pregnancy was to an all-inclusive resort — picture expansive buffets here — and I came back 3 pounds lighter. This may not seem like a big deal but after being exposed to the miles of desserts and oceans of drinks, it sure felt like it! I asked some nutrition experts to write out their top five tips for the best ways we could enjoy our travels and still feel great when we get home.
You’re finally not stuck in front of your computer all day, the kid’s club will watch your children, this is the perfect time to try out that salsa class! Ashley Larsen, a registered dietician, recommends starting your activities right away. “Even when waiting at the airport, do some speed walking around the terminal or find a set of stairs to climb while you wait,” Larsen suggested. It’s also a great way to burn off some of that flight anxiety for those who have it. Melissa Pine, an RDN who’s also manager of consumer affairs for Pharmavite, says to take advantage of the location you’ll be visiting. “If you are on a beach vacation, then take a walk or run on the beach. Get active with water sports such as snorkeling, canoeing, paddle boarding, you will burn tons of calories. On snow vacations, skiing and sledding will kick your metabolism into action.” And there’s always the gym. But if your hotel doesn’t have one and you’re on a business trip without the time to explore or take walking tours, Elizabeth Stacey Ellis, a certified strength and conditioning coach, created a travel fitness program called #TravelWithEase that provides clients with simple, 15-minute workouts you can do right in your hotel room. For me, starting each day with either Zumba or some other cardiovascular class and then playing in the ocean with my kids really helped me feel good about adding a few extra calories throughout the rest of my day.
Pack It In!
Before our trips, I always stock up at Trader Joe’s with my favorite snacks such as banana chips, nuts and jerky. These no-sugar, high-protein, good-fat bites keep me sane so I’m not short with my bickering kids or grabbing at sweets and calorie-dense foods because I’m “starving.” Bring a bag of healthy snacks you can nibble on during flights, bus and city tours or between meals so you’re not tempted to grab at anything to fill your tummy. Pine recommends almonds, walnuts, dried and fresh fruit, and nutrition bars with at least four grams of protein and three grams of fiber. Ellis suggests bringing along your protein shake mix in little portion-sized baggies along with your metal-ball shaker for an easy, healthy snack to keep blood levels stable and your disposition cheery.
The Glass is Half Full
Those frilly, little, frozen drinks are the source of many extra calories, especially when you’re letting loose on vacation. Larsen wrote, “Some easy ways to lighten up your cocktails is to order light beer, wine spritzers (wine with sparkling water added to it), or one shot of liquor mixed with club soda and a squeeze of citrus or splash of juice. This will take your drinks down to about 100 calories each. Set your limit before you start and hydrate in between drinks.” Some other options, wrote Pine, is choosing red wine for the extra antioxidants and Moscow Mules, without the simple syrup, run about 80 calories each.
If you are at an all-inclusive, you will be tempted daily with tons of options, many of which have way too much sugar or carbs with rich, tasty sauces. But you can also choose tasty, healthier options too. “Find the leanest piece of protein, like grilled chicken or fish, and avoid extra sauces or breading. For a side, choose fresh, steamed or grilled veggies,” wrote Ellis. Pine breaks it down even more, “Fill at least ½ your plate with vegetables, 1/4 of your plate with lean protein and the other 1/4 of your plate with your choice of carbohydrate, preferably whole grain.” Our all-inclusive resort was on the beach, so the fish options were plentiful and delicious. I didn’t feel deprived at all and I waited until the end of our week-long trip to try a few bites of the richer foods. Sometimes, I would take bread or dessert and just have a bite. I got all the taste without all the damage. “Don’t deprive yourself by not eating desserts, but if you do, share them with those you love and enjoy each bite!” advises Pine.
Listen to Your Body
How often do you leave a restaurant or a delicious dinner and lament how stuffed you feel? Despite how wonderful the food was, it’s hard to enjoy the experience if you’re feeling like you could roll home. If you eat slowly, then your brain will get the message your stomach is full. That’s when you stop eating. This is challenging if the food is incredibly prepared and enjoyable or you have cranky kids who are demanding a hasty exit from the restaurant. “Aim to eat to 80% fullness,” wrote Ellis, “Since we don’t always have time to slow down and savor each bite when traveling, aiming to eat to about 80% fullness is a great habit to adopt.”