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.

Check out my latest News Article on fast food. Good tips for busy lifestyles!

Posted August 18th, 2009 by Elaine Hastings, RD - Nutrition Expert and filed in The News-Press Column

Nutrition: Good food can be had at drive-through window of fast-food joint

Are you always on the go? Do you frequent the drive-through, resigned to make unhealthy eating choices?

What if I told you that some simple planning can go a long way in building healthier eating habits into a busy lifestyle? It really doesn’t have to be complicated or require you to spend long hours preparing meals in your kitchen.

When you know that you are going to be in a car most of the day, you can pack some essentials into a cooler ahead of time, avoiding the need for that fast food fix. Select healthy snacks that will give you an energy boost during the day and prevent you from overeating at meals. A few suggestions are frozen grapes, protein bars, hard-boiled eggs, orange slices, walnuts, sunflower seeds or sliced apples.

For an easy lunch, pack one cup of yogurt, 1 to 2 ounces of low-fat string cheese, a small cucumber, one cup of strawberries and about 40 pretzel sticks.

Don’t forget to bring plenty of water. If you drink water throughout the day instead of soda, you will cut out many empty calories.

What if you forgot to pack lunch (or didn’t have time to grocery shop) and fast food is your only option? Luckily, thanks to an increasing demand from health-conscious customers, more restaurants are offering healthier choices. If you are going to a drive-through, always avoid deep-fried foods and high-calorie sauces.

Here are some better choices that will fill you up without packing on the pounds:

McDonald’s – Asian Salad with grilled chicken, Newman’s Own low-fat balsamic vinaigrette, Fruit ‘n Yogurt Parfait (no granola) 470 calories, 36 grams protein, 52 grams carbs, 15 grams fat and 5 grams fiber.

Wendy’s – Mandarin Chicken Salad, low-fat honey mustard dressing, low-fat strawberry yogurt (no granola) 420 calories, 29 grams protein, 66 grams carbs, 6.5 grams fat and 3 grams fiber.

Arby’s – Chicken Fillet Sandwich (grilled, hold the mayo), fruit cup. 344 calories, 31 grams protein, 45 grams carbs, 5.5 grams fat and 3 grams fiber.

Burger King – BK Veggie Burger (hold the mayo and cheese) and Mott’s strawberry flavored apple sauce. 430 calories, 23 grams protein, 69 grams carbs, 8 grams fat and 7 grams fiber.

Pizza Hut – 2 slices 12″ Fit ‘N Delicious Pizza-diced chicken, red onion and green pepper. 340 calories, 18 grams protein, 46 grams carbs, 10 grams fat and 2 grams fiber.

Subway – Turkey Breast 6-inch Sandwich, Veggie Delite Salad, fat-free dressing. 375 calories, 22 grams protein, 65 grams carbs, 5.5 grams fat and 7 grams fiber.

Chick-fil-A – Chargrilled Chicken Sandwich, large fruit cup – 370 calories, 29 grams protein, 59 grams carbs, 3.5 grams fat and 6 grams fiber.

All of the sandwiches at Chick-fil-A come in below the 500-calorie mark, but the Chargrilled Chicken Sandwich is the lowest in calories at 270.

Elaine Hastings is a registered dietitian of Associates in Nutrition Therapy in Fort Myers. She has been practicing for 18 years and was recently named president of the Southwest Florida Dietetic Association. Continue to read her series Tuesdays.

Contact her at AssociatesinNutrition .com,, or call 275-2132.