Sunday, 30 June 2013

Taking Your Diet on Vacation (Surviving Summer Part 3)

Awww … really?  Do I have to?

Summer vacation (oh - who am I trying to kid … ANY vacation) is notorious for derailing two things: your budget and your diet!  I am planning/saving/hoping for a dream trip next year so there won’t a summer vacation trip for me this year.  That being said there will still be the weekend invitations to one cottage or another, the barbeques and the hot lazy days where I don’t feel like cooking.  Whether you are going on a vacation or having a stay-cation this year it’s still difficult to maintain those healthy eating habits when the rest of you is “taking it easy”.

There are basically two ways to approach the whole healthy vacation dilemma.

1.  You can make a conscious decision to stick to your eating plan while you are on holiday (I know it sounds impossible but there are people who manage to do just that!).  Or,

2.  You can just throw in the towel, put the diet on vacation too and accept the consequences on the scale when you get back.

Neither choice is wrong, but if you decide to follow the second course you need to accept that you may put on a few pounds.  You may put on more than a few.  Once in my younger, non-dieting days I traveled overseas on my vacation to visit family.  Now I don’t know what the deal is with European hosts, but food is definitely a sign of hospitality and unconditional love.  If you don’t eat they tend to feel a little offended.  Some cultures (yes, yes, you know who you are) also lean a little more towards the bread and pasta than the salad and protein.  I ended up gaining almost 12 pounds in 2 ½ weeks.  Back then it wasn’t so difficult to get it off.  Now, however, YIKES, that would set me for weeks. I find falling off your diet is like getting behind on your bills … it takes twice as long to get back on track than it did to derail in the first place.  I guess what I am trying to say is that if you choose to ignore calories while on vacation you MUST FORGIVE YOURSELF the minute you get back, the minute you get on the plane or pack the car for the return trip home.  Get right back on your program.  If you are going to beat yourself up, blame the world for the injustice of it all and never go back on your sensible eating plan … then, may I suggest you make a conscious decision to just eat sensibly while you are away.  It may be the lesser of two evils.

How do you stay on track while you are on vacation?   I’m so glad you asked …

All of the experts and bloggers and nutritionists and diet plans have different versions of “how to” when it comes to staying on your eating plan for a healthy vacation.  When you look closely enough they also all have the main strategies in common.  So let’s cut to the chase and look at those tips.  Most of the items I found (but not all) were also published in The Toronto Sun (June 23, 2013) and are from Molly Morgan, a board certified sports specialist dietitian and author of The Skinny Rules:  The 101 Secrets Every Skinny Girl Knows

1.  Do your homework.  Research your destination for nearby hiking trails, swimming pools, fitness centers, walking paths, bike rentals and yoga classes.  Staying active on vacation can help you return without packing on a few pounds.  Plus, it will get you out and about in the area that you are visiting.

2.  Pack your exercise essentials.  Don’t leave home without stretchy bands and a yoga mat.  Then you can squeeze in a little extra exercise in you hotel room.  There might be a rainy day or some time when your traveling companion is off doing something in which you do not want to participate.  If you forget the yoga mat try a hotel towel instead.  Don’t forget about your favourite workout clothes and sneakers.

3.  Stick to a schedule.  Easier said than done since travel schedules often go awry.  But be flexible and try to stick with at least three meals per day and healthy snacks in-between.  If you know you are going out for a fancier dinner, make lunch a bit lighter.  Skipping meals will wind up making you hungrier for the next meal and less likely to stick to your eating game plan.

4.  Get cooking.  If you can, try to arrange for accommodations that have a stove and a fridge.  This is my least favourite tip.  When I go on vacation I want to be on vacation from EVERYTHING including planning and making meals.   That said, even I have to admit that it does make a lot of sense and as Ms. Morgan points out, sometimes the extra cost of the accommodation is saved on not eating out for every meal and snack.

5.  Get groceries.  Among the first stops you should make when arriving at your destination is the grocery store.  You can stock up on dried fruit, nuts, peanut butter, whole whet bread, popcorn, bananas and apples.  If you have a refrigerator, grab some berries, low fat milk and cereal and yogurt for simple breakfasts or snacks.  Having these foods on hand will help keep your hunger in check and prevent overeating at mealtimes.  Again, it is definitely budget savvy to have breakfast, coffee and snacks (perhaps even lunch) in your room at least some of the time.

Okay, so the planning is done.  Yup, you’re feeling pretty good about the whole vacation/diet thing.  But the real test comes when you arrive at your destination.

6.  Plan for restaurants.  Restaurants are notorious for large portions.  Check out the menu and nutrition facts before you order.  Don’t be swayed by other’s choices.  Stick to your own plan!  Skip sauces, ask for double vegetables, order a meal of all side dishes such as sweet baked potato, broccoli and a side salad.

7.  Eat fruits and veggies.  Challenge yourself to have a fruit and/or vegetable with every meal.  For example, berries at breakfast, salad with lunch and double vegetables at dinner.  And NO french fries do not count!

8.  Don’t drink your calories.  This may seem like a no-brainer, but especially around beaches and hotels, fancy smoothies and soda seem to go hand-in-hand with sunbathing by the pool.  The sad fact is a strawberry daiquiri contains around 250 calories.  Down two, and you’ve taken in as many calories as an average meal.  If you want to indulge in the taste, many establishments offer mocktails so you do not blow your calories on alcohol.  You will save yourself from the calories and sugar.

9.  Pack your own snacks.  Ditch the bags of chips and high-sodium pretzels (not good for you … but especially not good in the hot weather as the salt aids in dehydration).  Pack your beach/pool bag with a filling trail mix and fresh veggies.  Celery and carrots have a high water content, that will not only help you stay hydrated but feeling full as well.

10.  Stay hydrated!  Stay hydrated!  Stay hydrated!  Try to keep a reusable bottle of water with you on vacation.  When you are out of your routine, sometimes water intake can quickly slip.  Having a water bottle with you helps to keep your water intake up while you are on the go.  Many amusements parks and popular tourist attractions offer free refills for reusable water bottles.  If you are traveling to a destination where it is not safe to drink the water, stock up on a case of water at the grocery store and avoid ice cubes in any of your drinks.

12.  Give yourself a break.  You are on vacation!  Excuses to fail don’t cut it when you are in your day to day to day routine, but one or two days off the perfect eating plan are not going to cause a major setback.  Eat well for two out of three meals a day and let yourself indulge just a bit for the third meal.  Treat yourself to a little decadence after a long day, or split a dessert with one or two other people.

Just as I was about the hit the "publish" button I came across this video giving tips from a chef on how to navigate a buffet while on vacation (or even while you are not on vacation).  It an be viewed at

Enjoy your vacation !

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