How to stay healthy on holiday and still enjoy yourself, according to a top nutritionist

For what is a holiday without a piña colada?

Rachel Hosie
Monday 07 August 2017 13:05 BST

One of the best things about travelling is undoubtedly the food - from fresh burrata to Belgian waffles, most of us want to try the local delicacies when on holiday. And rightly so.

But then coming home to find none of your clothes fit anymore, especially if you’d been working hard on your fitness previously, is less than ideal.

So how do you enjoy your holiday and all the delicious food - and drinks - on offer without sabotaging your health and fitness?

Believe it or not, it is possible, as registered nutritionist and author of Re-Nourish, Rhiannon Lambert, explained to us.

So many of us act like kids in a candy store on holiday - the breakfast buffet is both a gift and a curse - but really, it all comes down to being a little more balanced. That way you can enjoy all the lovely food on offer and relax without stressing about what you’re consuming.

How to stay healthy on holiday:

1. Navigate the hotel breakfast

Is there anything better than coming down from a night sleeping in a fluffy cloud of a bed to an epic breakfast spread, with everything you could ever want to eat on offer? Who can be blamed for scoffing everything in sight?

But Lambert says the trick to enjoying a hotel breakfast and trying everything you want is to have an action plan:

“Pre-empt your choices the night before - pick an egg morning, the next day have a fruit salad morning, the day after try the traditional local breakfast and before you know it you will have worked your way around the buffet table over the course of the week without overindulging.”

Here are her top healthy breakfast options:

  • Omelettes - If you’re lucky enough to have an omelette station, load up on veggies to go with your eggs.
  • Greek yoghurt and fruit - Top your fruit salad with yoghurt for a protein boost to keep you fuller for longer and sprinkle with crushed seeds and nuts for some healthy fats and additional crunch.
  • Consider only one or two mornings to have that croissant or granola bowl as these tend to be highest in sugar and spike your hunger levels throughout the day.
  • Full English - Stick to portion control here and go for bacon over a sausage as it’s lower in fat content, ideally swap the bacon for just eggs then load up on mushrooms, tomatoes and a small portion on beans on toast.

When you can help yourself to food, it’s easy to consume vast quantities but you’ll likley thank yourself later if you watch your portion size - don’t deprive yourself of treats, but indulge in moderation.

“Think of your hands when you’re out as a rough guide to portion control,” Lambert explains. “One outstretched palm for a portion of protein, a handful of carbohydrate, two large handfuls of vegetables and a thumb-sized serving of healthy fats.”

2. Stay active

When you think about how expensive gym memberships are, you may as well make the most of a hotel gym if one is available. If you get in even a 20 minute session before breakfast, you’ll enjoy the rest of your day so much more and be able to relax to your heart’s content.

Another great way to keep active is to walk, which Lambert thinks is an underrated form of exercise: “Regular walking has been shown to reduce the risk of chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, asthma, stroke and even some cancers,” she points out.

Walking will also allow you to top up your vitamin D and explore more of the local area, be that a city or the coast.

And if you find yourself needing to jump into the pool to cool off after every half hour of sunbathing, doing just a few lengths each time will really add up: “Getting your heart rate up is protective for your cardiovascular health but it also boosts your mood and energy so you will have an overall happier and healthier holiday,” Lambert says.

3. Eat mindfully

In our normal lives, we often wolf down our food because we don’t have much time. This isn’t usually the case on holiday, but it’s still easy to be distracted by everything going on.

But research has shown that people who eat while distracted are more prone to overeating because they’re less likely to notice when they feel full.

“To prevent this from happening, eat mindfully without distractions, including work and electronics,” Lambert recommends. “Another way to eat mindfully is to eat slowly and chew your food thoroughly, which will allow you to better recognise your body’s signals of fullness and consume fewer calories.”

She suggests taking a few deep breaths before you start eating to induce relaxation and help you focus on your plate.

4. Sleep

Whilst some people take their holidays as a chance to catch up on sleep, others stay out late enjoying the nightlife but also get up early to fit in a full day of sightseeing, activities and sunbathing. However this can lead to you coming home more exhausted than when you left.

Lambert also says that sleep-deprivation is linked to weight gain: “This is because those who do not sleep enough tend to be hungrier, consume more calories and get less physical activity.”

Inadequate sleep has also been linked to lower metabolism, Lambert points out: “This is believed to be due to alterations in your circadian rhythm, which is known as the biological clock that regulates many bodily functions.”

5. Stay hydrated

It’s of the utmost importance to drink more water if you’re on holiday somewhere hot.

As a general rule, you can work out how much water you should be drinking with this calculation: multiply your weight in kg by 0.033. However, if you're being active and it’s hot, you need to drink even more.

Often we mistake thirst for hunger, so you may end up eating more if you’re dehydrated. Watermelon, cucumbers, strawberries and lettuce are all over 92 per cent water, so wise choices for snacks to keep your water levels up.

6. Snack smart

Who can resist an ice cream on the beach or some tapas with your sangria? Not many of us.

But Lambert says it’s crucial to shine a light on your snacking habits: “If you find yourself snacking just because there’s food available and not because you’re hungry then it’s best to avoid snacking altogether.”

If you are hungry, then of course, have a snack. Lambert says it’s simply a case of balancing a little of what you want with something healthier. For example, instead of two scoops of ice cream, have one with some fruit.

7. Choose your drinks wisely

Is a holiday even a holiday if you don’t have a piña colada? Unfortunately, many of us massively increase our usual calorie intake on holiday with alcohol.

“I always enjoy a piña colada on holiday,” Lambert says. “It’s one of my rituals but I won’t be having two a day! Be conscious that there are a lot of calories in drinks and choose wisely.”

Healthy alcohol swaps:

  • A mojito instead of a margarita - containing lashings of tequila, sour mix, triple sec, lime and sugar, a margarita is one of the worst offenders on the cocktail menu at a jean-squeezing 550 calories. Ask for your mojito without sugar for a much lighter drink between 130-140 calories.
  • A piña colada cooler instead of a piña colada - made from coconut-flavoured rum, pineapple juice, sparkling water and a dash of low-fat coconut cream, a piña colada cooler contains around 165 calories instead of the staggering 500-600 in a regular version.
  • Shandy instead of beer - swapping a full beer for some diet lemonade takes your drink from 250-300 calories to a mere 60 calories a glass.
  • Spritzer instead of wine - try adding lemonade or, if you’re super good, soda water to your wine to reduce the calorie intake drastically from 150-220 calories to just 50 a glass. 

8. Have a little of your cake and eat it

Dessert is one of the greatest pleasures in life and certainly something to be enjoyed on holiday, but it’s easy to consume excessive amounts of sugar and thus gain weight.

“Instead of eating every treat in sight, it can be helpful to focus on your favourites,” Lambert advises. “Eat the ones you really want and ditch the rest.

“Another trick is to savour the desserts you do indulge in, which may leave you feeling more satisfied and less likely to overdo it.” It’s all about eating mindfully again.

“I personally find that having what I really want and just having a spoon of something I am not that fussed about really helps me stay on track on holiday,” Lambert says.

9. Treat yo’self

Finding time to take care of yourself is crucial for your health, whether that’s having a lie-in and a day of rest, reading a book or getting a manicure or massage.

“Take the time to do the things that make you happy and your body will love you for it,” says Lambert.

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