I’ll be the first to admit it, sticking to a diet while on vacation is TOUGH. Throw the words ‘all-inclusive’ in there, and it sounds completely impossible. This past month I was in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico at the Hard Rock Hotel for a friend’s wedding…4 days and 3 nights of unlimited (literally as much as you want of anything and everything) food, coffee, desserts, cocktails…you name it. There was always something being shoved in my face.
Before I set off for the trip, I was a little weary. I’d never done an all-inclusive before, and as someone who is hugely into health, but also loves me some food, I was worried about completely falling off the wagon and derailing my progress. However, I finally decided to stop worrying and trust my instincts. After all, I love my body, I know what I stand for, and my will power is strong. With those affirmations in mind, I sailed through the trip with no regrets, and of course, a few margaritas.
Here are 6 ways to survive an all-inclusive resort without sabotaging your healthy eating routine.
Set out a plan of action BEFORE you get there
We’ve all heard…failing to plan is planning to fail, right? Same applies here! I made sure I had a plan of attack before arriving so I didn’t walk into something I wasn’t prepared for. Something you might want to know ahead of time is the itinerary of your event. Perhaps your group or party has already scheduled meals out, or happy hours, etc, where you’ll be eating. Knowing this ahead of time ensures you don’t end up eating twice in a short period of time.
Another thing I did was research the resort to see what options I had at all times. There are probably going to be multiple options for restaurants if you end up at an all-inclusive, so check ahead of time to see which ones you’ll frequent, and which ones you’ll avoid. For example, I spent most of my time in the buffet where there was a large salad bar and plenty of fresh grilled protein…and avoided the ‘all you can eat’ endless Brazilian steakhouse.
Enlist the help of your traveling partner, or a buddy
Accountability is key. And that hasn’t changed now you’re on vacation. Chances are you’re traveling with a buddy or significant other. Enlisting their help will be crucial in your success at the all-inclusive. If you’re traveling solo, let someone you’re meeting at your destination know ahead of time you’ll be needing their support. While you may have an iron will, sometimes just ‘doing what everyone else is doing’ will get to you and you’ll be likely to fall off a little. Simply let your accountability buddy know of your intentions, and ask them for their support, encouragement, and gentle nudges when they see you going against your goals….or perhaps they’ll do it with you!
Keep yourself busy and stay away from the food
This one was KEY for me. Here’s the thing, at an all-inclusive, it is not hard at all to find open restaurants, bars, etc. Everything is always serving. Not only that but they’re actively offering you more, seconds, thirds, another round, etc. My biggest tactic here was keeping myself busy. Whether I was walking the beach, swimming the pool, catching some sun, or even Ubering to the nearest town to check it out, I kept my schedule pretty full so I wasn’t tempted to go into one of the restaurants or bars…or just ring in some room service.
It also was helpful for me to decide ahead of time what my eating schedule would be, so I knew exactly when I should go grab a bite. I opted for 2 bigger meals and a snack, so I wasn’t at the buffet 3 times, giving me more chances to overeat. The more you stay away and keep yourself busy, the less opportunity you give yourself to be around the temptation! Another thing I did to keep myself busy, was obviously hit the gym. Early mornings were pretty empty at the all-inclusive, so see if you can get your butt in there, or even just opt for a lot of walking the beach or nearest town!
When you eat, practice the plate blocking method
Now there will obviously be times when you need to eat. Here, you will practice plating your food just as you do at home, nothing has changed…except for the volume of your choices. The good thing is, you’re never out of options to keep you full, in a healthy way. While yes, there were ample creamy cheesy pasta dishes and decadent desserts, there were also a lot of vegetables, proteins, and sad bar options. Keep it simple and structure your plate as such:
Proteins (1/4 of plate) – there will usually be a grilled chicken dish or a fresh cut steak, sliced roast option for a main. Choose these, or something even simpler like the sliced meats from the cheese boards, or some eggs.
Fats (1/8 of plate) – these can be slightly harder, though I didn’t have any trouble finding any fresh avocados, fish options, and plenty of nuts and olives to fill this portion.
Vegetables (1/2 of plate, nonstarchy) – vegetables are the healthiest and easiest way to fill up on food that is nutrient dense and fibrous to ensure you feel like you’re getting enough to eat. Go ham at the salad bar, or stock up on the grilled green beans, broccoli, or sautéed peppers they might have.
Carbs (1/8 of plate) – Finally, yes, you do need some carbs. One, for energy, and two, to perhaps soak up some pre-meal cocktails. Dark rice, wheat bread, or even some potatoes can do the trick here.
Keep daily track of your food intake
This tip may seem a little rigid and an inconvenience for you on your vacation, but trust me, this is HUGE help. Not only does it help you stay on track, but it keeps you honest and aware of how much food you’re actually eating, so you’ll be less likely to overeat knowing how many rolls of sushi you just actually ate! Myfitnesspal or even a pen and journal to track your food and alcohol consumption will be just fine to elicit that critical awareness you need to stay on track. If you don’t know the exact nutritional values, that’s completely okay. It’s also very helpful to just get a general idea of how MUCH and WHAT different foods you’re eating.
Let loose a little, after all…you’re on vacation
Now, I’m not saying it’s going to be easy. It will be hard. Unlimited anything is a lot of temptation. When you’re not paying for it, and you can get up for seconds, thirds, all you want, there really is a huge tendency to completely overeat. And I know I set forth some rules that will help you along the way, but what I haven’t mentioned yet is, there will be some difficult times. But here’s the thing, the more you beat yourself up about it, the worse it will be. If you have to force yourself to exercise restraint, you’ll most likely end up completely going hog wild at some point and regretting it severely the next day.
SO in order to try and avoid that, treat these days like you would your normal routine. You don’t eat right 100% of the time at home, so don’t do it here. Keep your ‘treat meals’ in your routine for your trip, to keep you sane and help you enjoy the vacation. I allowed myself 1-2 indulgences daily…yes, daily. But I didn’t over do it. Doing this allowed me to not feel restricted, and each treat was even more special because I’d been saving for it. And by treats, I mean a dessert like a chocolate brownie, or the wedding cake (duh), or a “non-mixed-with-water” cocktail…like the margarita.
Whatever you do, remember to enjoy your trip and stick to your goals. Follow the steps above and you’ll be just fine at your all-inclusive.