Summer Vacation Helps the Body; Make Yours Healthy

Summer is vacation time. As a nutritionist and registered dietitian, I advocate for all the facets of healthy lifestyles, and near the top of the list is substantial time off from the daily grind. Don’t underestimate the importance of a vacation; your body actually needs the break, no matter what your circumstances are.

Daily life hurls all sorts of small stresses at us. The hormones released during short-term stressful situations actually help us to make quick decisions and avoid trouble. But too many of those hormones can actually deteriorate the cardiovascular system.

If you’re already at risk for heart disease, or have some risk factors working against you, the last thing you want to do is stay on the stress train. Most doctors will tell you your body needs a vacation. And by this, they don’t mean hanging out at the mall near the house, with your cell phone. A complete change of scenery and routine is what’s required to help the body rejuvenate and heal.

If you’ve got a Type A person in your world, put this article in front of that person and recommend a true getaway: no office politics, no irritating neighbors, no repairs that need to be made.

Next, don’t set up yourself for added stress when you get home. One week of weight gain can take months to lose, and every time you button tight pants, you’ll feel a twinge of disappointment in yourself.
Make a commitment to having a healthy vacation. Get in the mindset that you’re leaving for health reasons, and you want to feel as good as possible upon your return.

This is not to say you can’t indulge a little bit – an occasional “cheat” day is a good idea even at home. But promising yourself true rest, some form of pleasurable exercise and relatively healthy food can really start an exciting (and beneficial) new phase of your life.

Here are some tips which will help you avoid vacation weight gain. If you’ll have access to a kitchen, take your George Foreman grill and electric skillet and go to the grocery store. You’ll save a fortune, which you can spend on activities and attractions.

In many hotels, you can request a mini fridge and microwave, even if they’re not normally in the room. During a recent Orlando conference, the Ritz-Carlton charged me next to nothing for both. So I had all the health foods and drinks with me that I wanted, and spent far less eating out.

Odds are high you’ll patronize restaurants on vacation. Commit three rules to memory and they will make a big difference in your waistline over the coming years.
1. Never, never, never get regular salad dressing. Request a low-fat dressing.
2. Always, always, always ask for the salad dressing on the side.
3. No no no fried foods; order baked, boiled, broiled or blackened. Fast food is a trap – avoid it if possible, but if not, steer clear of fried foods, cheese and fatty condiments.

If you’re staying in a hotel with free continental breakfast, stay away from the pastries, doughnuts and hash browns. Instead, choose whole-grain breads and cereals, low-fat yogurt, fruits, and eggs (a good source of protein). Keep in mind you can still make oatmeal with the in-room coffee maker.

Also plan your vacation to include physical activity. If you’ll be in an urban area, check online for Ys, family parks or a family rec center. We try to plan activities within our vacation that are fun physical components, such as bike riding. Take a hike, play basketball, do a quick workout, and try something new. Even things you’re bad at (badminton, anyone?) create fun family memories while setting a healthy pattern.

Adding fruits and veggies: think color

Posted October 8th, 2009 by Elaine Hastings, RD - Nutrition Expert and filed in Meal Tips

Fruits and vegetables contain essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber that may help protect you from chronic diseases. Compared with people who consume a diet with only small amounts of fruits and vegetables, those who eat more generous amounts as part of a healthful diet are likely to have reduced risk of chronic diseases, including stroke and perhaps other cardiovascular diseases, and certain cancers.

To get a healthy variety, think color. Eating fruits and vegetables of different colors gives your body a wide range of valuable nutrients, like fiber, folate, potassium, and vitamins A and C. Some examples include green spinach, orange sweet potatoes, black beans, yellow corn, purple plums, red watermelon, and white onions. For more variety, try new fruits and vegetables regularly.

Nutrition tips for young athletes

Back-to-school means back to the courts and fields for student athletes. Reaching peak athletic performance doesn’t mean you have bulk up on carbohydrates or chug the latest sports and energy drinks. Student athletes have unique nutritional needs, requiring approximately 2,000 to 5,000 calories per day, depending on body composition, amount of exercise and other health factors.

Here are some tips for fueling your body for optimal strength and energy:

-Eat a variety of foods including protein, carbohydrates, fats, calcium, minerals and vitamins; lean proteins, fruits and vegetables and dairy for calcium provide a balanced diet

-Avoid supplements and steroids, which can have negative side effects on your health

-Avoid extreme diets. Youth athletes require the proper amount of nutrition and depriving your body of proper nutrients can cause decreased energy, muscle loss and sometimes, more serious health problems

-Hydrate with water; avoid caffeine and sugary drinks
Before practices and games:

-Be sure to eat a small, balanced meal approximately 2 to 4 hours before the event and include proteins and carbohydrates such as a turkey sandwich, or pasta and tomato sauce

-No time for a meal? Eat a light snack less than 2 hours before the event such as low-fiber fruits, crackers or yogurt

-Hydrate by drinking plenty of water before, during and after sports activities; avoid caffeine

Because body sizes and activity levels vary from person-to-person, you need to alter your diet to fit your individual needs. For more information, visit and create a personalized plan that works best for you.