Vacations are a time when many people take a break from everyday responsibilities to unwind and recharge.
Cooking is often replaced with restaurant visits, which usually offer enjoyment — but eating out can present challenges for anyone who’s on a health-conscious diet.
Add in meal-inclusive accommodations and excursions, food stalls and various shops that sell drinks, snacks and desserts — and overeating is an easy thing to do when people let their guard down.
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If maintaining a balanced diet while traveling and sightseeing is a top concern, here are eight smart tips from diet, nutrition and fitness experts.
Check out this list.
1. Ditch buffets and order appetizers with side veggies
Vacations actually can help people stick to their health and fitness goals because they’re often leaving home and work stress behind them, said Dr. Joan Salge Blake, a Massachusetts-based nutrition professor at Boston University.
For those who need help, however, when it comes to healthier eating, she advises that diet-conscious vacationers avoid “all you can eat” buffets and restaurants that “notoriously serve excessive portion sizes.”
Rather, she said, “Think quality over quantity.”
Diet-conscious vacationers should also adjust their restaurant orders by choosing appetizers in place of an entrée, said Blake.
“The portions will likely be in check, and you’ll be able to better pace your intake,” she said. “Also, the quality is usually higher.”
Appetizers can be combined with side salads or grilled vegetables, said Blake.
“Vegetables are full of water and fiber, so they fill you up before they fill you out,” she explained. “In other words, with these veggie sides and the two appetizers, you will be stuffed.”
2. Review menus before picking restaurants
Taking time to review restaurant menus before making a reservation or paying a visit can help minimize overindulgence, said Kimberley Wiemann, a registered dietitian from Long Island, New York.
“Most restaurants have the menu available online and when you plan ahead what you will order, you are much more likely to make smarter choices,” said Wiemann.
“When you are already there and enjoying the moment, perhaps sipping a cocktail, people are more likely to overindulge or splurge on less desirable options,” she said.
3. Stick to the ‘BDD’ rule
The BDD rule stands for “Bread, Drink, and Dessert” — and Megan Lyons, a certified clinical and holistic nutritionist who runs The Lyons’ Share Wellness health-coaching service in Dallas, Texas, said she swears by it.
“During a regular meal, I recommend choosing only one of these categories,” she said.
“On special occasions, such as birthdays or anniversaries, you can indulge in all three without feeling guilty.”
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Lyons recommends the BDD rule for people who are going on vacation and people who want to practice mindful eating in their everyday lives, she said.
“The reason we focus on these three aspects is that they often accumulate in restaurants, where we tend to consume more than we would if we were preparing a healthy meal at home,” she said.
“These choices can lead us away from our health goals.”
4. Practice portion control and drink more water
Monitoring meal and drink sizes can help vacationers stick to their diets, according to Whitney Prude, a certified health and wellness coach from Rochester, Minnesota, who runs an online health-coaching service called Whole & Happy Living.
“Enjoy the local cuisine in moderation,” Prude said. “Opt for smaller portion sizes or share dishes with your travel companions. This way, you can savor the flavors without consuming excessive amounts of calories.”
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Drinking water is essential for healthy diets, she added, and staying hydrated is important, especially in warmer climates.
“Water helps regulate appetite and prevents dehydration, which can sometimes be mistaken for hunger,” she said.
“Carry a refillable water bottle and aim to drink enough water to quench your thirst.”
5. Know that protein and fiber are your best friends
Vacationers should incorporate foods that are high in protein and fiber if overindulgence is a concern, recommended Gisela Bouvier, a registered dietitian from Punta Gorda, Florida.
“Both fiber and protein help to increase satiety, as well as keep us fuller longer,” she said.
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Fruits, vegetables, legumes and grains are high in fiber, according to Bouvier — while meats, eggs, tofu and dairy are high in protein.
“Including a variety of fiber-full foods and protein-rich foods can create versatility in our diets while preventing early hunger,” Bouviers also said.
6. Cut down on cocktails and consider ‘express’ exercises
It’s best to cut down on cocktails during extended travel, suggested Karen Owoc, a clinical exercise physiologist who works in the cardiology department at the Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care system in San Ramon, California.
“On vacation, there always seems to be an ‘excuse’ or ‘reason’ to have a drink,” she said.
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“When it comes to alcohol, order wisely. Some fruity, frozen cocktails can have 500 or more empty calories per glass.”
A night of drinking “too much alcohol” can also result in dehydration, uncomfortable bloating, hangovers and ruined fun the next day, according to Owoc.
In terms of exercise, Owoc is a proponent of express workouts, which could include an eight-minute warmup and an eight- to 12-minute interval of bodyweight exercises.
Depending on a vacationer’s fitness level, express workouts can be structured with 30 seconds of activity and 10 to 30 seconds of recovery.
– Beginner: 30 seconds active, 30 seconds of rest
– Intermediate: 30 seconds active, 20 seconds of rest
– Advanced: 30 seconds work, 10 seconds of rest
“There’s no need to spend hours working out when you could be sightseeing, especially if your vacation includes a lot of walking or physical activity,” Owoc said.
“An effective express workout alternates exercise with brief periods of recovery and can be done quickly without any fitness equipment.”
7. Get active while exploring
If gyms aren’t accessible at vacation destinations, taking on calorie-burning activities can combat some of the spontaneous treats that tempt travelers, according to Loujaina “Juju” Sheikh, a U.K.-based personal trainer and founder of the Cloud Nine Collective, a fitness and wellness app.
“Instead of relying solely on transportation, consider walking or biking to explore your destination,” she said via email.
“Look for outdoor activities like hiking, swimming, snorkeling, or kayaking,” Sheikh continued.
“These activities not only provide exercise but also allow you to enjoy the beauty of your surroundings.”
8. Resist ‘bad’ eating while on vacation
People should let go of the notion that they can “be ‘bad’ on vacation” in terms of food, suggested Caroline Young, a registered dietitian and yoga teacher from Atlanta, Georgia, who offers health-coaching services through her business Whole Self Nutrition.
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She told Fox News Digital, “The outlook that we must earn and make up for enjoying food and having ‘too much fun’ only creates large pendulum swings from restriction before and after trips to ‘screw-it’ eating once you’re there, which creates an unstable internal environment and negatively affects metabolism, mood and emotional regulation.”
Also, restrictive eating can make a person miss out on tasty cultural dishes, Young warned.
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She advises vacationers to eat with “health and pleasure” in mind and incorporate “nutritious foods when it makes sense” to do so.