December 31, 2012

How to have a holiday without putting on weight: Asia

As we celebrate the start of a brand new year, I thought I would reflect on my travels in 2012, my 'year of Asia'.

Back in 2011, I sailed around the Whitsundays on a cruise ship and blogged about the amazing adventures I had. I was then lucky enough to be featured on the P&O website after I gave them such a great rap for their fantastic service, food and facilities on deck.

So when it came to organising some holidays this year I decided to skip the ship and take the plunge into the world of Asia. I was very fortunate to visit both Thailand and Bali, and I couldn't rave enough about both of these places. You hear the good and the bad from friends, but until you experience it yourself, you really don't know what you're missing out on.

So without further adue, here is part two of my
How to have a holiday without putting on weight series. This is Asia.

10 tips to keep weight gain away on your next holiday

1. Eat fresh fruit rather than giant fruit smoothies

When walking the streets in Thailand and Bali you will often come across little fruit carts selling smoothies or fresh fruit. The signs tell you all the different fruit shakes that you can order, but they often don't advertise the fact that you can simply just ask for some freshly cut up tropical fruit! And this is certainly the best option for your waistline. Take a look at the picture below. See that large jug sitting directly in front of the woman? That's pure sugar syrup. Litres of it. And they will add quite a few good ladles of that to your smoothie, making it not only sickly sweet, but also meaning you'll consume hundreds of extra (& unwanted) kilojoules.

So my rule when it comes to these stalls, is eat the real stuff, not the blended stuff. You can't get much better than a fresh mango, a dragon fruit or a mangosteen, cut up in front of you and ready to eat. Pure. Natural. Fruit.

One of the reasons I love visiting Asian countries are the amazing tropical fruits
Here I am eating some freshly chopped mango in banana leaves on the street.
They even put toothpicks in the mango for you so you don't get sticky fingers! 

2. Always order veggies as a side

Remember veggies are very low in kilojoules and high in dietary fibre, so they'll fill you up and stop you from reaching over to your partner's plate and grabbing a handful of calorie-ridden fries. Salads are great for the warmer weather that you experience in Asia, and can be a lovely, light and refreshing addition to your meal.

My main and 2 sides:
a pea, basil, lemon & marinated feta salad and sauteed wild mushrooms

Beetroot salad with young goats cheese

3. Try new foods, and enjoy the traditional menu

You can't go past a delicious curry or stir fry. Asian food is often packed with vegetables, and the meat is generally very lean. Just watch your portion sizes when it comes to rice as they often give you much more than you need. Make sure you order a dish with a source of lean protein (meat, chicken, fish, seafood, tofu, nuts, legumes) as this is what will keep you satisfied until your next meal.

4. Resist the salted nuts & crackers that come with your cocktail

Many beautiful hotels we stayed at gave us some salted nuts and/or crackers when we ordered a drink at the bar. Now they don't do this for no reason - it's quite a smart tactic. The saltiness of the nibblies will leave you feeling thirsty and feeling in need of another drink. Don't get caught out! Try to have small, healthy snacks regularly throughout the day so that by the time it comes to wine o'clock, you're not tempted to demolish a whole bowl of crackers in seconds.

5. Ask for no sugar syrup in your iced coffee

This one leads on from point 1 about the sugar syrup in fruit smoothies. One thing I've noticed on my travels is that they seem to love their sugar syrup over in Asia. Even at The Coffee Club you have the choice of adding sugar syrup or regular sugar to your hot coffee.

But when it comes to iced coffees, it seems the sugar is already added by the time you receive your incredibly sweet drink. So get in early and when you place your order, make a point of asking for no added syrup, or if you prefer, sugar syrup on the side. That way you're in control of how much sugar you choose to add, and how sweet you'd like it to be.

Iced coffee with sugar syrup on the side

6. Stay away from the western menu

Let's be honest, you didn't travel for 9 or so hours across the ocean to eat a steak burger and fries. Yes you might need to be a little cautious about some foods in foreign countries, but don't ruin the perfect opportunity to try new cuisines and new flavours. Traditional diets are very nutritious as well. In fact, scientific research has found that those populations following a traditional diet often have much lower rates of obesity compared to those following a western diet. So when you sit down for a bite to eat, don't even bother checking out the Western Menu, instead, go straight to the curries, stir fries and the delicious fresh seafood.

Steer clear of the Western section of the menu

7. Order bottled water to drink with your meal

It may sound pretty straightforward, but ordering some bottled water when you sit down for a meal is a really good habit to get into. There's nothing wrong with enjoying an occasional cocktail on your holidays, but don't rely on alcoholic beverages to quench your thirst. Water is the perfect kilojoule-free solution.

8. Don't pig out on the breakfast buffet 'just because it's there'

Asian hotel owners know how much us Aussies love a breakfast buffet. So they throw on all the breads, pastries, muffins and croissants you could ever ask for, and have a tiny little Asian section with a selection of their traditional foods.

The key to surviving a big breakfast buffet is:

1. Stick to fresh fruits, wholegrain cereals, reduced fat dairy, eggs, sauteed vegetables (ie. mushrooms, tomatoes, spinach) and grainy breads. Stay away from the highly refined pastries, muffins and fried food.

2. Alternate between cold and hot dishes on different days, or choose very small portions and have a little of each. Don't eat more than you would at home, and remember, it will be there tomorrow so there's no reason to try everything today!

3. STOP when you feel comfortably satified. For some reason buffets trigger this effect where us Westerners feel we have to eat until we couldn't possibly fit another thing in, and until we literally have to undo a notch on our belts. This is going way too far and is a recipe for disaster (ie. weight gain just waiting to happen). Take a mindful eating approach by eating slowly, chewing each mouthful and putting your knife and fork down between every bite. Chat to your loved ones, enjoy the conversation, and don't scoff your food down like a labrador. The slower you eat, the quicker you will feel comfortably satisfied, and the less you will eat overall.
All eggcelent choices

 9. Listen to your stomach. If you're hungry, eat. If you're not hungry, don't eat

Again it seems straightforward but on holidays we really need to remember this one. When we're on holidays, we do a lot 'non-hungry eating'. This means that we often eat when we're not even hungry, it may be because we're bored, or it may be because we're in holiday mode and have the mentality of "I'm on holidays so why not!"  But having a 'living in the moment' attitude could come back to bite you when you return from your holiday.

So by all means, try new foods and enjoy your food with good company, but don't just eat for the sake of it. Before you take a bite, think to yourself, do I really need to eat this? Am I really hungry? Or am I just eating it because it's there?

10. Take the stairs, make it a priority!

Last, but certainly not least, don't forget to be physically active on your holiday. This doesn't mean you have to bring your gym gear and religiously make time to go to the gym every day. Simply keeping moving will help keep your metabolism running and burn off those cocktail kilojoules. One hotel we stayed in actually had a cable car that took you down to your villa. This was the 'quick' option, but the stairs became my friend and I would always try to use them, either going up or going down!

The cable car = fat storing machine
The stairs = fat burning machine
Another way to stay active is to choose tours and activities that require you to move. Go horse riding, cycling, white water rafting. Whatever takes your fancy!

Horse riding in Bali

Kayaking around 'James Bond Island' in Thailand

So there you go. My 10 tips on How to have a holiday without putting on weight. I hope you've picked up a trick or two along the way, and if you'd like to take a sneaky look at some more of my holiday pics, head to my facebook page and you'll find plenty of foodie snaps to salivate over.

Until next time, take care and enjoy the holiday season!

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