Maybe you went ahead and booked that cool winter Airbnb that’s even cooler than your childhood bedroom. Or maybe you’re headed to one of the warmest cities to escape the cold. Regardless of what kind of getaway you’ve planned, it’s totally possible to come back feeling healthier, stronger and fitter than ever. Read on for nutritionists’ secrets to avoiding unhealthy habits while on vacay. Fire up your vacation hair engines and discover how you can really have your #OutOfTheOffice cake and eat it too.
1. Make it a gals getaway. “Research shows that hanging out with your favorite pals, having a good laugh and sharing quality bonding time is just as effective — if not better than — exercise!” exclaims Peggy Kotsopoulos, RHN, nutritionist and author of Kitchen Cures ($25). “It helps lift your spirits by boosting serotonin levels and reducing stress. Stress increases cortisol levels in your body, which is one of the top culprits of the dreaded muffin top. So reducing stress and boosting happy neurotransmitters by hanging out with your friends can actually help melt away stubborn belly fat.”
2. Yelp for help. Hey, you somehow managed to figure out that cutie from Tinder’s LinkedIn profile with only an alma mater and location to go on, so you’re a recon expert, lady! “I recommend using apps such as Yelp, Trip Advisor or even Google to search for restaurants that have a menu including words like ‘grass-fed,’ ‘gluten-free,’ ‘paleo,’ etc.,” advises Dr. Tasneem Bhatia, MD, also known as “Dr.Taz,” a weight loss expert and author of What Doctors Eat ($19) and The 21-Day Belly Fix ($17). Chances are, if a menu has keywords like those, it’s got a healthy-leaning slant.
3. Bring backup. No we’re not talking about an extra cell charger (though that comes in handy too). “Look into where you are staying. If their continental breakfast is only made up of boxes of Wheaties, bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches and buttered hash browns, make sure you pack something with you. I like to travel with packets of plain oatmeal, protein bars and packets of stevia, so I’m not tempted to dive into what’s available. Usually breakfast is the hardest meal while traveling, so this allows you set the tone of the day properly,” explains New York City-based nutritionist Lisa Hayim, MS, RD.
4. Just relax, girl! Good news: “Relaxation decreases stress hormones that are associated with weight gain. On vacation, allow yourself to sleep more and relax more,” offers Dr. Lisa Davis, Chief Nutrition Officer at Terra’s Kitchen. “Make it a point to eat your meals more slowly and mindfully, since you are not in a hurry to get anywhere. Chew your food 15-20 times per bite before swallowing. This way you will savor your food more and likely eat less of it, because your gut will have time to signal your brain as you become full.”
5. Avoid eating-on-a-wonky-schedule syndrome. “It may be surprising to think that fasting can help your metabolism, but short fasts allow time for the digestive process to rest and ‘clean house.'” explains Dr. Taz. “Consider cutting off eating by 7pm and not eating again until the following morning at 7am or later. This twelve-hour fast helps prepare your belly for another round of food, helping digestion, which ultimately impacts your metabolic rate.”
6. Take the stairs. #NoExcuses. “If your room is on the 10th floor or below, use the ‘extra free time’ in your day to take the stairs to your room,” suggests Hayim. “You don’t have to do this every time you go to your room, but be sure to integrate it into your day at least once. By the end of the trip, your glutes will be tighter than when you came!”
7. Plan for lackluster plane food. C’mon, were you really banking on them asking if you’d like a banana or green juice? Plan ahead. “Airplane food is not only unexciting, but packaged and usually unhealthy. Pack raw nuts and organic apples and carrots with some almond butter to beat hunger pains and ensure a healthy snack,” advises Dr. Taz. “Once you arrive, find a grocery store or local food market close to [your accommodations] and pick up healthy items you usually eat at home.”
8. Sweat it out. Because when else could you do stand-up paddle board yoga in a 10,000 year-old cave in mineral water? Sign yourself on up for any and all active adventures. “Do your sightseeing by walking or biking everywhere. Both burn between 250-300 calories per hour for the average person. Kick it up a notch and go cross-country hiking. One hour of hiking will burn off the typical lunch meal of about 450 calories. If you like to track your achievements and progress, remember to bring your pedometer or Fitbit. By keeping tabs on your results, you can really feel like you have earned your vacation meals and liquid refreshments,” says Davis. “And don’t forget to dance the night away… an hour of dancing burns nearly 450 calories!” Kotsopoulos adds.
9. Nix your coffee habit. Okay, unless you’re on vacay in Seattle. This small tweak of skipping your daily cup can help avoid overeating. Dr. Taz tells us, “Adding one to two drops of grapefruit or lemon essential oil to your water can help curb your appetite.” Try it before a big meal, or test-drive one of these tasty infused waters by loading up on fresh produce at a local farmer’s market and making a batch of your favorite to carry with you while sightseeing.
10. Skip the hotel buffet. “While buffets are synonymous with hotel stays, the cornucopia of food displays can make your eyes bigger than your stomach, causing you to eat more! Even if you think you’re disciplined and choose healthy options and fill a small plate, the chances of you going up for seconds is huge,” says Kotsopoulos. “Ordering a meal off the menu makes sure you’ll stick to what’s on the plate and you’ll end up eating less overall.”
11. Stay hydrated. Seems obvious, but it’s one of the first healthy habits we ditch when we’re out of town. It’s a lot easier to remember to gulp some H2O down when you’ve got a pretty bottle staring at you from your work desk. “If you are staying somewhere where the water isn’t the cleanest and the bottled water is too pricey, take a quick trip to the store. Staying hydrated is one of the hardest things to do on vacation. Instead of reaching for water, which can be a fortune, we opt for food… Having a case of water in your room is a great way to stay hydrated, consume fewer calories and stay within budget!” exclaims Hayim.
12. Don’t forget your bands! “Your hand weights are too heavy and bulky to travel with, but your rubber resistance bands are not. Traveling with resistance bands helps to keep your body toned. They are perfect for hotel room workouts, and you can easily grab ’em before you hit the hotel gym,” suggests Davis. Or better yet, before you hit that beach run.
Do you have a brilliant trick for staying healthy while traveling? Share your genius tip and tell us @BritandCo!
(Photos via Getty)