During the long winter months, healthy living resolutions were made and we vowed to get in shape by summer. Now that it's summer, the moment of truth has arrived. As we prepare for summer getaways, we have visions of relaxing, perhaps letting loose a bit, and undoubtedly, feasting on delicious cuisine and sitting drinks by the pool. But it's always important to stay mindful of healthy living initiatives during summer vacation so we don't throw away all of the gains we worked so hard to achieve.
Retrofit Lead Registered Dietitian Amy Margulies notes that one of the best ways to stay on track during summer vacation is to follow the 80-20 rule: 80 percent of vacation time should be spent making healthy food choices, including consuming alcohol in moderation. Twenty percent of the time we allow ourselves an extra drink or perhaps a delicious chocolate brownie.
Margulies points out that when we work on business projects, we most likely wouldn't just throw away our work and start over again. "We need to think of our bodies and minds in the same way we think about our work projects," she says.
Pre-Vacation Plan: Unmask Healthy Dining Options
When we are in the midst of planning our vacation, we make a myriad of decisions. What hotel should we choose? What airline should we take? Which excursions best suit our needs? If we place the same amount of time and effort into planning our meals and exercise routine, we can alleviate the stress of worrying about impending vacation weight gain and the guilt that often comes with that gain.
Talk to the hotel concierge and scour the internet. Poll local travel agents for suggestions for restaurants that offer healthy options. It is difficult to make smart choices when the only items on the menu are fried, drenched in butter or extra-crispy. Choose restaurants that offer grilled, baked, broiled or steamed options.
Inquire about restaurants that offer take-out boxes with meals. Plan on placing half your meal in the To-Go box immediately when your meal is served and save it for leftovers the next day. This is a "win-win", as it saves on both calories and dining dollars.
Avoid buffets. Avoid choosing a restaurant with a buffet. If a buffet is the only option, cover half of your plate with regional fresh fruits and vegetables, and balance the rest with lean protein and whole grains.
Escape Food and Drink Traps
Always keep the 80-20 rule top of mind. Avoid the indulgence of ordering drinks, appetizers, a rich entrée and dessert. Inspect the menu for the two items that most appeal to the senses and order those. Many restaurants offer steamed vegetables and fresh fruit options in their A La Carte menu section. Try customizing the dinner plate with half vegetables and fruit, one-quarter lean protein and one-quarter whole grains. Once your brain receives the "full" signal, it is time to stop eating. Put down your fork and push the plate away. Cover the plate with a napkin to enforce a "hands-off" policy. It is wise to notify the server that you are finished with the meal so that the temptation to pick at the plate disappears.
For many of us, summer vacation encompasses plenty of sunshine, white sand under our toes, and frosty beverages delivered poolside. That Mai Tai with the colorful umbrella beckons us to a world away from work and responsibilities. These alcoholic drinks might pose a challenge for weight loss since many are high in calories, which are easy to miscount.
Since most vacation spots have perfected the art of offering specialty drinks for breakfast, lunch and dinner ("Bloody Mary anyone?"), it is important to keep the following tips handy in order to manage healthy living initiatives during vacation:
- Avoid heavily sweetened mixed drinks. Fun Fact: One 10-ounce Long Island Iced Tea can have as many calories as a McDonald's Big Mac. A better option is a single shot of hard liquor on the rocks with club soda, fresh fruit and olives for flavor boosts.
- Opt for a diet soda or diet juice as a base when craving a sweet mixed drink.
- Have a "Mocktail." Forego the alcohol and still enjoy the sweet pleasures of a beach cocktail by imbibing one of the myriad drink combinations made with sparkling water, fresh juices and simple herb and fruit syrups.
- Go light. Beer should be light or ultra.
- Alternate drinks with an alcohol and calorie-free beverage. Water is always the best option since it is important to stay well hydrated in the sun. Have a glass in between alcoholic beverages.
It's easy to unravel good habits on vacation, but staying on track is a lot easier than trying to get back on track post-vacation. This summer, when you plan your disappearing act, make sure to plan ahead and avoid common food traps.