Unless you’re Megan Fox or Tatum Channing, the thought of stripping down to a swimsuit in the Costa Brava might not fill you with glee. Add to that the all-inclusive buffets, snacks by the pool and boozy lunches, and you might as well put Jenny Craig on speed dial.
Don’t worry. We’ve compiled a little list of the biggest diet pitfalls that come along on holiday, and how you can negotiate them without resorting to calorie counting. Simply follow the steps, hold on to your sexy shorts and stay on track to healthy eating this summer.
#1 Groaning Buffet Tables
Our eyes are often bigger than our tummies, and it gets worse when we’re confronted with “all-you-can-eat” Spanish buffets that are laden with tapas, tacos, fajitas and paellas. You’ll have probably learned from experience that missing meals just leads to overeating, so opt instead for a light lunch and try a little bit of everything at dinnertime, but skip the seconds.
#2 Happy Hour
You can start with the best intentions, but just one or two drinks later and your careful diet plan and inhibitions (karaoke, anyone?) go out the window. Of course, holidays are a time for fun, relaxation and a little bit of indulgence – as long as you do so within limits. Remember also that spending long hours in the sun can dehydrate your body, so fill up on non-alcoholic drinks as well.
Here’s a little crash course to keep your calorie count down during cocktail hour:
- Ask for diet mixers or juices to reduce the total number of calories in your glass
- Try white wine and soda in a tall glass with ice: it has fewer calories and alcohol, but plenty of class
- Check the alcohol content of foreign beers and lagers as these can sometimes pack an unexpected punch
- It’s the oldest trick in the book, but alternate alcoholic drinks with water or soft drinks to help alleviate tomorrow’s hangover
- Steer clear of creamy, coconut and syrupy cocktails and opt instead for concoctions that are carbonated, contain fresh fruit juice or are served straight-up like a classic Martini. Choices like a Long Island Iced Tea or Pina Colada can have double the calories of a Margarita or Mojito – watch out!
#3 Nibbles: the naughty and the nice
Hotels specialise in keeping their guests satisfied, and provide all kinds of culinary temptations including peanuts, biscuits, cakes, fancy breads and sweets. Being on holiday doesn’t mean depriving yourself, but it’s important to make wise choices. Opt for olives rather than peanuts, and try not to slather butter on that bread roll before your meal. When the dessert cart rolls around, choose an option with fresh fruit and go easy on the cream.
This touches on a rule-of-thumb that can help you maintain a balanced diet on holiday: be conservative with extras. By all means, try the tapas, enjoy new tastes and don’t skimp on meals, but avoid bowls of snacks craftily placed at your elbow, heavy-cream sauces, butter pats for bread rolls (do you need them?), pots of whipped cream and bowls of sweets at reception. These extras don’t add much to anything other than your waistline.
The sounds a little easier said than done. Here are a few tips:
- Go heavy on the vegetables, but avoid high fat spreads or fried veggie traps. Tempura onion rings may be tasty, but you may as well have opted for the ribs.
- Avoid buying edible souvenirs like bags of sweets or exotic baked goods, which you can nibble in your hotel room or on the bus. Choose textiles or ceramics that keep forever.
- This may sound strange, but increase your calorie burn by booking tours. On holiday, there’s plenty of opportunity to stay active without feeling like you’re sweating in the gym. Sessions underwater with a pair of goggles, hiking in the mountains or horse riding on the beach are less a matter of sweat and tears and more about being healthy and enjoying your holiday.
- Treat yourself. Don’t turn down opportunities to try Turkish delight in Dalaman or tuck into the specialty sausages and cheese in Majorca. Eating yummy foods in moderation means you are less likely to binge on unhealthy foods later on.
It’s always heartening to remember that the actresses in films and models on the catwalk tend to have personal trainers and meal plans that are organised down to the calorie. Thankfully, we don’t have to live according to such strict measures, and pigging out on holiday once in a while won’t tip the scales.