Could you come back from holiday feeling fitter than ever?

Young woman eating a healthy meal by a resort pool

By eating and drinking mindfully, making use of the free time to be more active, and replenishing your body through sleep, you could come back from holiday as a healthier you.

Holidays are something to look forward to but they come with many temptations – the abundance of tasty and often calorie-rich food, the opportunity to lie by a pool … and let’s not forget the alcohol.

This can lead us to the dreaded holiday weight gain! This weight gain can be hard to shed – but at World Cancer Research Fund, we know that maintaining a healthy weight can lower the risk of many different cancers.

So how can we enjoy our holiday, savour the local food – and keep healthy?

Eat well

Let’s face it; you’re going to have a treat – you’re on holiday after all! But it doesn’t have to be all the time – it’s about balance.

Try to follow the 80:20 rule – you eat healthily 80% of the time, but allow yourself a little bit of the not-so-healthy food the rest of the time.

Try to think about what you’re eating. If there’s a buffet, take one plate of food rather than going up again. Eat more slowly – it takes at least 20 minutes for your brain to realise you’re full.

Stick to portions of food that you would normally have at home. Filling most of your plate with plant-based food – vegetables, pulses (such as beans), and wholegrains (eg brown rice) – means you can eat more, yet feel fuller on fewer calories.

Breakfast is one of these times when there is often a wide variety of options. Why not try:

  • Omelettes – load up on veggies to go with your eggs. Or chop up boiled eggs on wholemeal toast. For something sweet, finish with fresh fruit.
  • Greek yoghurt and fruit – sprinkle with crushed seeds and nuts to add healthy fats and a protein punch, and keep you fuelled for the day!
  • Oats – whether it’s a comforting bowl of warm porridge with chopped banana or a delicious serving of overnight oats topped with nuts and berries, oats make a nutritious and filling start to the day.

Desserts and ice cream are one of the greatest pleasures in life and something to be enjoyed on holiday, but they’re also easy to over-consume! Try sharing a sweet treat or having a smaller serving.

If you’re out for the day, or just relaxing at the beach, take healthy snacks with you, such as unsalted nuts and seeds, and fruit. That way you’ve something nutritious to reach for when hunger strikes.

Limit your alcohol intake

Many of us tend to drink more alcohol on holiday, and while it may be easier said than done, it’s best not to overdo it. To help lower your risk of cancer as much as possible, it’s best to drink little, if any, alcohol. Many places now serve delicious mocktails, and let’s not forget the growing range of alcohol-free and low-alcohol options.

If you do have an occasional tipple, you can save on the alcohol (and calories!) by opting for a lager shandy or a white wine spritzer.

Keep hydrated

It’s important to stay hydrated – especially if you are somewhere hot and humid. Drink regularly and before you get thirsty – little and often is the key. Water is the best choice, but if you find it hard to drink plain water, try flavouring it with lemon, lime or mint. And melon not only makes a healthy snack but is 90% water!

Whether you’re lounging by the pool or out sightseeing, take a bottle of water with you and keep an eye out for places where you can refill it.

On the blog: Healthy hydration: why drinking the right thing is important

Keep active

Holidays are an opportunity to get active! Thanks to the break from routine and more free time, some people find it easier to keep active on holiday. In a recent study, people were more physically active (and sat less) during the holiday period.

Working out in the hotel gym and walking tours are great ways to keep moving. Hop into the pool to cool down every hour or so and get a few laps in, or in the sea if you’re a more experienced and confident swimmer, add more activity to your day and keeps your fitness up.

If the sun is out, you can top up your vitamin D stores as well – just make sure you put on sunscreen (of at least factor 30, sunglasses and a hat.

Get your sleep

Some people take the opportunity to enjoy the extra time in bed to catch up on sleep, others prefer to stay out late and enjoy the local nightlife. But when we don’t get our usual quota of sleep, it not only causes the familiar feelings of tiredness but also increases our appetite – this can lead us to seek out calorie-rich food and is one of the reasons why regular sleep loss has been linked to weight gain.

So the key message is to enjoy your holiday, but being a bit more mindful of your food and drink choices. you may find you come back from holiday feeling healthier and fitter than before!

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Are you ready for an adventure holiday?