7 Rules for a Healthy Vacation
Posted by Katie Ostoich on June 25, 2012 at 11:50 AM
Oprah says you need to take a vacation. And you know what Oprah says, goes. Vacations make you happier and healthier all around, even before you step on the plane. Not only that, but you are more productive at work and your relationship improves. Plus, you have extra motivation to master healthy habits and get in great shape. But all those health and get-happy benefits slip away if you spend your whole vacay eating and drinking yourself into oblivion. I’m not saying you can’t enjoy yourself – Lord knows my favorite thing to do when traveling is to try all the best foods – but there are a few ways to treat yourself well so you actually do come back from vacay rested and recovered (and not dreading the number on the scale).
Here are seven effortless rules to make your next big escape a healthy one, straight from Oprah’s favorite doc, Dr. Oz.
Eat Your Reds
And yellows and oranges. The pigments in certain brightly colored fruits and vegetables (from watermelon to carrots) can actually protect your skin while you're having fun in the sun. A 2010 study published in the British Journal of Dermatology showed that the antioxidant lycopene, found in various red-tinted produce, helps shield cells from DNA damage caused by the sun's UV rays. And a meta-analysis of research revealed that beta-carotene—found in cantaloupe, mangoes, and apricots—can help prevent sunburns. The best part is that it’s cumulative: Start eating warm colors now to get a better protective effect on vacation.
Make Regular Pit Stops
Many people associate deep vein thrombosis—blood clots that can form in the legs during extended periods of inactivity—with long airplane flights. But DVT is a threat during long car trips, too. Whether you're in the air or on the ground, take a brief walk (down the aisle or at a rest stop) every two hours to keep your blood flowing smoothly. (And don’t think this can’t happen to you because you’re young and healthy – it happened to me!)
Skip Jet Lag
As a general rule of thumb, if you've flown east, expose yourself to plenty of light (ideally natural light) during the daytime hours. This will help shift your biological clock forward. When you go west, do the opposite: Seek brightly lit spaces in the evening to help turn your clock back. If you typically struggle to adjust to time changes when you travel, it's safe to take small doses (.5 milligram) of the sleep hormone melatonin for several days to reset your body's circadian rhythm.
Sip Coconut Water
Dehydration is a common side effect of vacations, thanks to tropical climates, summer heat, and the sweating that goes with them. Oh yeah, and all those cocktails you enjoy! To refuel on electrolytes (the essential minerals that keep your body's fluids in balance), drink a bottle of coconut water. A new study shows that it rehydrates the body just as well as a specially formulated sports drink, without all the added sugars, preservatives, and artificial colors.
You don't need a gym to get an energizing workout. If you're vacationing in a city, rent a bike and pedal around town. If you're in a place surrounded by natural beauty, explore the terrain with a daily morning hike. (Bonus: Walking in nature can significantly boost your self-esteem and mood, according to a 2009 study.) Reluctant to leave the resort? The natural resistance of water makes the swimming pool a great place to do strength exercises like leg lifts and arm raises.
Enjoy an Appetizer
Conch fritters, po'boys, deep-dish pizza—vacation foods are usually worth the splurge. But here's a trick to avoid overeating at dinnertime: Snack first. When researchers at Pennsylvania State University fed subjects apple slices before a meal, they ate 187 fewer calories overall. A bowl of soup had the same effect—subjects ate 20 percent fewer calories. In summertime, I recommend a nice bowl of chilled gazpacho.
Toast Your Trip
I know that fruity, blended cocktails are like vacation in a glass. But a piña colada has about the same number of calories as a McDonald's hamburger. Red wine is a healthier option; studies suggest that a glass a day may actually protect against weight gain. Resveratrol, a compound found in the skin of grapes, and other components of red wine have been shown to block the cellular processes that enable fat cells to grow. I'll drink to that.
Do you have any healthy vacation tips to share? Help us out in the comments!