Earlier this summer my mother and I went on the trip of a lifetime – a cruise around the Baltic Sea (10 countries in 12 days)! It was an amazing experience and not a day goes by that we don’t reminisce about the incredible places we visited and people we met. Any vacation – whether it be a cruise or a week at a resort – can be a tricky time to remain on track with eating healthfully.
1. Scan the buffet before loading up your plate – most cruises or resorts offer buffets for every meal. This can be a blessing and a curse! In order to make better choices, take a lap around the buffet before you put a single thing on your plate. Choose a few things that you really want to try – maybe it’s a featured item from your port of call that day, or something you have never tried before – and pass on generic entrees that you may eat regularly at home.
2. Load up on vegetables – starting your meal off with a salad or filling half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables is a smart move (even when you’re not on vacation)! Vegetables are filled with fiber (and water) that will help you feel fuller for longer, and for less calories. If you are traveling far from home you may get to try new produce that you’ve never had before – go for it!
3. Avoid “saving” calories – skipping meals during the day so that you can eat a lot at dinner or have dessert is never a good idea. Try to eat regularly throughout the day – a balanced mix of complex carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats – so that you have constant energy to enjoy all that your vacation has to offer! Also, letting yourself get too hungry may lead to over-indulging or potentially making impulsive unhealthy choices.
4. Drink water – try to drink water more than any other beverage. Alcohol does contain calories and drinking too much can reduce your inhibition to make healthy choices. Also, alcoholic beverages or beverage packages on board can be pricey – so think about where you want your calories to come from (and money to go) and choose wisely. Drinking a lot of water wasn’t an issue for us as we let on to the waitstaff early that we guzzle H2O – seldom were our water glasses empty.
5. Practice portion control – this is crucial while at the buffet and goes along well with tip #1. When selecting your meal from a buffet, try to fill half of your plate with fruits or vegetables, a quarter of your plate with protein, and the remaining quarter with whole grains. Serve yourself on a smaller plate to help keep portion sizes in check – you can fool your eyes (and your stomach) this way!
6. Stay active – take advantage of a gym on site or sign up for active excursions. Going on vacation is an excellent opportunity to get moving! Exercise facilities are commonplace on cruises and in hotels so there is no excuse to lose track of your fitness routine – set a goal for working out while you’re away and stick to it! If you are without a gym, take walking tours of your destinations or investigate activities like snorkeling, kayaking, or hiking!
7. Eat slowly – take time to relax and enjoy your meals! This may be a rare occasion when you do not have to cook for yourself, you are waited on hand and foot, and you don’t have to rush through eating to finish up work, take kids to practice, or rotate the laundry. Focus on enjoying the food, the scenery, and the company. Savoring each bite will force you to eat slower and allow your body to realize when you are truly full.
8. Try different dining options – usually the buffet is not your only choice for dining on a cruise or at a resort. Take advantage of the options and try some of the specialty restaurants or dining rooms. On our cruise we found that we were able to practice much better portion control when we ate dinner in the formal dining room – mainly because we weren’t serving ourselves! The menu in the dining room also featured lighter, “spa” options that were lower in calories. Just beware of the bread basket!
9. DO treat yourself – let’s not forget that this IS a vacation and you should allow yourself a treat every now and then. Make sure that you are selecting something you really think you’ll enjoy – make it count! If nothing on the menu or at the buffet catches your eye, skip it rather than settling for something mediocre. Remember that whatever you choose to eat is an investment in how you will feel later on! Choose to feel GREAT.
10. Don’t dwell on unhealthy choices – with tip #9 in mind, don’t let a special treat derail your entire day or trip! I believe that all foods can fit into a healthy diet – just try to eat the healthiest foods most often. Just because you caved and had cheesecake at lunch doesn’t mean you can’t rebound and enjoy a stellar, nutritious, and satisfying dinner later on (but maybe forgo the after-dinner dessert).