Fitness + Well-being

How to go on vacation and not gain weight

A vacation is a marathon, not a sprint. With a week or more of plans stretched out ahead of you, the only way to ensure you have the energy to enjoy all of it is to pace yourself. And we're not just talking about the sightseeing. This slow-and-steady strategy applies to eating, too. After all, no one wants to feel like an overfed slug by the middle of their trip. (Lose weight fast with these super-effective 10-minute workouts from Prevention!)

Happily, doing so is easier than you think. We tapped veteran foodie and global adventurer Adam Richman, host of the Travel Channel's Secret Eats with Adam Richman, to get his top advice for how to have your vacation cake and eat it, too. 

Think outside the (meal) box.
When you eat at a traditional restaurant, your meal options are limited to an appetizer and a single entrée. Go halfsies with your dining companions, and you might get to taste a couple of different dishes. Which is good, but you can definitely do better. (Here's how to eat out and be healthy without annoying everyone around you.)

Rather than always hitting sit-down spots, turn a visit to an open-air market into a meal, Richman suggests. There, you'll find vendors serving up tons of creative, mouthwatering street foods, often in smaller portions (and at cheaper prices) than what you'd get at a restaurant. Best of all, sharing is easy — and even encouraged: Take a bite of that crispy fish taco or indulge in a spoonful of the fresh strawberry gelato, then pass it on to your travel companion.

When you do dine at a restaurant, opt for a sampler platter instead of the usual entrée. "You'd be surprised at how many places in New Orleans will serve you half a po' boy and a cup of gumbo, instead of ordering a whole sandwich and a bowl of that thick, rich stew," Richman said.

Not to say that you need to eat said platter entirely by yourself. "In Warsaw, my friends and I split a platter that had various forms of Polish sausage and pierogis. We were able to get a few bites of the flavors without having to consume an entire order ourselves," Richman said. (Be careful! Even if you're friends are supportive of your weight loss goals, there are sneaky ways they could be sabotaging your progress.) 

Appeal to your inner snob.
At home, you likely already try to limit your indulgences to high-quality foods that you really love. But when you're on vacation, opportunities to treat yourself are kind of like chintzy gift shops: They pop up everywhere, but the majority are just junk.

Thing is, just because a food or drink is there doesn't mean you have to eat it. Sure, it can be tough to toss the chocolates that housekeeping places on your freshly fluffed pillow each night, even if they are just mediocre. But taking a second to think about whether a treat is really worth it to you can make less-than-stellar offerings easier to resist, leaving you with more room for the most delicious stuff. (Need more tips to avoid weight gain on vacation? Here are 5 of the best.) 

"If the food isn't going to be spectacular, and if it's not going to make me feel full and satiated, what's the point?" Richman said. Remember that when someone in your group insists on stopping at the so-so ice cream or coffee chain that you can visit any time back at home. (If you are stuck at Starbucks, here are the 9 best things nutritionists say you can order there.)

Take a halftime break.
An insanely delicious meal is easy to scarf down at a breakneck pace, especially after a jam-packed day of sightseeing. But eating like you're in a race to clean your plate is practically guaranteed to leave you uncomfortably full. As a result, you have zero room to sample those delicious desserts, or can't stomach the idea of breakfast the next morning.

Rather than plow through your food, make it a point to pause when you're halfway done. "Chill out for a few minutes. Have a few sips of your wine and wait. You'd be surprised how quickly you feel full despite having not eaten another bite," Richman said.

You can adapt this idea to longer stretches, too. If you're on a trip lasting for more than a few days and you're starting to feel a little icky from too much eating, take a break. Give yourself a reset day where you stick to lighter fare, like salads and smoothies, before diving back into the foodie fray.

Be your own car, bus, or taxi.
Lace up your most comfortable shoes and huff it whenever you can. You'll burn a lot more energy — and work up a much bigger appetite — by walking or bicycling as much as possible.

Plus, who knows what kinds of interesting stuff you'll run into while you wander around? "You'd be surprised by how much you miss out on from a tour bus or the back of a taxi," Richman said.

First published on Prevention.com