How to succeed in eating healthily on holiday without really trying

There’s nothing like a holiday to mix up your routine. Usually, this is an awesome thing (routine generally involves work, study and not spending all day shopping, seeing theatre and going to interesting little bars), but it can also mess with your carefully laid-out food and exercise plans. When I go on holiday, my main focus is always, always food (you can blame my foodie family for that!). I love getting the opportunity to try new places, especially now that I live in a town with a fairly small selection of cafes and restaurants, none of which are particularly adventurous. So when the opportunity arose for a five-day jaunt in Sydney, staying with friends in Surry Hills (land of delicious bakeries and award-winning ice cream), I was champing at the bit. I’ve just returned from said jaunt, and I had some of the best food of my life there (including that award-winning ice cream… oh my goodness) but thanks to a bit of forward planning, managed to come home weighing exactly the same as before I left. So, here are a few things to consider when you’re in holiday mode to make sure you don’t undo all of your hard work!

  • Pack food for the train/plane/bus. On my way home, I knew that I had five hours of travel ahead of me and that my flight wouldn’t be serving food. Instead of wasting money and calories on some overpriced, overbuttered airport panini, I bought an extra sandwich from Bourke St Bakery that morning to eat on the plane. It was amazing. On that note:
  • If it’s worth the calories, go for it. Sure, I could have made a less calorific plane-lunch at home, but this sandwich was like heaven on bread, so for me it was worth it. Same thing goes for desserts. Don’t eat average cake. There’s no point. Food is meant to be nourishing and fuelling, yes, but it’s also there to be enjoyed! If the cake is amazing, go for your life. If it’s not, nobody’s forcing you to finish it, and you’re only doing yourself a disservice by doing so. Chips taste pretty much the same wherever you go, so get a side salad instead, or opt out of the “Let’s just get a bowl for the table, yeah?” conversation. Every holiday meal is an opportunity for great food experiences, so don’t waste them on so-so food. This is basically, pared down, my entire food philosophy. Here’s a handy-dandy chart that I made (using my amazing photoshop skills) to illustrate my point. If you only eat within the green zone, you’ll generally be pretty happy and healthy. Average cake is not within the zone of awesomeness. Neither is McDonald’s. Cooking with fresh, good-quality ingredients and cutting down refined carbs (like white rice and pasta) will help you to get your meals into the zone of awesomeness. And you can indulge yourself… but only if the food is really, really delicious.

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  • Research, research, research! I’d looked up the the area I was staying in on Urbanspoon and found the top-rated food places. It meant that pretty much every place I went, I got to eat food that was completely and utterly worth the calories. And then some. Oh man, that sandwich.
  • Have dessert somewhere different. Few dinner places do dessert as well as dedicated cake shops or ice-creameries, so if you order dessert with your meal, you may just be taking in calories that aren’t really worth it. Besides, the extra walk to the awesome macaron place will do you good.
  • Give yourself some wiggle room. I wear a Fitbit (step tracker), and I noticed that on one particularly shopping-heavy day, I walked almost 23,000 steps. That’s over four times the national average. No wonder I was hungry! It means that I burned about 700 more calories than I would on a normal day, so I had a lot more to play with. If you’re spending a lot of time walking around (and running for buses as I did… okay, I may not be the most public-transport-savvy person), you can afford to be a bit more lenient with your choices.
  • Healthier choices can also be mega-delicious. I had a pumpkin, goat’s cheese, spinach and hazelnut salad for lunch one day and it was really, really good. I also had some outrageously tasty mushrooms. Don’t think that you’re missing out by ordering the healthy option. Having said that, there’s no need to order salad if you don’t want it. It’s all about the balance between calories and deliciousness (see my highly scientific chart above).
  • You’re allowed to go to the supermarket. I knew that on some days I wouldn’t have time to sit down and eat breakfast somewhere nice, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to eat a dodgy croissant just because it’s the only thing I can find nearby. So on the first day of my trip, I grabbed some supplies to make my muesli at home, and I’m so glad I did. It got me off to a good start and meant that I wasn’t starving (and tempted to overeat) at lunchtime.

It’s so nice to go away, but I’m also glad to be back home and getting back into my routine. I haven’t done any running or yoga for a week (apart from one very short session in my hosts’ lounge room) so it’ll be interesting to see how I go with hot yoga tomorrow morning… yikes. Enjoy your holidays, if you’re going on any – and eat delicious food while you’re there!

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