Vacations help you break free from the monotony, giving you time to unwind, celebrate, rejuvenate and see new places and try different things. Travelling exposes you to different places, people, culture and no doubt delicious food. And while at it, it’s completely natural to treat yourself to a little more than you would normally.
It’s all fun and games until you come back home only to find that you no longer fit into your favourite pair of jeans. It’s easy to enter vacation mode with the intention of letting loose on all fronts. Sadly, vacation calories do count. If you keep that in mind and make simple, health-conscious decisions, and a few minor tweaks your diet won’t suffer in the long run. Here are some thumb rules to ensure that you not only travel healthy but return home with a killer bod.
Don’t be a skipper
It’s easy to consider travel time as off-time from your regular routine. Dietician Sheela Seharawat explains, “While travelling or on vacation, breakfast falls low in the list of priorities. Taking just a few minutes out for the most important meal of the day is crucial as it provides the body with fuel to help you get through the entire day.” She suggests eating breakfast within two hours of waking up to help set the right tone for the rest of the day. A wholesome breakfast that’s loaded with nutrients can help one control and maintain their ideal weight even when on vacation, she adds. Kanchan Patwardhan, a clinical nutritionist states that when one skips a meal, the body goes into starvation mode and the metabolism slows down. This means that the body tries to compensate for the inadequate calories by burning fewer calories than it normally would, making it impossible to lose weight. And when you do eat, the body ends up storing those calories, rather than using them, as it expects you to starve it again.
Be a meal-planner
Always do your research before leaving for any place. Seharawat says, “Planning a meal in advance is undoubtedly an essential part of any dieting success.” She suggests looking up the menus of potential local restaurants and hotels helps to identify healthy eating options, resist temptation and save time.
It is obvious that many of us indulge in alcoholic beverages while on holiday. However, Seharawat warns that over-consumption of alcohol can lead to dizziness and dehydration. Therefore, when possible, try to limit the consumption of alcohol. And definitely, don’t drink while flying or you’ll arrive feeling dehydrated. Besides, to always keep your hydration levels up, you can also turn to natural drinks like coconut water or fresh fruit juices. The easiest way to keep your hydration levels up and remembering to drink more water is to carry your water bottle at all times, she adds.
Cheat, but in moderation
After religiously following a disciplined diet for weeks or months, Seharawat says, “During a vacation, there is no other satisfaction than to let loose and grab that last slice of pizza with extra cheese. While a few kilograms might still be okay, gaining back all that you have lost could be very demoralising.” However, this does not mean that you need to be hard on yourself. Since you’re on vacation, it is okay to cheat on your diet once in a while. Patwardhan adds, “While this is a common experience that all dieters share, it does not have to mean disaster if you keep your senses and take action to minimise the damage.”
Treat yourself to some mouthwatering and tempting local cuisines once a day. And while at it, also make sure that you eat at regular intervals to keep hunger pangs at bay. Seharawat warns, “It is okay to give in to your temptations, however, certain foods, especially ones with high sugar content, can create a chain of chemical reactions in the body, instigating you to have more and more.” Besides, traveling doesn’t mean you need to eat each and every meal out. You can always opt for a room or vacation home with a kitchen. Scout around for local markets and/or grocery stores and stock up on healthy foods and local produce. If possible, carry a small crockpot or other cooking appliance with you to help expand your meal options – allowing you to eat healthy whilst treating yourself to your destination’s offerings.
Seharawat says, “Snacking is an effective way to pack the body with extra nutrients so that we stay full and devoid ourselves of overeating during meal times. From preventing over-eating, keeping blood sugar levels steady to keeping energy levels from dropping, convenience foods help bring back the ‘health’ into your vacation.” She lists certain foods that make for a great snack:
Chanas – They are a rich source of proteins and contain almost no fat. You can have them plain, roasted or salted.
Nuts – They are filled with the goodness of proteins, vitamins, minerals and healthy fats.
Sprouts – The best thing about sprouts – you can have them the way you like.
Whole wheat biscuits – They are a perfect snack to pair with your hot cup of tea or coffee. Make them at home with whole wheat flour or even oats and munch on them whenever you feel hungry.
Oats – Start your day on a healthy note with a bowl of oats along with some milk (low-fat). Throw in some fruits to add a touch of crunchiness and natural sweetness.
Make smart eating choices
If you come across all-you-can-eat places, turn your back and run. Always look for a restaurant with a varied menu, where there are higher chances at finding something healthy, without having to sacrifice the attempt at treating your taste buds. Steer clear of menu watchwords such as battered, breaded, buttered, extra cheese, covered, creamy, crunchy, fried, loaded, platter, stuffed and value. Always keep in mind that foods labelled ‘fat-free’ are high in sugar and calories, in a half-hearted attempt to compensate for the flavour lost when the fat is removed.
Opt for lean meats over red meats. When you have a choice, always go for steamed vegetables as side dishes instead of heavy carb-laden ones, such as French fries, warns Seharawal. Smart substitutions will significantly decrease calories in the meal and help you stay on your diet. Many restaurants load on sauces and dressing, which quickly drives up calories. Asking for it on the side means you get to control the amount you put on. Besides, there’s no harm in asking for low-calorie options. If you are ordering a salad, go for a thin dressing over a thick creamy one. Underestimating your hunger, if you happened to fill your plate a little too much, it is not necessary to feel obligated to finish it all. And most importantly, when it comes to satiating your sweet tooth, it’s best to cap it off with a plate of fresh fruits.
It’s always good to look for a hotel with a good gym or fitness centre. You could also make use of your hotel’s swimming pool. Alternately, carry light exercise tools such as resistance bands, jump ropes and a yoga mat. Seharawal says, “Staying active even while on the go helps improve your health, keeping you motivated and energetic, ensuring you have a great vacation.” Additionally, don’t forget to leave home without a pair of lightweight sneakers, to squeeze in some time for a quick walk and/or run. Even if you’ve forgotten to pack any exercise equipment and have no access to a gym, you can still get a good workout by fitting in a quick walk or run around town. This also gives you a chance to explore the place and meet more people. Patwardhan suggests waking up half an hour early and do some yoga, stretching and breathing exercises.
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