Avoid vacation weight gain with these 6 dietitian-approved weight maintenance tips
- 3 Minutes Read
Vacation weight gain gets the "worst souvenir" award, and you don't want to bring it home from your trip. Learn how you can avoid it while still enjoying every moment of your travels.
Recently, while traveling on a week-long marathon visit with family and friends, I found myself faced with having to eat meals and snacks on the run and at social events. It was great fun, but I decided to challenge myself to maintain and not gain weight during this week of exposure to marvelous calorie-laden foods. In the past, I have typically treated vacations as a time to cut loose and enjoy the rich foods and countless treats from which I usually refrain. But, now, I am finding it is harder to get away with this cavalier approach without gaining weight.
Vacation weight gain is not inevitable. Try my simple strategies to keep the calories in check and add physical activity while having fun. You may be pleasantly surprised that you don't gain weight during your vacation.
Put your weight-loss goal on pause during vacation. When the goal is to maintain your weight (rather than losing) during a trip, it removes pressure and tension regarding eating in new food environments. Plus, keeping your current weight during vacation instead of gaining sets you up to resume your progress when you return-no drastic measures needed.
Smart beverage choices make a huge calorie difference. Passing on a caloric drink you could get back home leaves room for more of the local dining you really want to savor. Instead, choose low-calorie beverages or simply use a smaller glass for your drink.
Examples of calorie savings:
Pack a reusable water bottle to stay hydrated when traveling. It saves you money and keeps you going strong, so you can make the most of your vacation.
Eat something nutritious before heading to the airport. Bring healthy snacks for the plane and car. Those "snack" bags of trail mix in the airport or convenience stores often contain three servings per bag. The 150 calories on the nutrition label don't sound so bad until you realize you have eaten three servings.
Pack a healthy snack or meal to eat on the plane. Although you can't go through airport security with liquids and gels (e.g., yogurt), solids are allowed. Consider prepping these healthy noshes: sandwiches, salad, raw veggies, cheese, fruit, nuts, seeds, protein bars, or leftovers in a disposable container. My current favorite go-to snack is roasted almonds.
Check whether your hotel offers a small refrigerator and microwave and what options (if any) exist for breakfast. Research local grocery stores and markets so you can pick up some healthy food when you arrive.
Excessive restaurant portions, all-you-can-eat buffets, and enticing local cuisine make it tricky to limit vacation calories. If you have access to a refrigerator, plan for leftovers. When possible, serve yourself using a smaller plate, glass, or bowl.
Portion control means you don't have to deny yourself local treats. Studies have shown that we get the most enjoyment from the first few bites of anything we eat. After that, our enjoyment goes downhill fast. So, by taking only a few bites instead of finishing that yummy cheesecake or cookie, you not only get to enjoy the treat, but you've saved on calories as well. Splitting a treat is a fun way to sample something new while limiting calories.
Fill half your plate with veggies. If there are no veggies at one meal (often the case at many cafes and diners), add more at another meal that day.
Offer to make a big salad or bring a veggie tray for a get-together. Choose a restaurant that offers more veggies than just pickles, lettuce, and tomato on a fried sandwich. Seek out local farmers' markets for fresh and seasonal local produce.
I often fill my dinner plate with yummy fresh salad and use the smaller salad bowl or plate for the entree. This easy dish-switch can save hundreds of calories and leaves room for a small treat later.
Vacation is more than just about the food-it's about relaxing, exploring, and spending time with loved ones. Throw Frisbee with the kids, catch lightning bugs, challenge everyone to a hula hoop contest, or go on a walking tour when sightseeing. You may have so much fun it doesn't feel like exercise.
Enjoy your special getaway, and if you follow these simple strategies, you may find that you don't gain that typical weight during your vacation. Surprisingly, I lost a pound during my week-long visit with family and friends!
Reviewed and updated by Sue Heikkinen MS, RDN, CDCES on June 21, 2021.
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