How are your food habits when you go on holiday?  What are you like when faced with the All-Inclusive buffet?  Are you possessed by the greed monster, or do you succumb to the alcohol gremlin, ordering a beer shortly after breakfast?

I’ve been fortunate enough to experience lots of different holidays with varied eating situations, from self catering caravans, to 5 star cruising; from Wendy’s Diners to Greek Meze.  One of the best things about going away is enjoying different food even if that’s means overcooked sausages on a campfire complete with grass on the side.  Whatever the situation, I have never come home needing to lose weight despite eating and drinking well, and by-passing the gym.

The biggest problem it seems for many people is the ‘help yourself’ buffet that many hotels operate.  I’ve watched people filling a large dinner plate with a full cooked breakfast, followed by cereal and yoghurt, and of course a bit of fruit (to be healthy!)  This wouldn’t be too bad if that was it until evening, but at lunchtime they return to eat again, starting with salad, but it is quite likely there will also be a portion of chips and a couple of slices of bread.  As the afternoon sun bears down, it would be rude not to cool down with an ice cream or several beers.  Initial observations on the dinner buffet show salad and fish, – so far so good, followed by meats, pasta and rice for the main, not forgetting a token healthy side salad; rounding off with a cream based or gateaux type dessert. 

Whilst many people who eat like this are already overweight, there are plenty who wouldn’t dream of eating like this at home, but do so now just because it’s there and it’s free!

It’s the same with alcohol, drinking in the sun is dehydrating and saps your energy.  You’re not going to feel like splashing in the sea with the kids or walking round temples after a few lunchtime glasses of wine.  Whilst one of the perks of holidaying abroad is the larger drinks measures, and who doesn’t like a longer drink with more for our money, some resorts will fill a glass with 150 ml of spirits!!  With the standard pub measure being 25ml at 72 calories for gin for example, one gin abroad could contain 5 units of alcohol, scoring over 350 calories per drink… without the mixers.  And the calorie content of cocktails is huge when you consider how many syrups, juices or sugars are added.

So how do you have fun in the sun without paying for that excess baggage?

  • Before breakfast whilst it is quiet and cooler, head to the gym if there is one, or go for a run/ brisk walk.
  • For buffet breakfasts, start with some fruit and a little natural yoghurt followed by a small portion of eggs or bacon.  Avoid toast, bagels and croissants.  If you wake up very late and intend to have lunch, then natural yoghurt, fruit and a spoon of nuts and seeds would be enough.
  • If lunch isn’t included, head to the local supermarket and buy some wholewheat crackers with ham, cheese and lots of salad and fruit.
  • If you are on an ‘all inclusive lunch’ don’t act as if you will never eat again.  Fill your plate with salad first, then add in some slices of meat, prawns or smoked fish and go sparingly with any salad mixed in mayonnaise.  Leave the carbs for the evening, and finish with a piece of fruit.
  • Pools usually empty around 5pm which is the perfect time to get in and do some lengths, set yourself a time limit or a number of lengths to complete and enjoy it!
  • For evening buffets, you are less likely to over-eat if you don’t drink on an empty stomach, which sends blood sugar crashing.  Fill your plate with a mixture of salad and/or vegetables first, then add in fish or meat (avoid breadcrumbs or battered food, and BBQ sauce which is high in sugar).  Next add a small portion of potatoes or rice – avoid bread.  Don’t go back for seconds. 
  • For dessert, opt for fruit based deserts and fruit salads, allow yourself a small proper dessert on the days you have done some exercise.
  • If it is an A La Carte restaurant, choose salads with grilled meats or fish, avoid the bread, and choose fruit based desserts or a starter, not both. 
  • If you have a self-catering holiday, take some basic staples from home, and make the most of the salads and fruit if you are abroad.  Eat out a couple of times if finances allow, but avoid fish and chips or pasta.
  • Alcohol is usually the biggest increase to our waistline on holiday.  Apply these rules to feel good and not gain pounds:
    • Don’t drink on an empty stomach
    • Don’t use alcohol to quench your thirst, ensure you are hydrated before you drink
    • Keep a mental note of how much you drink
    • Allow for larger measures abroad
    • If you are watching your weight, avoid sugar laden fruit cocktails
    • Don’t drink alcohol when sunbathing
    • Don’t dismiss the calories in alcohol
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 If you are reading this saying “so what, it’s a holiday”, that’s fine if you don’t mind piling on the pounds!

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