It’s that time of year when my diary becomes distinctly quieter as you lot go off on your summer holidays. Now I love going away as much as you, and taking a break is undoubtedly good for our wellbeing, but often it isn’t that great for our physical health. Obviously you aren’t seeing me and, depending on what type of holiday you’re on, it might be that the only exercise you get is moving from the hotel room to the sun lounger to the bar. On top of that, any thoughts of healthy eating can easily go out of the window. All leading to those holiday pounds quite easily piling on. But there are ways of making your holiday a little bit healthier without the rest of the family thinking you’re a killjoy.
Wherever your holiday destination, I can guarantee there will be some sort of activities that involve moving your body, that you can have a go at. Whether it is something as simple as a walking or cycling tour, or, for the more adventurous of you, why not take a surfing lesson (like I am going to do in Newquay in August) or try kayaking or paddle boarding.
If you’re staying in a hotel, they are bound to have some facilities you can use to stay active. Even the most basic gym can be perfectly adequate for a pre-breakfast workout, or why not go for a swim? I highly recommend doing this before breakfast too, as not only is it likely to be quiet enough to get some proper lengths in, but it also leaves the rest of the day free to enjoy with your family and friends. If you’re lucky enough to have a tennis court available, a game of doubles with all the family is a great way to spend that time between finishing sunbathing and going out for dinner.
And of course, wherever you’re staying, as long as you have packed a pair of trainers, you can go for a run or a brisk walk. It’s a great way to get to know the area – and if you’re by the sea, there really is nothing more peaceful.
Rather than a full English (as tempting as that is when staying in a hotel) or pastries, or both, consider how you can make your breakfast a healthy meal that will keep you feeling full. If I am staying in a hotel, I always try to have breakfast as late as possible. That way, I can usually get through to dinner with just a piece of fruit and a milky (iced) coffee during the day to keep me going.
But, what to have? Eggs are a great source of filling protein – I tend to go for poached or boiled (scrambled can be laden with butter, and fried can be very oily), or an omelette filled with veggies. Smoked salmon or cold slices of chicken make healthier alternatives to bacon and sausages. And hotel breakfasts almost always have some sort of veg available, whether it’s a bit of salad, or cooked tomatoes – so there is no excuse for not adding one or two of your five a day. If you have a sweet tooth, opt for some fruit (another portion of your five a day) with plain yoghurt and a sprinkle of nuts or seeds. And if you can’t resist a piece of bread, always opt for wholegrain varieties – they contain fibre which is good for gut health and makes it more filling – and have it with your eggs, or some peanut butter rather than a sugary toppings like jam.
If you’re self-catering, it is easier to resist the naughty breakfast foods, and scrambled eggs or omelettes are a very quick and easy option.
For those days when you want lunch, a salad is the perfect option for a warm, summer’s day, topped with a healthy source of protein like chicken, tuna, prawns, egg or beans. Salads biggest stumbling block on the health front tends to be the dressing, so my top tip is to ask for it on the side so you can just have a little, or better still, why not dress it with vinegar and a small amount of olive oil, which is packed with healthy fats.
When it comes to dinner, the sides are where you can really make a difference to the healthiness of a dish, without feeling like you’re missing out. For example, swapping chips for new potatoes (without butter) or, better still, salad or veg, will cut the fat and calories. Take a look at the menu to see what other sides are offered with other mains – that way you know what’s on offer. Or maybe you could consider sharing two dishes, for example getting one pizza and a salad between two of you. Take a little break before dessert, and think about whether you really need it. If you decide you do, sharing is a good option. Or why not go for a walk, and get a nice scoop (just the one!) of ice cream or sorbet to give you a little sweet fix.
On holiday, alcohol can be one of the biggest downfalls when it comes to health. Whereas normally we might have a drink at the weekend, whilst on holiday, having alcohol most days is not unusual. As alcohol is easy to drink in large volumes but contains more calories per gram than sugar (the alcohol bit that is), you could easily be downing a lot more calories than you realise. For less sinful booze, opt for a weak rose spritzer with sparkling water or diet lemonade, shandy with diet lemonade or a single white spirit (like gin or vodka) with a low-calories mixer, like slimline tonic. Cocktails are synonymous with holidays, but they are often full of sugary syrups as well as alcohol – and to be honest, virgin cocktails often aren’t much better – so a healthier alternative that still has that summery feel is to add some chopped up fresh fruit and lots of ice to diet lemonade (add a dash of balsamic vinegar – sounds odd I know – for even more of a Pimms-like vibe, it really tastes great). It’s super refreshing and great to help make alcohol-free days easier.
Have a wonderful holiday, and see you on the other side.