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6 Rules for Eating on Vacation

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Vacation is all about freedom. You can wake up when you want, do what you want, go anywhere you want, eat anything you want… Well, not exactly.

If you’re abiding by healthy diet principles, then taking a vacation shouldn’t mean taking time off from nutritious eating, too. While you should approach your meals with somewhat of a YOLO mentality, it’s important not to overdo it. Reality might sink in when you get back from paradise, realize you’ve gained a couple pounds, and feel tempted to completely fall off the weight-loss wagon. “You shouldn’t worry about losing weight on vacation, but you shouldn’t have to gain any,” says Keri Gans, M.S., R.D., author of The Small Change Diet. Here, she gives tips for keeping the pounds off and still enjoying yourself.

Keep perspective You can taste a lot of food you see, especially if it’s native to the region or special vacation treats, but you have to limit yourself. For instance, Gans says if you’re craving a margarita or pina colada, have one—but don’t think that vacation means bottomless refills and orders. “The food is not the only reason you’re on vacation,” says Gans. “Remember this is not your last meal.”

Be choosy If you’re so-so on the beverage offerings, skip them and choose water so you can opt for dessert later. Or rotate your preferences. “If it’s a week-long vacation, maybe three nights you have dessert and the others you can get a fancy drink,” says Gans.

Bring your own snacks To avoid the temptation to order an easy-to-eat slice of pizza or pop-able french fries on the beach or boardwalk, pack your own snacks. “I like 100-calorie packs of almonds and KIND bars,” Gans says. “Mindful snacking is important—you won’t be starving at dinner, and you won’t be prone to overeating when you walk into a restaurant.”

Beware of the breakfast buffet Pass on any buffet for that matter. It’s better to choose a dish you’d really like from the menu, so it’s portioned out for you. If the buffet is your only option:  “Don’t pick up a plate the first time you go through the line,” Gans says. “Take a look at everything, and then decide, so you don’t stop at every station.”

Squeeze in exercise Vacations are a great time to run on the beach as the sun rises, take a walk along a scenic trail, or tap into anything that gets you moving. Try to plan movement into your daily vacation routine. “Swim, walk, explore, kayak—all of these are great,” Gans says. “In fact, I’ve even had clients lose weight on vacation, because they found they were moving more.” Vacation exercise can easily be fun. So, do it!

Check in with yourself Upon return, you might be scared apprehensive to step on the scale and the damage that was done, if any. Gans says face the fear. “Get back on track immediately,” she says. “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, so weigh yourself and face the music—and then let it go.” Whether you’re up, down, or the same, don’t dwell on the number. Just go right back to your healthy habits—you’ll regain comfort in your usual eating routine in no time!

What’s your eating strategy when on vacation? Do you still log into MyFitnessPal?

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