I get asked all the time about what I eat when on vacation. Many of my clients, and most of my family, think I am some sort of member of the food police and don’t even let myself enjoy less than healthy foods, even on vacation. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. I may never see some of the sights I visit on vacation again, and the same goes for some menu items at a restaurant I’ve been wanting to try, or an unplanned delicious surprise on the menu at the hotel.
Now, I don’t pig out every meal, or even choose unhealthy items each day. However, I allow myself to indulge, without guilt, knowing that the majority of the time I practice very sound eating principles and seldom overdo it. I always incorporate physical activity into my vacations, like walking to my destinations instead of taking taxis, and even visit the hotel gym a few times. This helps keep my calories balanced and ensures that I always allow for exercise, even on the most relaxing of vacations. If I happen to be on a vacation where opportunities for physical activity are few, or at a conference where I am sitting all day, then I usually just pick one special meal and keep the rest of my meals on the healthier side.
On my recent trip to New York City to see my beloved alma mater, SMU, compete in the NIT Basketball Championship (we came up short in the finals, but watch out for us in the NCAA championships next year!!!), I incorporated lots of walking, a few trips to the hotel gym, and thoroughly enjoyed several indulgences along the way. Other meals were quite boring, and this blog isn’t about the healthy, low-fat meals I ate on vacation. Who wants to hear about those! I want to highlight a few of the special meals I had, so I can show that even a nutritionist knows a good meal when he sees one! However, I always start my day while on vacation with a healthy breakfast; I seldom use this meal as my ‘cheat meal.’ I tend to pick two or three items while on vacation that may be outside of my normal type of eating. I scrutinize these choices and really put a lot of thought into what I am going to have. No way was I going to waste calories on a stale, street-vendor pretzel on my travels around NYC! By planning these types of treats, it feels special and I tend to enjoy them more. I know spontaneity on vacation is important, but sometimes when it comes to your diet, that can get you into trouble!
As anyone visiting NYC knows, walking is the name of the game. I easily amassed 10 miles of walking each day I was there. Between hours spent at museums, strolling down the ubiquitous tourist-trap knows as Times Square, and repeated walks to the world’s most famous sports arena, Madison Square Garden, I got ample exercise. So I felt no guilt whatsoever when I skipped the low-fat items at a couple of restaurants and opted for tons of flavor, probably too much fat, and unforgettable tastes. Now, I’m not saying I’ve ‘earned’ these extra calories because I choose to be more active on my trips. You don’t want to get into a habit of rewarding yourself with calories because you think you have earned them by exercising. However, I know that I eat a very healthy diet, and a few treats on vacation won’t set the scale going in the wrong direction.
Here are a couple of my treats and reviews. I hope you get an opportunity to try these for yourself; or at least, try the no-guilt principle on your next vacation by incorporating physical activity and planning your treats ahead of time so you can have the meal you really want!
Don Antonio by Starita (DonAntonioPizza.com)
My wife and I saw this restaurant featured on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives. She is a pizza enthusiast. So being the good husband I am, I told her when I go to NY, I will try this pizza for her and give her a full description. She treated me to a much-needed vacation from my Mr. Mom duties, so unfortunately she wasn’t able to partake in this pizza. But I fell on the sword and sacrificed a meal just for her. While I wouldn’t consider myself a pizza connoisseur, I can say without a doubt this was the best pizza I’ve ever had. The sauce and the homemade mozzarella were the standouts on this item and were incredibly fresh. Nothing made ahead of time here! Needless to say, I didn’t have to burden myself with a to go box when I was finished! The inside of Don Antonio’s felt a bit like a sardine can: the dining quarters were so tight, the host had to pull my table out so I could sit down and then he promptly pushed the table back in. Each table on this side of the restaurant touched the next next one. I guess I don’t need too much room when dining for one, but elbow space was a premium! Since the pizza was so fabulous, I didn’t mind rubbing elbows with the patrons next to me. I highly suggest calling ahead as I went to an early dinner in the middle of the week and the place was packed.
Brooklyn Diner (brooklyndiner.com)
I have been to the Brooklyn Diner a couple of times on previous trips to NYC. The food is always consistent, portions are more than enough, and they really do a great job blending comfort diner-style food with fancier gourmet fare. On this trip, one particular menu item stood out: the Cheeseburger Deluxe. It wasn’t the description that caught my eye, although how could you go wrong with Vermont cheese, smokehouse bacon, and a brioche bun! It was the price that caught my eye: it was over $20. Yes, a cheeseburger more than $20. Well, since I’d never had a burger that cost more than $20 before, I had to have this burger. After all, I had to find out what at $20 burger tastes like. Thoughts of this famous scene from one of my favorite movies, Pulp Fiction, popped into my head (please excuse the F-bomb, but sometimes there is no other way to describe something so tasty!):[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zoJAc_aSM7E[/youtube]
After finishing this behemoth of a burger, I had to ask myself was it worth the price tag? Without a doubt, it was worth every penny, or in this case, dollar! While I don’t usually choose hamburgers when dining out, I again thought about when would I get to have this burger again? I don’t get to NYC much, so I decided this was a treat that was easily balanced by both my activity earlier in the day and more reasonable choices with my previous meals.
I know this post is a bit different than something you would expect a nutritionist to write. My reasonings are simply to show you can enjoy foods you may deem ‘forbidden’ if you make sensible choices the rest of the day and keep activity a main part of your vacation. I wasn’t lounging on the beach sucking back thousands of calories; I was walking all over Manhattan, dodging impatient cabbies, and enjoying an active outing to my favorite city!