Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Vacation Diet

Just because you’re taking a vacation or even a “stay-cation” with time off spent at home doesn’t mean an escape from diet and fitness habits. In fact, many people today are using their precious days away from a hectic work schedule to attend to health goals. So vacation time is emerging as an opportune time to focus on wellness. Flexible days where you decide what to do when are perfect for taking a pilates class for the first time at a resort or gathering goodies at the local farmer’s market and leisurely cooking up meals at a vacation house.

Registered dietitian, Donna Shields, MS RD has noticed this emerging health trend in her conversations with vacationers in Key West, Florida where she is a self professed “southernmost nutritionist.” Author of the Caribbean Light cookbook, she’s well qualified to help clients trim the calories in a poolside pina colada or discover the healthy flavors of fruit salsas on grilled fish, “Mango and other tropical fruit salsas can be a healthy accompaniment to an entrée or as a sandwich topping; lots of fresh flavor, few calories and a nutritious choice. For cocktails, the Mojito would be a good choice, although it will contain some simple syrup or sugar, most of this rum beverage is club soda which is calorie free. Frozen blended drinks such as Key West’s famous margaritas are usually loaded with sugar, made from presweetened mixes. Pina coladas are a double whammy in that they also can be fairly high in fat due to the cream of coconut.”

Of course, vacations are meant to be fun and an escape from the everyday but indulge wisely. A week of eating breakfast buffets, fabulous lunches and late night dinners followed by an evening of libations can add up to significant weight gain. An extra 3 to 5 pounds is not exactly the souvenir you wanted to bring home with you!

Vacation Diet Tips:

Lighten up expectations- Unless you’re headed to a spa with strict diet and exercise regimes, aim to maintain your weight on vacation.

Try something new- Add the adventure of tasting healthy new foods such as a fish you’ve never tried before, tropical fruits or fresh picked mountain berries.

Hammock time- Know that taking an afternoon nap or collapsing early for a good night’s sleep is not just recharging your batteries it’s helping with weight control. Research shows that getting enough sleep keeps your metabolism humming more efficiently and that helps burn calories!

Packing for vacation – Include healthy snacks such as nuts, fresh fruit, popcorn, whole grain crackers, low fat cheeses in a vacation road trip or air travel packing list.

Skip work but not meals - Eat 3 meals and allow one or two 100-150 calorie snacks per day. Make sure to include sources of lean protein (eggs, fish, chicken, lean beef cuts and non fat milk and yogurts) to keep you feeling satisfied throughout the day.

Choose favorites – If it’s melted butter on Maine lobster that makes your vacation or fresh churned ice cream at the beach that helps you melt into relaxed mode; then go for it! Skip the things you really don’t care about (such as the bread basket at dinner or cheese on a burger) to allow for the calories your really crave.

Exercise some fun -“Leave the car keys in the hotel room and start walking everywhere,” advises Shields, “Biking in Key West is what I would call “functional” exercise. We don’t really think of it as exercise but simply a way to get from one place to another. It’s practical, quick, very green and there’s no hassle or cost of parking. It’s great for the quadriceps muscles which don’t get much use if you’re used to sitting at a desk all week.”

Feeling Better Already - A little down time helps us get in touch with our bodies, minds and our taste buds. Eating mindfully and really savoring flavors is an important part of wellness advice today. As Sheilds shares, “Having fun on vacation is important, doing something nice for yourself can also make you feel better. Sharing a bottle of wine with a little platter of olives and nuts with friends at sunset could be the highlight of your trip.”

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