Summer vacations are supposed to be fun, right? Of course, we all know better.
Sometimes summer vacations – especially family vacations – are anything but relaxing. In fact, they can be more stressful than suddenly finding a hand grenade with the pin pulled in your lap.
But this column is not addressing such trauma as traveling with the kids or tying to pack all your wife’s possessions into the back of a SUV so weighted down the axles threaten to scrape even the shortest ants crossing the highway.
Instead, our vacation focus is smart eating. I don’t know about you, but I find vacations to be loaded with calories. For instance, after a one-week excursion to Hilton Head Island the other year, I had to be buttered in order to squeeze through our front door upon our return home.
It’s amazing how four or five ice cream sundaes and eight or nine fruity drinks around the pool each day can expand the old waistline.
On that particular trip I had a foreshadowing on our last day that I might have packed on a few pounds. I did a belly flop into the pool and so much water flew out that a local flash flood warning was issued.
The problem with vacations is that you are not constrained by the discipline of a daily schedule. With more free time and without a scale handy – most folks usually don’t pack scales (probably the only thing my wife does NOT bring along) – self-restraint takes a vacation as well.
Weight Watchers, fortunately, is an organization that weighs in religiously on these issues. That’s what these thin people do. Their job is to give us fatties the skinny on proper caloric consumption no matter where we are.
Weight Watchers, in a concerted effort to prevent us from all becoming tubs of lard on summer jaunts, has crafted some valuable eating tips.
Plan your meals carefully as you map out your driving route. Don’t leave mealtimes to chance. Pack a cooler with fresh fruit, low-fat yogurt and bottles of water.
This prevents one from hitting five fast-food joints during a 12-hour trip. After a long day behind the wheel with hamburgers, fries, milkshakes, tacos, pizza, potato chips and candy bars sitting as heavily as the Bolivian army in your stomach, little wonder the kids get on your nerves.
Granted, coolers can’t cover every contingency. If your wife and kids have to stop every 11 minutes for a potty break, chances are you will eat at some of those stops.
For lunch at restaurants choose plain turkey or roast beef sandwiches – without mayonnaise. Of course, such sandwiches will taste like you’re eating your sneakers. So what? After all, when’s the last time you saw your toes?
Tastier lunch options that won’t lard you up are plain, grilled chicken sandwiches, baked potatoes or salads with dressing on the side.
For breakfast stops, don’t forget that carb-heavy continental breakfasts are a modern version of the plague. So opt for protein-laden lean ham and eggs. Or a non-sugary cereal with skim milk.
If you simply must indulge your weak self and gorge on a stack of pancakes higher than Mount Everest, then you have two options: (1) Don’t eat for the rest of your vacation; (2) Jog the rest of the way and let your wife drive the kids.
Once you arrive at your destination, limit the sugary or creamy drinks. A Pina Colada is a six-pack killer. And if the only six-pack you have is beer, make sure it’s light beer.
For dinner, take advantage of fresh fish and seafood as well as local fruits and vegetables. However, ignore this advice if you are vacationing in Mexico or any Third World country with more than seven letters in its name.
If you’re staying at a four-star hotel, request the concierge to install land mines around the dessert table – a wonderful way to reduce caloric temptation.
If despite your best efforts you return home 30 pounds heavier, Weight Watchers suggests getting right back on track with a healthy food and activity program.
I have found that eating a grape every third day and swimming the English Channel every fourth day during a six-week period will carve off at least 10 pounds.
Enjoy your summer vacation.