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Healthy Travel: 6 Ways to Prevent Vacation Weight Gain

It’s almost summertime, which means vacation time! Personally, I adore cruising. But no matter what your preferred vacation option is, most trips involve being surrounded by lots of new, exciting, and delicious foods for an extended amount of time. With all that decadence surrounding you for a whole week, it can seem inevitable that there will be some weight gain to deal with when you get home, right? Not necessarily! It IS possible to go on vacation, even one with unlimited food, and not gain weight! Lots of people travel frequently, either for work, pleasure, or both! So healthy travel strategies are the name of the game.

Healthy Travel IS Possible!

I recently got back from a cruise to Bermuda with a huge group of my family and friends. It was a fabulous trip. We even had an unlimited beverage package (alcohol on ships is usually not included)! Did I gain weight during the trip? Nope! I came home exactly the same as when I left! That’s the same result I’ve had on lots of previous trips too, so it’s not a fluke.

Do I get super restrictive and not allow myself to enjoy the delicious food?

Do I workout like a fiend to burn off the extra calories?

Do I miss out on the fun by focusing on not gaining weight?

NO to all three!

So, how do I do it? Here are some of my strategies (hint, they’re fairly close to what I do when I’m not on vacation too, since I generally like to eat healthy without dieting).

Six Easy Strategies for Healthy Travel:

1- Eat at meals and don’t graze

I’ve written before about this. This is how I normally eat anyway, and I don’t tend to stray from it on vacation. Yes, food is available 24/7, but that means that whenever I do get hungry, it’ll be there waiting for me! I don’t have to eat something every time I walk by one of the many food offerings on-board. I like to be hungry for my meals. It helps me eat the right amount, it makes the food taste even better, and it reassures me that I’m not overdoing it.

If I graze all day or snack a lot, it spoils my appetite, and I don’t really like that feeling. It could also mean I’d take in a lot more calories than I need. If I come across something yummy when I’m not hungry, I just make a mental note to have it at a meal later on if I still want it. No deprivation, just a bit of delayed gratification. 

2 – Don’t get stuffed

It can be very easy to overeat, I admit. The buffets have endless options, there is ice cream available 24/7, and did you know it’s possible to order multiple appetizers, entrees, and desserts at dinner in the main restaurant? It’s kind of nice to be surrounded by so many options of deliciousness!

I fill up my plate at the buffets for breakfast and lunch. At dinner, when I can’t decide between a few options, I order both. Sometimes I do this for both appetizer and entree! Nothing is off limits, ever. If something sounds good, I try it.

But here’s the “catch”: I don’t eat it all.

I’m under no obligation to finish it. Does anyone actually ENJOY feeling super stuffed? I know I don’t. It happens sometimes of course, but I try to avoid it when I can. So I allow myself to try all the foods that look super yummy, and I enjoy the heck out of them! But I make it a point to stop eating before I get uncomfortable.

3 – Focus on getting in veggies and fruits

Some of the fancy foods can be pretty rich. While I try them if I want to, I also focus on making sure I’m getting in a bunch of veggies and fruits to lighten things up a bit. I get omelettes with lots of veggies in the morning, usually with a side of fresh fruit. I make sure to try most of the veggie options at the lunch buffet. At dinner, I either order a meal (or meals) that include a bunch of veggies, or I order an extra side of vegetables.

Not only do vegetables and fruits help to lessen the overall calorie density of a meal (meaning there’s a little less room for the super heavy stuff), they also boost your intake of vitamins and minerals, which is always good practice!

This strategy, and the one above, go hand-in-hand to help ensure I don’t gain a bunch of weight on trips. There is never anything I can’t have. I just try to choose wisely as often as I can, while also enjoying the foods that are new and exciting.

4 – Make it a point to get moving

I do this not to make up for any extra calories. I do it because I enjoy it. I’ll go on active shore excursions like biking or kayaking. I walk around the ship, take the stairs instead of the elevator (sometimes), and maybe go to the ship’s gym and lift a few times over the course of the week. It’s nothing that will set any records, but it gets me moving, makes me feel good, and yes it burns a couple calories. It’s all good!

5 – Be aware of sweets

I have a heck of a sweet tooth. I eat more dessert on a cruise than I do at home, for sure. I’ll usually have one or two a day. The portions of desserts can be on the small side (because, “fancy”), which is awesome to control the intake a bit.

As I stated above, I also might not finish it. Again, nothing is off limits, but I also realize that if I eat cheesecake at every meal, I’m going to be putting on some weight. I stay mindful of what I’m choosing, and only finish it if it’s awesome. I easily pass on the things that are just “meh”, while fully enjoying the ones that I do choose, absolutely guilt-free! (Check out: If there are no bad foods, why manage sweets? to see my general approach to sweet stuff.)

(That 24/7 ice cream? It always looked yummy, but when push came to shove, the exotic chocolate desserts always won out. I can always get ice cream at home just as easily, so I didn’t feel like I missed out on anything.)

6 – Watch the liquid calories

Yes, I realize this is where I will lose many of you! I don’t commonly drink very much. This doesn’t tend to change when I’m on vacation. There are a few reasons for this. One is that I’m cheap. While that didn’t apply on this last trip (with the unlimited drink package included), it does apply every other time I’m out, whether it’s at a local restaurant near my house, or out on vacation. I don’t like to pay $10 for a glass of wine when I could easily buy a bottle for about the same price and enjoy it over a longer time frame. (Obviously I’m not an expensive wine drinker either!)

Another reason is that the drinks I enjoy most, particularly in a vacation setting, are very caloric and include tons of sugar on top of the alcohol itself… things like piña coladas, daiquiris, mudslides, BBCs (Bailey’s Banana Coladas – seriously, try one, they’re amazing!), etc. Those are my favorites, but oh boy do they pack a calorie punch! One of those drinks is a pretty big snack all on it’s own, so if I have one (fully enjoyed while lying in the sunshine staring at the ocean), it’s usually between lunch and dinner. I do that so it doesn’t spoil my appetite too much for dinner. This tactic works for me.

On most trips, I’ll have maybe 4 or 5 over the 7 days. This past trip, where drinks were all included, I think I averaged one per day, but there were a couple days where I had two drinks. On those days, the second drink wasn’t usually so calorie-dense. I had half of a vodka and diet sprite one time (didn’t enjoy it, so didn’t finish it), wine one day, and a coffee with Bailey’s in it another time. I know most people drink a lot more than that, and to each their own! But I know that limiting my alcohol intake allows me to indulge a bit more in the things I really enjoy (like chocolate desserts), and prevents me from gaining weight.

It’s all about personal choice. I prefer to indulge in sweet things. Alcohol usually isn’t worth the calories to me unless it’s one of the drinks I mentioned above. Someone else might have the opposite point of view, like my mom, who doesn’t like sweets (are we sure I’m your daughter??), but really enjoys wine. We each do what works for us, and we both have a wonderful time.

Let’s Sum This All Up:

In the end, I think healthy travel comes down to a few things: staying mindful, making wise choices (get in those veggies!), fully enjoying the decadent experiences you DO choose, and getting in some movement when you can. It is absolutely possible to have a fabulous time on vacation without gaining a bunch of weight. I’m living proof (and so are many of my clients)!

Do you have any other healthy travel tips that have worked for you in the past? I’d love to hear them! Share them in the comments below, or on Facebook!