- Prioritize exercise amenities (and use them!) – What do you look for when you research hotels? Free wi-fi, a lovely view? Add whether or not your hotel has an exercise room to your top list of priorities. They are becoming more common, but you can easily review the hotel amenities on your travel or hotel website to confirm. This of course means you also have to prioritize packing your workout clothes. They take up a lot of room, but the results (more energy and less jet lag in addition to weight maintenance) were worth it. Try to get your workout out of the way in the morning so you can have the rest of the day for fun. When that doesn’t work, head for a walk or to the gym when travel companions are napping to get your energy boost. Working out on vacation is a must when you are gone longer than a week (I learned that the hard way). It helps you maintain your muscle mass, keep your weight in check and restart your workout routine when you get back home since you won’t be starting from scratch.
- Hoof it – One of the best ways to explore a new city is on foot. You stumble upon the best finds and it helps you get oriented with your new surroundings. You’re going to burn extra calories while getting a first-hand view of your vacation destination. You can look up walking tours of your destination before you go for a little guidance. Be sure and pack comfortable walking shoes. I cannot say enough about my Teva Kayenta Walking Sandals. I have them in Walnut and find I can wear them with shorts, skirts and dresses. They are comfortable for a long day of hitting the pavement and look stylish as well.
- Eat local – This is always a great idea whether you are at home or on vacation. We visited one of the local markets in Istanbul and found a dazzling array of fresh fruits and vegetables. Figs were in season so I snacked on those between meals. We ate local specialities (even when they looked strange) which were made with fresh local ingredients. Eating local on vacation means that you are going to taste the best your destination has to offer and typically enjoy a high nutrient content meal since your food hasn’t had to travel a long way to your table. Every location has its specialities, but for those who tend to gravitate to tropical destinations (like me!) you are mostly likely going to get your fill of juicy fruits and vegetables and the freshest seafood.
- Go meatless – I didn’t follow this 100% of the trip, but when I had the option, I opted out of meat at most meals. This was easy to do given our destinations of India and Istabul, but it’s still a choice you make. The vegetarian dishes were so flavorful, I didn’t feel like I was missing out. When I did have “meat”, I opted for the fresh seafood that was plentiful and better prepared since they were local specialities.
- Indulge in moderation – One of the reasons I’m a little surprised we didn’t gain weight is that we didn’t really deprive ourselves of indulgences. I had my champagne cocktails and ate my baklava, but I was careful to do it in moderation. Dessert was still a special treat, the ice cream was portioned to one scoop and the baklava was bite-size. Drinks were alternated with water and were limited to prevent hangovers and ruin the following day’s workout and sightseeing.
- Give yourself a break and enjoy your vacation – It’s about enjoying your vacation not deprivation. So if you go a little crazy one day (like I did on my food tour – more to come on that!) don’t beat yourself up over it. Reset your intentions for the next day to get a little more exercise and listen to your hunger/fullness cues. If the scale moves a little higher than it was before you left, that is OK too. Look back on your wonderful memories and then make a plan to double-down on your workouts and get back on track with healthful eating.
Indulging in the Flavors of Puerto Rico
So my family and I had a wonderful time exploring the flavors of Puerto Rico. When I think back on our eating escapades I remember seafood, fresh fruit and MOFONGO!
I didn’t make a conscious effort, but I believe I had seafood at every meal we had out. In general, I try and stick to that rule since that means I get to control where my meat and poultry come from. It’s an even better idea in Puerto Rico when most of the seafood is freshly caught from the surrounding waters.
Fruit, Fruit, Everywhere
It was so easy to get your daily dose of Vitamin C in Puerto Rico. The fruit was gorgeous and delicious. One of my favorites was mango we picked up from the local supermarket. You had to pick around and find a ripe fruit, but my mom cut up slices for an afternoon snack after the pool and it was sweet heaven. Fruit was everywhere! You could buy Coco Frio (cold coconut) on the roadsides stands.
We found some in during our drive through El Yunque Rainforest. You need to have the right tools. Our vendor uses a machete to cut off the top. Then all you need is a straw to reach the refreshing and electrolyte-filled coconut water. Best of all, you find local fruit featured prominently in their fruity drinks where they add coconut, mangos, apples, citrus and more to homemade sangria, mojitos and margaritas.
Another great way to sample the local fare is to hit the kiosk food stands strewn throughout Puerto Rico. We were lucky to be close to a popular set of kioskos in Luquillo. While we had been told there would be mostly fried food options, we had one of our best meals in at Tapas 13 where we were able to sample small plates of yucca sticks, spicy garlic shrimp and calamari. Walking through the stands was an adventure for the senses and we felt like locals partaking in this rustic experience.
And for the grand finale! Mofongo!
I was told this was a must-have dish for our Puerto Rican experience. I had heard of the dish, but had never tasted it. I’m glad my first time was authentic. We hit a beachside restaurant and I ordered my first Mofongo Relleno de Camarones (Stuffed Mofongo with Shrimp). Mofongo is made by mashing plantains (typically fried first to soften) and then filling it with a thick soup of protein, garlic and vegetables. I was momentarily disappointed when my plate arrived with only two shrimp on top only to “crack” into the mofongo to find a dozen shrimp swimming inside a garlickly broth. It was delicious and fresh – reinforced by the plantain delivery they received during our meal.
I arrived home a little sleep deprived and very well fed. I’d recommend a trip to this tropical destination that is closer than Hawaii and where you don’t need to use your U.S. passport…just be sure you bring an adventurous appetite!
Safe summer travels to everyone!