Extreme Newsletter—Diet and fitness tips, recipes, and motivation

HEALTHY VACATION EATING Issue #86 06/21/11

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8 Ways to Avoid Summer Weight Gain

By G.D. Rossen

As the summer vacation season approaches and millions of people start planning trips, among the most popular ways the recreation-starved choose to spend their hard-earned vacation time and harder-earned cash is on cruise ships or at all-inclusive tropical resorts. The cruise industry alone saw more than 10 million passengers depart from U.S. ports last year, while tropical über-resorts with names like Sandals®, Breezes, and Couples beckon with enticing promises of warm sands and days of leisure. (We won't touch on what Hedonism Resorts® beckons with.) What these vacation destinations all have in common is cocoon-like protection in a safe, microcosmic version of the locale you're visiting, committed to relaxation and fun. But they share something else too. As all-inclusive vacations, they offer near-continuous access to all the food you can eat, which makes them appeal to instincts honed by our famine-fearing ancestors—instincts that tell us that if there's food available, it's time to chow down. Cruise ships in particular have gained notoriety as being fat factories on the seas. Like the average American waistline, every year, the ships grow larger and larger, adding more and more dining rooms and buffets, each enticing travelers to gorge as they lounge in the tropical sunshine.

Buffet Table

And while in this era of shrinking paychecks and cost-conscious consuming the idea of all-inclusive vacations sounds like a smart vacation shopper's dream come true, this all-you-can-consume kind of vacation carries with it risks for the health-minded vacationer. So if your goal is to keep from overindulging while at an all-inclusive resort or on a cruise, and you can't depend solely on your willpower to keep you on the straight and narrow, here are eight ways you can enjoy your vacation to the fullest without derailing your healthy eating and exercise plan.

  1. The opposite of mountain climbing (or beware the buffet). Mountain climbers have been known to explain their passionate need to tackle a given peak by saying "because it's there"; vacationers at an all-inclusive often defend their face-first dives into mountainous buffets with the same motto. Just because something is there doesn't mean you have to have it. That said, we're all human, and something that seems "free" or "paid for" is enticing and alluring . . . especially when it's bathed in cream, salt, sugar, cheese, etc. So when mealtime rolls around and a buffet sprawls before you like pirate booty waiting to be plundered, make sure you start with the salad. That's right, a simple green salad, and while you're at it, try light dressing or no dressing at all. Salad fills up space in your stomach while it provides you with vitamins and roughage, the latter of which is noticeably lacking in many buffet-style foods. Just remember, the more salad you eat (at, say, 50 calories for a cup and a half of salad without dressing, or 100 calories for a cup and a half with low-fat balsamic vinaigrette), the less room you'll have for starchy, fatty, salty Fettuccine Alfredo (which can weigh in at 700 calories per serving and up—often way up). The result is that in addition to keeping your arteries clearer, you're gonna feel a lot better in your swimsuit when you're lounging on the Lido deck.
  2. Assortment of Salads
  3. Be the captain of your table. While cruise ships and all-inclusive resorts have embraced the "more is better" philosophy, offering sometimes a dozen restaurant options to their captive diners, the tourism industry has also been among the most responsive to working "heart-healthy" and lower-calorie options into their menus. You just have to use them. Vegetarian choices are usually available at every meal, as are sugar-free desserts and low-salt options. On cruises in particular, many ship kitchens pride themselves on accommodating guests' special dietary requests. And since both cruise ships and beachside resorts boast waterfront settings and nautical themes, fish dishes are virtually always available on the menu, which can make for healthier dining choices, especially when grilled.
  4. Beware the pink parasols. Okay, let's not go overboard. If you drink alcohol, your vacation most likely won't be the time you choose to cut it out of your diet. But the amount of calories in some alcoholic drinks can be truly astounding. Daiquiris, margaritas, mai tais—resort favorites all—generally carry high-calorie loads, and basically any drink sweetened with syrups or sugar is getting into Candyland as far as calorie count goes. Also, alcohol has that special ability to lower your resistance, impeding your better judgment. The bottom line is that drinking can make you consume a surplus of empty calories, both directly (the alcohol itself) and indirectly (the poolside French fries or grande platter of nachos you order when the alcohol obliterates your resolve). So before you find yourself paddling over toward the swim-up bar (because hey, how cool is that, having a swim-up bar?), have a strategy in place. Maybe your strategy will involve using low-cal mixers (i.e., rum and Diet Coke®) or alternating between an alcoholic drink and a nonalcoholic low-cal or no-cal drink (i.e., sparkling water on ice with some lemon or lime). Or if a cold beer is more to your liking, enjoy a light beer instead.
  5. Woman Exercising
  6. Then again, it is vacation! So eat . . . then hit the gym. Sure there's temptation on vacation. That's why it's a vacation. And you don't want to be so mindful of your menu that you don't have fun. (After all, would you go to Switzerland and not try the chocolate, or visit New Orleans and not have beignets?) So if you embrace the dining options to their fullest, or feel you're deserving of your vacation drinks (especially since someone else is driving [the ship]), you should also embrace the many, many exercise options that are available. Fully outfitted gyms are de rigueur in all major resorts and ships, and the hour you spend on an elliptical machine could see you burn off 600 calories. The hardest part is incorporating the workout regimen you embrace at home to this new environment where hedonism is encouraged and rewarded. (Few gyms are emptier than those on cruise ships.) So here are a few exercise options.
  7. Exercise easy . . . Opportunities for easy, "I've got a hangover and can't get too out of breath"-type exercise are plentiful at resorts and on cruise ships. Sure, they may not be challenging enough to be featured on the cover of an outdoorsy-lifestyle magazine, but remember that embracing the many slower-paced vacation-style exercise options around you is better than not moving at all. For instance, you might want to take a morning walk before camping out on the nearest chaise lounge for the day. Walking on an even surface at 3 miles per hour will consume around 220 calories an hour, and even a modest (or stumbling) 2-mile-per-hour walk burns around 170 calories. So the paths around the resort, or even off-property if that's both safe and viable, provide for strolls that let you enjoy the warmth, soak in the atmosphere, and not atrophy on a poolside lounge chair. Likewise, most cruise ships boast tracks around the upper decks where passengers can walk or jog to their heart's delight (jogging can burn 360 calories and up an hour). Even the much-maligned game of shuffleboard can burn 150 or 200 calories an hour. Yes, it's a ridiculous pastime. Yes, it is associated with Miami Beach in the 1970s. But the idea is to move, rather than only bake in the sun while downing nachos and beers.
  8. Woman Rock Climbing
  9. Or exercise hard core . . . Rock-climbing walls are now present on many ships and at some resorts, and provide an extremely calorie-intensive workout due to the intense physical demands of clinging to a faux-rock face with feet and fingers (burning as much as 100 calories in a brief 10-minute climb). Never rappelled down a climbing wall before? No problem. Whether you have or not, if your resort has a rock wall, they have staff on hand to teach you how to use it, generally offering courses geared for climbers of different experience levels. Climbing walls involve intense use of muscles and balance, and you'll certainly feel it the next day. Likewise, many cruise ships, when they pull into port, offer challenging onshore athletic activities, like kayaking, which can burn 340 or more calories per hour.
  10. Sleep with the fish—or just exercise with them. Nowhere are water sports more readily available than at beachside resorts and on cruise ships. Snorkeling burns around 350 calories an hour, and provides a calming view of the world you may not normally get. Surfing is another activity that's perfect to try on your resort-bound vacation (some megaships also offer surf pools or surf parks to let passengers surf while still on board), and surfing can burn 200 calories an hour. Of course, swimming is one of the most effective exercises around, and swimming around ocean or pool for an hour could easily burn 400 calories or more.
  11. People Dancing
  12. Dancing (does the limbo count)? Yes, cruise ships and resorts are romantic places where music fills the warm night air, so embrace the music and dance! Dancing is one of the best forms of cardio exercise, so whether you prefer to slow dance in the moonlight (a gentle waltz burns 120 calories or more an hour) or party down to some disco (while burning more than 270 calories an hour), rest assured that what you're doing is good for you. Dancing also has the distinction of being one of the more enjoyable forms of exercise—just one of the reasons that Hip Hop Abs® and Turbo Jam® have helped so many people improve their health and conditioning. The point with all these exercise options is to move, and whenever possible, to embrace the concept of Muscle Confusion, which forms the basis of the P90X® fitness regimen. Keeping your body moving in a variety of ways, continually forcing it to adapt, results in effective muscle toning and fat-burning.

