"" Writer's Wanderings: Tips To Ward Off Vacation Pounds

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Tips To Ward Off Vacation Pounds

Unless I am diligent in guarding my calorie intake and looking for ways to exercise, I will return from a travel adventure five to eight pounds heavier. I know I'm in trouble because when I step on my WII Fitness board, the little voice says, "Oh-Oh." And as I age, the pounds are harder to take off. I did a little research and found some helpful tips that I think are easy to incorporate in your travel itinerary. Some of them I've done on my own and a few were new to me. But for what it's worth, here are some ideas to ward off those extra vacation pounds.

1. Water is your friend. Drink lots of it. If you absolutely cannot stand it straight, buy a box of the Crystal Light packets that can be added to a bottle of water and only have 5 calories. Water helps with energy levels and jet lag among many other physical benefits.

2. Eat fresh foods. Think fruits, vegetables, and nuts. If you are visiting a country where food contamination may be a problem, eat only cooked fresh produce or be sure to get something like an orange that has a peel you can wash and remove. Also avoid any uncooked foods that may have been washed in contaminated water. (In China the salad looked good but we were concerned with the water that had washed the greens.)

3. Stop eating when you are full. Did you say, "Duh?" But how many of us don't want to hurt the feelings of the waiter, chef, or dinner companions (especially in foreign countries) in the restaurant when they say you must "absolutely try the ___!" If you must, then share with another.

4. Balance carbs with protein. Carbs should be whole grains when possible and proteins lean--think fish, chicken, good cuts of meat. Take advantage of the places you visit that are close to the ocean. Nothing is better than fresh seafood.

5. Needless to say, avoid the cheesy and creamy dishes as much as possible.

6. Satisfy a sweet tooth with fresh fruit for dessert or sorbet. But be aware that some "sorbets" contain dairy and are not purely fruit based. I found out the hard way serveral times since I don't tolerate dairy.

7. Whenever possible, visit a supermarket, farmer's market, or grocery and look for the deli where they often make fresh sandwiches of your choice. We have had some "gourmet" meals that we've taken out and eaten in the parks in several European cities. It's often what the locals do.

At the airport:

1. Spend some time finding a place to get a nutricious meal or grab some fresh fruit or granola bars and/or nuts. Airplane food on shorter flights does not offer much good healthy variety and you have to pay for it. If you need to eat in the air, find something healthy and take it on board with you. Thankfully you can still get something to drink for free.

2. We all have to arrive earlier to assure getting checked in and then through TSA. Spend your extra time walking around in the airport rather than just sitting. You'll burn a few more calories that way. Burn even more by carrying your own luggage.

At the hotel:

1. Skip the minibar. Turn down the key to it. It'll save calories and money.

2. Stick to the fresh fruit and whole grain items at the breakfast buffet. In Europe, you will find different breakfasts in each country. For example, the French eat a lot of bread in the morning (you may want to pack a little peanut butter). You can still find eggs at many of the restaurants in tourist areas. In Italy, we found lots of sweet pastries on the morning buffet but there were also cheeses and cold cut meats. The English like to serve a hearty breakfast of eggs, bangers (sausage), baked beans, broiled tomatoes and breads. If you're at a B&B you may want to ask for something lighter.

On a cruise:

1. The best tip I saw for a cruise buffet: fill half your plate first with fresh fruits and vegetables. Then add little dabs of what looks interesting. Don't go back for seconds. Most of it will be there again throughout the week for you to sample.

2. If you splurge at the specialty restaurant one night, balance it with light meals the next day.

3. Many of the desserts are cream based. Order fresh fruit instead and if you really must have the dessert, split it with someone else.

4. Ordering from the "spa" menu is usually lighter and healthier but often if you just are careful in your choices from the main menu, you will do just as well. I often mix and match. I am on vacation, after all.

Exercise is not a dirty word.

1. Walk, hike, bike. They are great ways to see the country and also burn those calories.

2. I've mentioned walking around the airports before flights and between flights. You also need to get out and walk when on a cruise ship. All of them have some sort of jog/walking track.

3. Hit the gym on the cruise ship or in the hotel. I prefer getting to the outdoors when possible but this is a good alternative especially if you are used to working out at home.

4. Take the stairs. In some places you don't have a choice. In Paris, we lugged suitcases up and down subway stairs. In Italy, there was no elevator in our little hotel and the rooms were all on the second floor. In England, we were on the third floor of our B&B and breakfast was on the basement level. Whew!

Now let's see if I can practice what I've preached. Happy trails!

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