This post was written by Natalia Bragagnolo, RHN.
I know that when it comes to feeling healthy, summer weekends, long weekends and holidays can be tough. You might be worried about gaining weight or feeling tired, bloated and lethargic when you come back. You might also have health issues you’re working through like food sensitivities or digestive issues that make the idea of being out of your typical controlled eating environment a bit overwhelming.
Let me start off by saying that you’re not alone, but you should never feel guilty for enjoying life! While I would love to just tell everyone not to stress, I know for many people it's not that easy. It can take a long time to get to a place where you can get away, eat the food you want to eat and maybe the drinks you want to drink, and come right back into your regular routine and feel good about it, but it’s very possible. With the long weekend coming up I wanted to share some habits that I have adopted over the years that help ensure time out of my regular routine doesn’t throw me completely out of balance. One thing you’ll notice from these recommendations is that rather than focusing on all of the things you’ll be avoiding this weekend, try to focus on the things you can incorporate to help you feel better.
Hydration is not only key for helping your body eliminate what it doesn’t need, but it also helps prevent fatigue. If you’re planning on drinking alcohol throughout the day, try to have a glass of water between drinks. Lemon water, especially in the morning, is one of the easiest ways to give your digestion a boost when you’re outside of your usual routine. The acidity helps to stimulate stomach acid production which kick starts the digestion process to reduce bloating. It also contains enzymes that support your liver after all that wine. ;)
We often have our preconceived notions about what exercise “should” be. As in, it should be at least 1 hour, it should be at the gym, and it doesn’t count unless you break a sweat. This is unrealistic when you’re trying to enjoy a weekend away and you’ll probably just feel like you’ve failed when it doesn’t happen. Instead, try to focus on “movement”. Wake up and go for a walk or a swim, go for a canoe or a kayak, or simply do 15 minutes of jumping around outside or a stretch with your friends. I find when I stress less about getting a workout in and focus more on doing fun activities that involve movement, I’m much happier, have way more energy and feel less bloated and healthier overall.
Colourful veggies are loaded with fiber and anti-inflammatory nutrients to help keep you regular, reduce bloating and help you feel a little less “puffy”. I always find when I’m travelling that starting my day with a big green smoothie (if there’s a blender) or having a salad at some point in the day makes me feel so much better throughout the day. Then I don’t stress as much if I don’t have the opportunity to eat any, later in the day. If you’re camping or hiking and won’t have access to much fresh produce, bringing a green’s powder like Genuine Health’s Greens+ is a really easy and lightweight way to squeeze in a serving of veggies (23 fruits and veggies to be exact).
Thankfully, there are now so many whole food alternatives to your typical appetizers and snacks. If you know everyone will be snacking on chips, why not bring some of the healthier versions available at the grocery store. If the plan is to have burgers for dinner, why not bring lettuce buns or offer to make the side salad? If you’re gluten-free or dairy-free but want to enjoy the charcuterie, bring your own crackers (I like Mary’s Organics seed crackers), a dairy-free cheese, or add a hummus or guacamole dip to the platter. As a matter of fact, if you need a little inspiration for this we have two charcuterie board ideas here.
Starting your day with protein and eating protein throughout the day can help to balance your blood sugar, especially if in between you’re enjoying more carb-based snacks or sugary drinks. Eating protein with a meal also tends to make the meal more satiating, and keeps you fuller longer than a high carb meal. This is helpful if you tend to snack or be really peckish throughout the day because balancing your blood sugar can help to curb cravings. I like to travel with single serve sachets of Genuine Health’s fermented organic vegan proteins+ powder or bars to get a quick high protein snack in.
Being a nutritionist with a sensitive stomach, I’ve developed more than my share of “go-to’s” over the years. I like to travel with a magnesium powder like Natural Calm because it helps with sleep and keep you regular if you tend to get constipated. Magnesium is also used up more quickly when you drink and that can contribute to the jittery feeling you get from a hangover. Taking digestive enzymes before meals also helps reduce bloating after meals that are heavier than you may be used to. I personally also like to travel with a probiotic like Genuine Health’s advanced gut health probiotic because it doesn’t need to be refrigerated and helps my digestion and immunity when I’m out of my regular routine. If there are supplements you take on a daily basis, make sure to keep that up even when you travel or are out and about on weekends. (Portioning them out into daily servings in advance versus carrying each bottle can save room in your suitcase.
It’s so common to think you need to “detox” or “cleanse” after a weekend of overindulging to balance it out but thankfully our bodies don’t work like that. In fact, metabolically your body will likely revolt if you try to deprive yourself of food to make up for it. This also breeds an “all or nothing” mentality with food that makes it really difficult to adopt a balanced lifestyle. Your best bet is to just go right back into your regular routine when you return, which is likely how you manage to feel your best on an average day. Even if it’s the last thing I want to do, I try to take the first opportunity to go to the grocery store and have a healthy meal at home, plan out my workout schedule for the week, and prioritize a good night’s sleep. I think of these things more like self-care than a chore. It’s amazing how quickly you’ll feel back to normal when you jump back into your regular routine!