You finally have the opportunity to take a well deserved break from your daily routine and treat yourself to some rest and relaxation, and you want to be able to enjoy it. But when you’re trying to lose weight, a vacation can be downright frightening, filled with all kinds of temptations: lavish meals at restaurants and all-you-can-eat buffets. Is there a way to go on vacation without derailing your weight loss efforts?
Vacation is a cause of worry for many people who are adjusting to healthy habits, as it can bring many temptations that don’t occur in day-to-day life. People understandably want to enjoy themselves when on vacation, but people who work hard to look after their body and their health don’t want to jeopardize their efforts and backslide by throwing all caution to the wind.
We’re going to suggest eight tips for all those heading out on vacation who want to preserve the improvements in habits and health they’ve acquired with their lifestyle and diet changes. Here’s how to enjoy yourself, rest up, and feel wonderful both while vacationing and afterwards!
Be Aware of your Surroundings
Even if this is the first time you are vacationing to a certain location, you can familiarize yourself with the location in advance easily via the internet, the hotel at which you’ll be staying, or via people who have already visited the location. Take the time to really research the place in order to understand the facilities available—supermarkets, corner stores, farmer’s markets, restaurants, etc.
Once you are armed with information, you’ll know how easy or challenging it will be for you to buy the right kind of products. In the event that shopping for food will be problematic, you can bring healthy, non-perishable snack items with you so that you always have backup options.
Stick to Your Diet
This may sound like an obvious tip, but it is common for people vacationing to just abandon healthy eating habits altogether. Once these people have to get back to real life after vacation, they find it much harder to get back on track.
You will probably have the opportunity to enjoy foods on vacation that you would otherwise not enjoy, but you should make sure that these are a special treat. Don’t go for monster size portions of whatever you’re splurging on—portion sizes still count on vacation.
Lastly, when you really want to enjoy a high-calorie item, make sure you balance it out with lighter food choices in the rest of the meal. In the case of a dessert that takes your fancy, sharing is caring: make sure to split it with your fellow diners—the enjoyment of shared pleasure lessens the desire to overeat.
Even if your idea of an ideal vacation is lounging by the pool all day, do make sure that you fit in a workout whenever possible (1) . If you’re staying in a place with a gym, take advantage of it. A wonderful way to see more of the location you’re vacationing in is by going on long, local walks—get the best of a win-win situation as you enjoy the local scenery and keep fit.
As a side note, people are often tempted to excuse their overeating with the fact that they’re working out regularly, even on vacation—this isn’t the point of working out. Working out will help keep you fit, healthy and happy and more often than not will encourage you to eat more wisely, too. Another positive aspect of getting out and about is to tear you away from the seemingly endless food options that are often on offer in hotels.
4 Requests for Your Server
Remember that the waiter or waitress is there to provide service for you, the customer. With this in mind, it is a good idea to get used to requesting the following four requests from the server when dining out, especially if you find yourself in a restaurant or hotel that is less geared towards healthy eaters:
- “Please tell me how the dish is prepared.” Once you know how the dish is prepared you can request that it be prepared according to your needs
- “Please serve sauces, gravies and dressings on the side.” This will ensure that you can practice sensible portion sizes, adding sauce, gravy or dressing as needed. This is also the opportunity to request that instead of the typical dressing you could receive plain olive oil and vinegar, for example.
- “Please replace that side dish with a side salad.” When a side dish consists of French fries or other unhealthy choices, make sure to request a simple salad on the side in its stead; a lemon wedge can be a light alternative to heavy dressings.
- “Please replace that bread/pasta/rice with the whole-grain version.” If the restaurant or wherever you are dining offers whole-grain options, be sure to request them in place of their more processed counterparts (2).
Balance Those Meals
Another seemingly obvious tip—make sure that each meal contains foods from at least three major food groups, such as a protein-carbohydrate combination with a fruit or vegetable serving. You can ensure that your meals are healthy and balanced by simply making the right choices and by switching certain options for others.
Examples of health-wise switches you can make are broiled, grilled, poached, steamed, roasted or baked foods in place of fried, creamy, scalloped, breaded, or deep-fried. Choosing leaner types and cuts of meat, dressing your salad with oil and vinegar or lemon juice instead of regular salad dressing and filling your plate with plain vegetable side dishes (in buffet settings) before moving onto heavier foods are all examples of making wiser choices when eating away from home.
Banish the Bread Basket
Oh the bread basket. That basket filled with empty carbohydrates and oils. The bread basket is tough to pass by when you arrive hungry at a meal—it seems like the perfect way to munch away as you wait for your food to arrive. It is best to request from the waiter not to bring a bread basket to the table at all, that way you won’t have that temptation sitting there in front of you.
A great way to start the meal instead of filling up on bread is to sip on a glass of water or unsweetened tea. That way you fill yourself a little with something harmless and also take care of thirst which can sometimes be misinterpreted as hunger.
Fill Up on Healthy Foods
Once you become acclimatized with the area surrounding wherever you are staying and have found the supermarket/grocery store/farmer’s market that you searched for prior to arriving (see tip no. 1), make sure to stock up on healthy foods and snacks. If you have the possibility to store food in a refrigerator then fill the refrigerator with healthy foods. Otherwise, stock up on non-perishable healthy snacks. Keep yourself full with good alternatives and you’ll be less likely to eat foods that won’t do you any good.
If you are eating out a lot on your vacation and find a restaurant that you like that serves healthy fare, make sure to keep going back. Don’t take the chance of finding a place to eat at “on the fly,” because hungry decisions are never wise ones. Once you’ve found that place or those places that answer your health needs and are enjoyable, stick with them.
Sensible Serving Sizes
Restaurants and hotels are often quite notorious for their “super size” portions, with amounts growing steadily over the last decade (3). A single meal in such establishments can easily cover all or more of your caloric needs for one day. Make sure to clarify portion sizes with the server when you order.
A good tactic in such situations is to split portions with fellow diners. Alternatively, you can ask the establishment to pack up half of the portion, before you receive it, in a takeaway bag. That way, you have removed the temptation of overeating in advance. Lastly, some places will allow you to order a half portion or even a child’s portion.
These tips are based on an answer to a question asked in the Trim Down Club forum given by Ossie Sharon, registered dietitian and Chief Nutritionist at the Trim Down Club. Click here for more excellent advice on how to stay on track when you’re out of your regular routine.