Sunday, December 22, 2013

How to eat healthy while on vacation.


Last December, my friend Nigel and I celebrated my birthday by visiting California for the first time. I never get nervous about what I’ll eat when traveling and my friends palette is definitely even more open to anything than mine. I tend to enjoy the safety and reliability of chain restaurants. Think about it: No matter where you are in the world a Big Mac will still taste like a Big Mac, so you can imagine my relief when I learned that there was a Denny’s, a McDonalds and a Subway all in close proximity to our hotel. Fine dining in Vegas and San Fransico can get pricey.
So we chose places that were tried, true and cheap. Johnny Rockets was about as intense as it got for us, which unfortunately meant that we carried a bunch of cholesterol and carbs with us on our flight home.While I can eat a double bacon cheeseburger for breakfast, lunch and dinner with no regret, I know many of you probably would feel much like my friend did: Bloated and discouraged. Just because you’re on vacation, doesn’t mean your nutritional needs should be as well. Take a look at eleven ways to eat healthy without totally blowing your travel budget:

1). Walk it off

Although my friend and I had our share of greasy omelettes and McNuggets on vacation, we opted to walk during our sight-seeing adventures instead of hopping on a shuttle. If you’re worried about packing on the extra pounds because you’re eating quick and convenient meals in the midst of all of your fun, find ways to work those extra carbs off after consuming them. Don’t spend those beautiful days locked up in your hotel suite; swim in the pool, jog on the beach or take an afternoon hike.

2). Avoid the mini bar

I caught my friend trying to sneak into the mini-bar a few times for overpriced snacks and alcohol. And anytime she asked about it, I’d answer, “What mini-bar?” Your best bet is to stay away from this evil cubicle of convenience and temptation. Many of the items it contains can be found in hotel gift shops and local convenience stores for half the price. Besides, all that late night snacking can add up to some serious weight gain. If you absolutely must snack, seek out a spot for fresh produce like berries, grapes and nuts. Better yet, pack things like trail mix and nuts ahead of time.

3). Discipline yourself.

When you’re far away from familiar surroundings and pampering yourself with new sights, activities, and just a complete departure from your daily life, it can be easy to get carried away. You just have to have some deep dish pizza in Chicago. You can’t leave Philly without trying a famous Philly cheese steak. And who visits Los Angeles without having a Pink’s hot dog at least once? It’s OK to try the local favorites as long as you don’t make these great places your spots for every meal you have while you’re away.

4). Your money. Your menu.

Dinner time is no time to get shy. If you’re trying a fancy restaurant where you’ll be spending major cash, the least the restaurant could do is cook your food the way you like it. This is coming from the person who regularly visits Red Lobster with a shellfish allergy and asks them to please cook a chicken breast separately from many of the items listed on the menu. Don’t feel intimidated; it’s the staff’s job to keep you satisfied. The worst they can say is “No.” and then you can gladly gather your appetite and visit their nearby competitors. See only fried options, but you’d rather have something baked? Ask. No healthy choices listed? Ask them if they have a menu with lower-calorie alternatives. No nutrition facts in sight? Ask to see a nutrition chart. By law, restaurants have to have this info available to their diners, but not all of them choose to voluntarily disclose it.

5). Share Your Dessert.

At better restaurants, dessert portions tend to be generous. A calorie count in a single slice of Tiramisu can be as high 1440 calories, which you probably could afford to share. You don’t have to tackle the big rock candy mountain alone. Share your dessert plate with pals so they can help you with calories. That’s what friends are for.

6). Bring your own snacks for the flight.

Some of us are opportunist eaters; it’s not that we’re actually hungry, we just get excited every time the captain announces that soon that familiar cart of culinary delight will come wheeling our way. Unless you’re on a 17 hour flight to Japan, chances are you won’t be affected by a serious case of famish on your flight. Pack healthy snacks like carrots and celery sticks, hummus, applesauce and nuts to hold you over until you get to the really good stuff when you land.

7). Pack a cooler for road trips.

It’s possible that a fear of flying has you making the long journey by car. At least in the sky you’re limited to whatever your airline has to offer, but on the road you’ll have major access to diners, fast food places, fancy restaurants and more. Take on that temptation by preparing realistically. A visit beforehand to the market where you stock up on delicious ingredients for sandwiches and salads will always allow you to save more money and stay healthier than anything you’ll pick up on the road.

8. Abstain from the alcohol.

Alcohol is often a key element to many vacationers’ good time, but it’s also one of the unhealthiest things you can put into your body. Alcohol is a diuretic meaning that it causes dehydration. Along with that water loss you are also losing minerals that are important for muscle contraction and fluid balance that your body needs. Although it may aid in your ability to relax and enjoy yourself, it offers NO nutritional value and many mixed drinks have sugar which equals calories. A shot of liquor without a chaser is actually about 100 calories. Have a virgin margarita instead, and if you absolutely have to partake in the spirits, try a dry wine which usually has fewer calories than a sweet one.
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9. Ask for smaller portions.

Many restaurants have menus that are separated into “Lunch option” or “Dinner option” with the latter being a bigger serving. Just because the menu says that lunch is no longer served after 2:00 pm, doesn’t mean you’ll be automatically anointed with a “doggie bag”. Ask for smaller portions so you don’t feel forced to clear your plate. With that said…

10). You don’t have to clear your plate.

This rule applies no matter what region of the world you’re dining in. You’re not a child and you don’t have to apologize or feel guilty for starving orphans just because you feel full and have not cleared your plate. In fact, eating when you’re not hungry can appear the slightest bit greedy. Don’t be afraid to take what’s let over back to the room for a later time.

11). Do your research

I’m not one to brag, but my friends and family love when I plan trips. I take my itineraries seriously because I don’t want to be that tourist walking around with huge area map asking, “Please take advantage of me because I obviously have no clue where I am going.” I plot places I want to visit, transportation, dress codes, costs, you name it. Google is a traveling healthy eater’s best friend. Research local farmers’ markets, healthy restaurants and even supermarkets that are close to where you’ll be spending much of your time. By the time you arrive you won’t be in a panic searching for healthy options, since you’ll already know what you’re working with.

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