For me vacation is warm weather, turquoise tropical seas, a beach chair, a good book, having my people with me and not having a set schedule.
(Although I’m so type A, I usually end up making some sort of schedule of fun events anyway. I’m sorry. It’s ingrained in me! At least it revolves around fun!!). Most of these things (well, the beach chair and the tropical setting, at least) tend to be found most easily, and most affordably, at an all-inclusive resort.
Yes, alllllllll you can eat food and drink. All the foods and all the alcohols at your disposal. Doesn’t exactly sound like an advertisement for healthy living.
Does “All-Inclusive” have to equal an unhealthy getaway?
Can you enjoy an all-inclusive vacay and not return home five pounds heavier?
The answer is YES! You can enjoy an all-inclusive vacation without ditching your healthy lifestyle. An all-inclusive vacay can be filled with activity and heathy foods; here’s how.
There are lots of opportunities to build activity into your day, if you want, on most resorts.
This is probably the toughest one. It’s literally all-you-can-eat!! I know this can be hard to resist. BUT. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you need to. If you’re worried about not getting your money’s worth, don’t. I feel like I get my money’s worth just by being there – I’m in a tropical paradise where I don’t have to cook and clean for a week, and I’m not freezing my butt off. Win.
There are the areas of temptation in the buffet. Like, a lot of areas of temptation. Luckily, the things that are usually bad for you are all grouped together, so if you can avoid those stations, such as the bread, or the dessert stations altogether, for example, then you’re already way ahead of the game.
Use a small plate rather than one of the large ones. Small plate = you can’t fit as much on your plate! If nothing else, it will require you to get up and down more often to refill your plate. Exercise win!
Take a stroll around the buffet first. Survey your options before loading up your plate so that you can make intentional choices rather than grabbing the first thing you see.
Eat slowly. It’s so, so easy to overeat at a buffet. The slower you eat, the more time you give your body to send the signals to your brain that you are full. Even when those around you are going up for their 5th and 6th trips to the buffet, if you can try to slowly enjoy the food on your plate, rather than huff it all in and quickly go back for more, you will eat a lot less than if you rushed your meal, and you might enjoy it more.
I do realize that just telling you not to eat all the things isn’t the most helpful advice, so I’ll break it down by meals and give you some healthier options that you can hopefully find at most resorts:
1. Muesli, oatmeal, yogurt-granola bowls or some variation thereof. The pre-made oatmeal at my resort was a large vat of suspect-looking thin sludge, and I’m sure I could have made my own with hot water and the plain oats that were provided, but instead I opted to make this breakfast bowl most days:
plain yogurt, oats, whatever seeds they had that day (usually sunflower or pumpkin), shredded coconut, fresh fruit, nuts, and a dash of cinnamon. The fresh fruit added more than enough sweetness, and it felt like dessert for breakfast.
2. Some resorts have a smoothie bar. Avoid the juices and instead use water, coconut water, nut milk or skim milk for the liquid portion.
3. Eggs, veg and other lean proteins. This was another fave of mine. I’d grab whatever veg they had that day (often you would find grilled eggplant, tomato, zucchini, guacamole or avocado), and either took a hard or soft boiled egg, or an egg white and greens omelet they made most days. Our resort usually had smoked salmon (yummmm) to cap it off. Add a couple of bites of fresh fruit and you’re golden.
It took us a few tries to find the best lunch place.
A lot of resorts have beach grills, but often those just have hotdoggy-hamburgery type foods, which is not what I want to be eating when it’s hot as balls and I’m running around in a bathing suit all day. So sometimes you have to walk a little farther from the beach (bonus lunch exercise!) to find a place with healthier options.
I know some people don’t like to eat the greens on resorts for fear of contamination from bad water; our resort had no issues as far as I could tell with water contamination, so I ate the greens at lunch to make loaded salad with all the veggies and a lean protein like seafood or chicken. Note: if possible ask to have the olive oil and vinegar option for a dressing and mix it yourself, rather than take one of the pre-made dressings. Those are usually full of extra calories!
If you’re in a Mexican resort, it’s often easy to make tortilla-less fajitas: guacamole, fresh salsa, plain yogurt and either baked fish or chicken.
Veg + Healthy Protein: Another lunch option that I enjoyed was just trying the different veggie combos (they are often different from things we’d have at home) and pair them with a light seafood salad or baked chicken.
Guacamole with cucumbers instead of tortilla chips was another fave; it was so hot and the cucumber slices were so much more refreshing (and healthier) than salty tortilla chips.
If possible, go to one of the å la carte restaurants for dinner; the portions are often smaller and you are limited to 3 courses, so it’s harder to overindulge in all the things.
If you really want to health-ify your dinner, ask that the bread basket not be brought to the table to save room for your meal. That said, with my two small boys and bread-loving husband with me, bread was brought to the table 100% of time; luckily, my boys are like hoovers and I never had to worry about eating the bread, because they scarfed it all down before I could reach for it!
In general, choose menu items that are: broiled, steamed or baked. Avoid items that are fried or coated with flour. Ask for sauces on the side, and see if you can swap heavier, cream-based sauces with a lighter vinaigrette-based ones.
Choose the fruit for dessert! It’s like the fruit at home in Canada is a pale imitation of what fruit should really be. The fruit, in my experience, in a tropical locale, is like ambrosia! So sweet! So juicy! So delicious without any accoutrements!
This is a toughie for lots of folks. There are so many bars on these resorts. So many. They’re even in the pool. And I would never presume to tell you not to enjoy your drinks while on vacation.
However. Just keep in mind that some drink choices are healthier than others. So many of the drinks on all-inclusive resorts are sugary sweet concoctions that should really be classified as a dessert.
So what can you do to health-ify your drinks?
Choose sparkling water or soda water as your mixer, rather than juice. Add it to wine to make a refreshing spritzer.
Ask for the simple syrup or sweeteners to be left out or greatly reduced. My favourite drink while we were away was a mojito without the simple syrup.
Keep in mind that alcohol dehydrates you, so at the very least try to drink a glass of water between every drink you order. Heatstroke is not fun!
But heyyyy, it’s still vacay, so DO have some fun!
Food is a major part of being on vacation; but on vacation, or at home, hopefully food isn’t your only or your biggest source of fun. Food is definitely meant to be enjoyed, so don’t deprive yourself if there’s something you really want, but don’t let your fun be controlled by what you do or don’t eat either.
Having fun or rewarding yourself doesn’t always have to revolve around food.
There are lots of wonderful things, other than the food, about being on vacation:
getting up when you want to, choosing the activities you want to do, enjoying beautiful weather and scenery, and spending uninterrupted time with those you love.
Here’s the thing: if you lead a healthy lifestyle before going on vacation, you’ll probably bring that with you wherever you go. It’s also important to remember, however, that you’re on vacation!!! Yay!
Enjoy yourself, whatever that means to you.