Are you going traveling soon? I know from personal experience how easy it is to put on weight and fall off track with your health efforts and routine when you go.
This blog really applies to those of you who follow quite a strict health routine and need some guidance on how to maintain that on holiday. It is not to say that a little weight gain is bad or to imply that you should be super strict on holidays. I am just writing it in the effort to help those who are interested.
It's too easy for some of us to pile on two or three kilos in one week without even knowing, so I want to share with you some simple tips that I use to stay on track as best I can. This is probably the first time I have come back from a holiday actually feeling healthier than before...
For me, enjoying food is one of the most exciting and enjoyable experiences when I go away and a little weight gain is totally normal. You want to enjoy yourself and treat it as a holiday after all. But at the same time, realising you've gained too much weight is horrible and it gets harder and harder to lose as you get older.
I've learnt the feeling of coming home feeling healthy far outweighs the short-lived moment of over-doing it and totally messing up your health routine. So now, every time I travel I do my best to stay on top of my health, whilst still leaving room for some indulgences of course.
Now that I’m a practicing Nutritionist and have at least 10 years of research under my belt, I've experimented with certain techniques when I travel to help me stay on track as best I can.
It's all about finding the right balance allowing you to enjoy a variety of food and some treats (which may involve slight weight gain) but not so much that you feel horrible when you get home.
1. Eat out, but not at every meal!
Too often people feel the need to eat out at every single meal when they’re on holiday. You don’t need to go out for breakfast, lunch AND dinner. If you’re doing this, chances are you’re eating too much and also eating when you’re not hungry. By simply eating restaurant prepared food, no matter how healthy it may sound, you're always eating more calories than you would if you cooked it yourself. There’s a reason why meals out taste so good.
To balance things out I personally choose to dine out for one or two meals per day. The other meal will consist of whole foods that I source from a local grocery store. I also like to make sure I can enjoy myself when I dine out and eat until I’m totally satisfied. So, to allow for this, the other meals (or snacks) of the day will always be light and low calorie.
For the home cooked meal I'll go for something like a big bowl of greens, flavoured with garlic and chilli with some eggs or meat and a little olive oil. For snacks, I'll have whole fruits, plain, natural yogurt, veggie sticks with a healthy dip, olives or a handful of nuts.
I also find, in general, two large meals with smaller snacks or treats in between works well. Typically on holiday I like to consume a big brunch and dinner. This means that there's room for an indulgent treat some afternoons or an extra glass of wine with dinner. People pile on the weight when they have three main meals, plus extra wine, treats and snacks on top of it all. It’s just simply too much when done for three or more days in a row.
2. Plan ahead!
Do your research before you get to your destination to find out where the health food stores, grocery stores and healthy restaurants are. When you arrive, do a little shop to buy some fresh, whole foods that you can have on hand and eat in-between your meals. Stock up your fridge so you always have healthy food on hand when you get hungry. Hotels and convenience stores tend to only offer unhealthy snacks or meals that you will more likely turn to if you're not prepared.
Also, before you arrive, book restaurants that suit your style of eating so you know you'll be able to eat well there. For breakfast or brunch I personally like to find organic health food cafes that have paleo style options with lots of vegetables.
Obviously this isn't always possible in places like Greece and other European destinations. So, eggs are always a great option as they'll keep you full for a very long time and omelettes are great, they always seem to make an appearance in many countries.
For dinner, my favourite cuisine is Mediterranean. I would limit Asian style restaurants (not including Japanese) to once (on a holiday of 4-7 days) as this cuisine is often loaded with sugar, lots of sodium and hidden nasty’s.
There are obviously many exceptions here and more tips in terms of what to choose at restaurants but I am trying to be brief! For a personalized guide on what to choose at restaurants and how to eat well in your chosen destination, please click here and send me an email! I can make you one for only $40.
3. Walk everywhere and plan some active adventures.
You miss so much when you jump in an Uber or hop on a train. Some of the best times I've had on holidays have been when I've decided to walk as opposed to using public transport. The kms add up SO quickly as you're always seeing new things and never getting bored. All of this extra walking helps you burn through so many more calories, which allows for the extra food you'll be consuming… yes! You’;; be so surprised (and proud) at the end of the day when you see how much distance you‘ve travelled if you track it on an app.
Also, schedule in some enjoyable activities that involve exercise! You definitely don’t have to sweat it out at the gym on holiday if you don’t feel like it. Go for a hike, hire a kayak or go bike riding to explore the landmarks of the city. This way you’re getting exercise whilst also having fun... and holidays should always be fun.
4. Skip the "extras" and avoid these calorie traps!
On most nights, leave out the bread before your meals, the pastry with your breakfast and the peanuts with your pre-dinner drinks. All of these extra foods could easily add up to the amount of calories that you require for an entire day. Just try to stick to your usual way of eating as much as you can, with the exception of a few days where you indulge a little more, ideally on days where you have been more active.
Hidden sugar and calories are every where when you travel and they're definitely the main reason for rapid weight gain. Here are a few tips to help you avoid them as much as possible.
Avoid "welcome drinks" and fruit juice
If you have a buffet style breakfast at your hotel, avoid flavoured yogurts, pastries, pancakes, maple syrup, jam and toasted muesli. Instead opt for eggs, greens, mushrooms, tomatoes, bacon, meats, nuts, natural yogurt, whole fruits and dark grainy breads. If you fill up on these kinds of food.. you won't feel the need to eat until mid arvo or even dinner time.
Choose wine and vodka sodas over cocktails.
Skip the dessert or share with a friend.
Go without sticky sauces and dips.
Ask for the waiter to not bring bread to your table. If you want to nibble before your meal, some better options would be olives, cold meats, caprese salads, grilled seafood and grilled vegetables.
Ask for your dressing to be served on the side if you order a salad.
Order vegetables to bulk up your meals instead of rice if you order curries, casseroles or stir fries.
5. When you're flying...
Plane food can be a serious hit and miss. I always find it fun to get a meal but I'll usually make sure I eat a well balanced, healthy meal before I get on the plane. I try to choose a meal that has some eggs or meat and veg in it and leave out everything else. Definitely leave out the yogurt as it is almost always a flavoured one with an extremely high sugar content. I;ll also always make sure I pack a zip lock bag of almonds and some dark chocolate incase I get hungry instead of the ice creams, biscuits, chocolates or crackers that are usually offered.
As for drinks, go for water (lots and lots of it!), tea and coffee. If you are going to enjoy an alcoholic drink, choose a red wine or a spirit. Don’t go for beer, cocktails, sweet wine or liqueurs. And remember, fruit juice can contain as much sugar as some sodas so leave them out.
Did you know the more dehydrated we are, the more water we retain? We all know that puffy feeling we get after we fly. Prevent this by annoying your flight attendant every hour and asking for a bottle of water. Limiting the carbohydrates when you fly will also help.
I hope you enjoyed reading. Please ask me any questions that you may have and if you would like a personalised meal plan and/or a personalised guide for your holiday, click here!