They say travel expands your horizons, but it can also thicken your waistline. Here’s how to vacation in some of the most popular countries without piling on the pounds.
The aftermath of a holiday can be scary, but often it’s the prospect of going on vacation that fills us with fear. Away from our normal routines, we often worry about how we’re going to eat in a calorie-conscious way to avoid returning with an extra three pounds as a souvenir! If you go somewhere really remote and exotic, you might come back a stone lighter thanks to some nasty tummy bug, but otherwise, traveling and staying abroad is likely to trip up your diet plans.
This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t go on holiday. You can’t put life, fun and new experiences on hold while you try to get to your target weight. The key is knowing your way around foreign menus, choosing dishes wisely, watching the portion sizes and going easy on the local beers, cocktails, vino, sangria and port or whatever other alcoholic temptations are on offer.
Here’s a whistle stop tour of popular holiday destinations and the pros and cons of local cuisine:
Go for: gazpacho, stuffed peppers, grilled fish, salads, paella, mussels, grilled chicken and rice, tortilla.
Skip: fried dishes and Hors D’oeuvres, whitebait (they’re cooked in batter, so it’s a snack with more than 300 calories), fish served with oily sauces, albondigas (fatty meatballs) and chorizo (a high fat sausage).
Go for: pitta bread, salads, baked fish, stuffed tomatoes, grilled fish, fresh fruit, seafood kebabs, lamb and pepper kebabs, tzatziki and hummus dips. When you order salad, ask for the dressing on the side.
Skip: baklava sweets, moussaka (a high-fat dish), meatballs, taramasalata (just a tablespoon is 50% fat and contains 200 calories), and spicy sausages.
Go for: fish dishes, thin-base pizzas with vegetable toppings, pasta with tomato, vegetable or seafood sauces, parma ham with melon, seafood salad, bread sticks, tuna and bean salad, and grilled chicken (ask for sauce on the side).
Skip: pasta with creamy or buttery sauces, pizza with salami, extra Parmesan, char-grilled vegetables (drenched in oil), pesto sauce. Avoid creamy sauces such as primavera, and Neapolitana.
Go for: consommé soup, grilled trout, ratatouille, salads, bouillabaisse, salad-filled baguettes, lower fat cheeses such as brie, camembert and goat’s cheese, and French onion soup (but don’t eat the floating cheese).
Skip: Creamy and buttery sauces such as béarnaise or à la Normandie, buttered vegetables, patisserie, croissants, and pain au chocolat.
Go for: Tex mex – bean burritos, chicken fajitas, vegetable chilli tostadas, low-fat or fat-free muffins, yoghurts, ice-cream. In the USA you can get any variation on a menu, but you need to ask. The downside is the enormous portions they give you.
Skip: burgers, fries, cheesecake, brownies, potato skins, tortilla chips, fried steaks and Caesar salad, which seems healthy, but has a dressing that whacks up the fat and calories.
Go for: fish cakes, prawn or green papaya salad, stir-fried vegetable dishes, soups (avoid those with coconut, a rich source of saturated fat), meat or seafood pad ka pau (stir-fried with garlic, basil and chilli), whole baked fish.
Skip: Curries (often swimming in coconut milk) and satay sauce (delicious, but a calorie colossus).
Olivia Winters is an avid food blogger and weight loss specialist. She is currently helping women in the SF Bay Area conquer their obsessions with unhealthy foods and lifestyle patterns. She also really loves swiss cheese chia seeds.