The Secrets to Eating Well on Vacation Without Gaining Weight

Caroline Morse, January 20, 2016
Fares from Washington DC:

    Nothing ruins post-vacation bliss more than hopping on the scales and discovering that you brought an extra five pounds (or more) home. Here's how you can maintain your weight and feel great while traveling, without missing out on all the fun of tasting local dishes and drinks.

    Sneak in Exercise

    Working out doesn't have to mean wasting an hour of your day in the hotel gym. It's easy to incorporate exercise into your vacation. Exploring a new city? Walk everywhere you can, and always opt for the stairs over the elevator or escalator. Relaxing at a beach resort? Go for a swim in the ocean or sign up for a local exercise class out in nature. The options are endless—you can book group walking or jogging sightseeing tours, take a hike, or rent a bike. But to make it happen, you must pack the right shoes. We like Nike Flyknit, lightweight shoes that work for activities from running to biking, yet pack down flat. Bonus: If you get the all-black version, they don't stand out as workout shoes when you pair them with jeans.

    RELATED: Three Ways to Pack Workout Shoes Without Wasting Space

    Choose Your Drinks Wisely

    You're on vacation, and you want to sit back and relax with an alcoholic drink. We're not judging. But be aware that those boozy calories can add up quickly, and are one of the biggest contributors to weight gain. A frozen margarita, for example, can have over 700 calories, which is more than a meal. But your body doesn't recognize those calories the same way it would if you had a hamburger with the same calorie load, so you'll still be hungry after you drink it. Steer clear of beverages made with sugary fruit juices and sodas (or cream-based cocktails).

    Instead, opt for wine and low-calorie beer, which clock in around 100 calories, or go even lighter with something served "on the rocks". (A whiskey on the rocks, for example, has about 70 calories.) If you are going for a soda mixer, make it a diet—a rum and Diet Coke has less than 100 calories. There are plenty of free apps such as MyFitnessPal that can help you figure out the nutrition information for almost every food and drink out there.

    Book a Room with a Kitchenette

    Eating out for three meals a day quickly does damage to your waistline and wallet. If you book a room that has a kitchenette (or at least a mini fridge), you can make it a goal to eat healthily (and cheaply) for at least one meal a day. Stock up on some yogurt, fruit, milk and cereal at the local grocery store, and you'll have an easy and low-calorie breakfast waiting for you every morning. Bonus: You'll get to start your day more quickly by not wasting time eating breakfast at a restaurant.

    RELATED: 10 Hacks for Making the Most of Your Hotel Breakfast

    Use a Fitness Tracker

    Wear a fitness tracker like the FitBit, which lets you see at a glance how well you're doing with your exercise goals for the day. This can also give you more motivation to go for an after-dinner stroll while traveling. If you're so inclined, you can also use it to track your daily food intake so that you can see just how many calories you're eating.

    Taste Everything, Finish Nothing

    There are so many amazing foods to try when you're traveling, and you don't want to miss out because you're on a diet. Adapt the attitude of Phil Vettel, a restaurant critic for the Chicago Tribune, who says: "My saving grace in this profession is that you have to try everything, but you don't have to finish it. Doggie bags are my lifesaver."

    Order food to share with your dining companion and you'll get to taste a lot of different dishes. Or, if you've booked a room with a mini fridge and microwave, take leftovers back to your hotel for a quick lunch or dinner the next day. You'll save calories and money without missing out.

    Pack Healthy Snacks

    Visit a local market and stock up on healthy snacks like fruit and nuts that you can easily toss into your purse or day bag. This way, when hunger strikes, you're not tempted to buy expensive, unhealthy snacks. Pre-planning is especially important in case you wind up getting stuck somewhere like an airport, where your options might be quite limited.

    RELATED: 10 Healthy Snacks You Can Buy at the Airport


    It's easy to get dehydrated while traveling since you're out of your normal routine. Your body can mistake the feeling of thirst for hunger, causing you to overeat. Make sure you're getting enough water by bringing a travel-friendly, collapsible water bottle like this one.

    Download a Walking/Running App

    Ditch the guidebook and download a walking or running app to explore a new city instead. They're like guided tours on foot, and are available for an impressive range of destinations and interests, for example Street Art in New York or Goa on Foot.

    RELATED: 10 Truly Unique City Tours Around the World

    Squeeze in a Quick Hotel Room Workout

    You're getting your cardio in by walking a ton on vacation, but if you really want to torch those indulgence calories, you should add in a bit of weight training. Get up just a little early every morning and do a few resistance exercises before you shower and head out for the day. No heavy weights required: Pack these small and lightweight resistance bands and do some moves from this list of 33 Resistance Band Exercises You Can Do Literally Anywhere.

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    Read the original story: The Secrets to Eating Well on Vacation Without Gaining Weight by Caroline Morse, who is a regular contributor to SmarterTravel.

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