There's nothing better than a new adventure, but staying healthy and not gaining weight while you travel can be a challenge. Trust, me — I, and a huge pasta belly that I brought back from Italy (and thankfully lost), know.
You're thrown out of your comfort zone, knocked out of your regular routine, and are no longer surrounded by familiar food, and your favorite workout spots.
Whether you are planning on laying on a beach for a week or touring around Europe for months, these tips will ensure that the only extra weight you bring home with you will be from travel souvenirs.
Go easy on the alcoholic drinks
There's nothing better than celebrating a new adventure with a beer at the airport, a glass of wine on the plane, and then a nightcap when you arrive — and then continuing the celebration with a drink (or seven) every day after that.
Don't worry, I am not telling you not to drink at all, but I am reminding you that alcohol is packed full of empty calories and sugar. Over-indulging will, more than likely, leave you bloated, craving sugar, and often lead to over-eating high-calorie foods.
Of course, you are going to have a few drinks, but instead of reaching for a beer at the end of a long day of exploring, try a cold glass of water first. It will take the edge off your thirst (meaning that you might drink fewer high-calorie beverages), prevent bloating, and keep you hydrated. All important aspects of your overall health, and also important if you are recovering from jet lag.
Here are a few other things to keep in mind:
- Wine and hard liquor mixed with soda water/water are the "healthiest" options
- Beer would be your next best option
- Mixed drinks with sodas, juice, or energy drinks are terrible and will end in epic hangovers (cue high-calorie recovery eating the next day).
Only eat out for one meal a day
Trying the local food is an important part of experiencing any culture, but you don't have to have huge meals out in restaurants for breakfast, lunch, and dinner — especially if this isn't the way that you would normally eat at home. Instead, eat out only one meal a day and eat the rest of your meals as you would at home — make them yourself or buy smaller portions from grab-and-go spots.
Share your meals
When you do eat out, instead of ordering appetizers, different courses, and dessert dishes all to yourself share your meals with your travel companion(s). Eating family-style will allow you to better control your portions and let you sample a variety of dishes without having to order them all individually yourself.
Purchase things like fruit, nuts, and yogurt (if you have a fridge available), or pre-made meals, at the local grocery store or food market. These are the perfect things to eat for breakfast and lunches.
Also, consider eating at local food stalls or trucks. The portion sizes will be smaller, the food will be fresh, and if you are on a budget, the meals at these stalls tend to be more affordable than what you would pay in a restaurant.
Bring your own snacks
If you are someone who gets hungry between meals or eats a specific diet at home, I highly recommend bringing your own snacks with you. Things like nuts, granola bars, dried fruit, etc. are things that can be packed easily, have high nutrition value, don't take up much space in your day-pack or purse, and can easily sustain you between meals.
It will also prevent you from indulging in the high-sugar, high-calorie treats that are often sold at tourist sites.
Here's what I usually bring with me:
- Beef jerky
- Low-sugar protein bars
- Almonds, raisins, and dark chocolate chips (I make this at home and put it in zip-lock bags)
- Dried fruit (usually nectarines)
Move as much as possible
Are you visiting Rome for the first time? Skip the cab or metro and walk as much as you can. Spending a week at the beach? Go for a 20-minute swim every morning or rent a kayak and go for a paddle. Exploring New York? Rent a bike and peddle your way from attraction to attraction.
Try to avoid taking a bus, car, train, or metro and walk as much as possible. Walking is fantastic exercise, and you will be so distracted by all of the new sights, sounds, and smells of your foreign surroundings, that you will meet and surpass 10,000 steps before you even realize it's happening!
Don't skip your workout
How long is a workout really going to take out of your day? 30 minutes? An hour?
If you are staying at a hotel with a gym, getting that 30-minute sweat in before you head out for the day, or before you go to sleep at night, could be the difference between gaining a few pounds and staying in shape.
If you don't have access to a hotel gym, see if there are any local gyms near your AirBnB, hostel, or guesthouse that offers guest passes or short-term memberships. Or, plan ahead by bringing a skipping rope (Did you know that 10 minutes of skipping burns as much as a 30-minute run?! I take a skipping rope on every trip I take!), bands, or familiarize yourself with some workouts that don't require equipment and can be done from anywhere.
Check out the links below for some resources:
Make working out a part of the adventure
Take the opportunity of being away from your normal routine to try something different. In South Korea? Take a taekwondo class. Visiting India? Sign-up for yoga. Touring Spain? Find a Flamenco class.
Or, go hiking, scuba diving, learn to sail — do anything that involves moving your body and taking advantage of the natural wonders that can be found where you are. Not only will you get a great workout, but you will also get to experience part of the country's culture that you are visiting and maybe even meet some locals!
To sum up...
Avoiding a vacation or travel adventure weight-gain isn't rocket science. It just involves some planning and being mindful of what you are eating, drinking, and how you are spending your time. To sum it all up, here are a few key things to remember:
- Walk as much as possible.
- Don't over-indulge at every meal. Bring your own snacks and self-cater when you can.
- Drink water!
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