Go On Vacation ... But Stay On Your Diet. With Theresa Shank, Registered Dietitian, Einstein Medical Center Philadelphia
Vacations are a time for trying new things (like food), having fun (with food) and gathering with friends (and food). During vacations, sticking to a healthy eating plan seems impossible. Most people actually gain weight while on vacation. The solution, says Theresa Shank, Registered Dietitian with Einstein Medical Center, is advance planning.
It starts with having healthy food choices for the plane, train or automobile ride to the vacation spot. “Pack a cooler filled with healthy snacks like high-fiber granola bars, apples, bananas, peanut butter and jelly on whole wheat bread, baby carrots, celery sticks and trail mix,” Shank suggests. “By packing these snacks you may be able to avoid the temptations of purchasing fast food and other high-calorie convenience items.”
Start your days with breakfast, but beware of temptations. “One meal that can really sabotage your healthy eating routine is breakfast,” Shank says. Waffles dripping in syrup, three-egg omelets stuffed with cheese, home fries, chocolate-chip pancakes, kosher sausage, pastries; all of that is on the menu or on the buffet. “If you are only offered breakfast through a buffet,” Shank says, “choose whole grain oatmeal or whole grain toast with a smear of peanut butter for a nutritious and sustaining meal.”
If it is on the buffet or on a menu, choose yogurt, Shank says. “Yogurt contains protein and is generally low in calories,” she says. “Ask for low-fat yogurt and a side of fruit and granola. That way, you will be eating healthy without feeling like you're depriving yourself.”
But not all yogurt is created equal. When buying yogurt in stores, avoid brands that have fruit on the bottom. That is fruit concentrate, an industry name for simple sugar. If plain yogurt doesn’t excite your taste buds, sweeten it yourself with fresh or frozen fruit to cut out added sugars and get more nutrition.
At lunch and dinner, make good choices, Shank advises. “Try to eat relatively lean and avoid refined carbohydrates and sweets,” she says. “If you order a hamburger, eat it without the bun, unless it is a whole wheat bun. Substitute french fries with a sweet potato, side salad or a side of mixed vegetables. Ask the server if you can have your main dish either boiled or baked instead of fried. That slashes fat and calories.”
Another tip: Research restaurants menus in advance. Go online, find the restaurant’s website and menus and take the time to pick healthy options without being rushed or influenced by others at the table. “Choose dishes without creamy sauces,” Shank suggests. “Ask for dressings to be placed on the side of your salad and share both an appetizer and a main entree with someone.”
Beware of hidden calories lurking in beverages, Shank says. Alcohol is laden with calories and impairs judgment, making it all the easier to overindulge on unhealthy food. Non-alcoholic drinks can also pose problems. Iced tea, lemonade, fruit juice and soft drinks may contain added sugar. “Keeping a bottle of water with you at all times will help you stay hydrated and help curb hunger by adding volume to your stomach,” Shank advises.
Last but not least, make time to exercise — even though you are on vacation. When researching places to stay, check to see if there is a gym in the hotel or nearby. Some gyms have weekly passes available for small fees. Investigate options for walking, hiking or swimming. Biking, golfing and basketball can be great group activities. Burning calories while spending quality time with friends and family can make a vacation healthy — and fun.