I think most can relate when I say going on vacation walks the fine line between soaking up some sun and culture, and binge eating at every buffet, street food stall or cute hole-in-the-wall shop you pass.
I myself was bit by the travel bug at a young age. My parents were Disney World enthusiasts who took my sister and I to see Mickey every couple of years. In high school, I traveled to France and Italy with several classmates. After university, my then-boyfriend and I loaded up 65L back packs and departed to Europe for four weeks. Then we celebrated our wedding a year and a half later with a trip to Spain, Portugal and Morocco. My favourite - and arguably some of the most memorable - parts of these adventures have been the delicious food I’ve savoured.
While I have yet to master erring on the side of mindful eating while traveling to new places, I have picked up a few tips for how to savour those delicious offerings without completely going off the deep end when it comes to your health.
Choose walking over cabs
I am guilty of justifying a few too many pieces of pizza by mentally arguing that while traveling, I walk far more than I would at home. I know this isn’t always realistic, but I find I see way more - and remember experiences much better - when I’m physically experiencing them through walking the side streets of Venice, or exploring the well-tread routes in Disney World. If you have an activity tracker, set step goals and reward yourself with a local treat you’ve been reading about.
Incorporate a workout into your sightseeing
My husband and I both enjoy hiking. So naturally, when visiting Würzburg with family, we opted to hike to the historic castle rather than taking the tram. On this trek we witnessed beautiful community gardens tended by the locals, and the fortress grounds made us feel as though we were part of the city’s history. We also felt we deserved the cold, German beer and pretzels once we returned to the town after hiking the steep mountain to visit the castle.
Schedule a quick morning workout in advance
If you’re staying in a place that has a gym, take advantage! It is believed that 30 minutes of exercise in the morning helps kick start your body for the day. Schedule these workouts in advance - chances are, you’ll be up before anyone else and may have the whole gym to yourself. 30 minutes is enough time to squeeze in a cardio workout or some HIIT training without taking away from your time to explore and soak up your favourite vacation activities.
Opt for a run rather than a morning stroll
If you’re a runner, I would argue running in a new city allows you to enjoy the new architecture while exploring the streets like a local. You may not have time to learn about every landmark you pass but this is a great way to take in the sights and pre-screen potential stops for later in the day. You may even find a café or lunch spot you can return to once your workout is complete. I also argue when you’re running in a new place, time seems to move faster and your workout will be wrapped before you even feel tired.
Share tasty treats
Like I mentioned above, for myself and my husband, our favourite part of travel is trying out new foods. One way to taste test everything, without feeling your waistband fight back, is to share your meals and snacks with whoever you’re traveling with. We always promise to not order the same dish so we can share our findings, and often we’ll track who has picked the best meals so far. This way you’re trying multiple dishes without overindulging at every meal.
Visit farmers’ markets
If you enjoy cooking, you could always swap eating out every day for hitting up the farmers’ markets and picking up some fresh produce for dinner. One of my favourite parts of visiting new cities is enjoying the farmers’ markets. I think these markets speak volumes about the city you’re visiting - it shows how locals do business, what unique produce is common to the area and gives you an idea of seasonal eating. Whether you have a full kitchen in your accommodation or you opt for eating fresh produce, baguettes and cheese on a nearby riverbank, these meals will save you money while also giving your body a break from heavy restaurant meals each day.
If you’re a fan of workout videos on YouTube, you can find many equipment-less workouts that allow you to exercise in confined spaces (i.e. your hotel room) for a short amount of time. Bodyweight exercises can be just as efficient as having an arsenal of equipment at your disposal, and they allow you to squeeze in a quick workout without spending your day in the gym. Ultimately, we take vacation to explore, de-stress and enjoy time unplugged – so a short YouTube workout will have you connected to Wi-Fi, but even just the 15-20 minutes of exercise will help you keep your vacation brain while feeling physically refreshed and prepared to tackle the streets - and maybe even a few of the food stalls - of your new city.
These are just a few ideas for walking the line of health and indulgence when visiting a new city. While I’m still working on mastering the art of traveling without it showing on the scale, these tips are a good start. Here’s to experiencing a new place, and by incorporating a few of these efforts, you’ll be back in your home and - most likely - favourite jeans before you know it.
Have a travel tip you’d like to share? Let us know by tweeting @YahooStyleCA.