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Questions about your workout program, diet, the latest newsletter, or anything wellness related? Chat with Denis Faye, Beachbody fitness advisor, in the Beachbody Chat Room on Monday, June 27th, at 3:00 PM ET, 12:00 PM PT.

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

Check out our Fitness Advisor's responses to your comments in Steve Edwards' Mailbag on the Message Boards. If you'd like to receive Steve Edwards' Mailbag by email, click here to subscribe to Steve's Health and Fitness Newsletter. And if you'd like to know more about Steve's views on fitness, nutrition, and outdoor sports, read his blog, The Straight Dope, recently named one of the Top 50 blogs covering the sports industry by the Masters in Sports Administration.

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Make Mine Melon!

By Denis Faye

There's nothing bad about melons. They're yummy, they're super good for you, and they're one of the most social foods around. No self-respecting summer picnic would be complete without a big ol' watermelon. In fact, Americans purchase 3 billion pounds of the big green yum-balls annually. Everything else on the checkered tablecloth might be a nutritional nightmare, but nestled between the ambrosia and the macaroni salad you'll always find those big slices of sweet pink vitamin C-packed goodness, secretly supplying hungry partygoers with an abundance of vitamins, minerals, and carotenoids.

Cantaloupe Melons

In truth, I probably don't need to explain why you should be eating everyone's favorite summer fruit, 'cause you're gonna eat it either way, but we're all food nerds here, right? So let's take moment and learn a little more about melons.

Melonology 101

You can buy melons in the grocery store year-round, but they're in season in America in the summer, so save your consumption for that season, and make sure you buy local. There are a couple of reasons to do this. First, once a piece of fruit is picked, it starts to lose nutrients, so not only do melons shipped from Central America tend to be mealier in texture, they're also less nutritious. Second, imported melons are more expensive.

You can store a melon at room temperature for a few days. Refrigerating it will help the nutrients last longer, but you lose flavor, particularly with cantaloupes. Once you've cut it open, all bets are off. Seal that melon and store it in the fridge. It should last about a week.

And even though you're probably not going to eat the rind, give your melon a good washing before cutting it up, so you can avoid any dirt, residues, or pesticides (if it's not organic) that might get into the flesh when you cut it.

While the watermelon is arguably the rock star of the melon world, having recently been rated the second healthiest fruit around by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (behind guava), it's just one of dozens of melon varieties. Let's discuss a few.

WatermelonWatermelon

Actually, the watermelon is the only melon that's not a member of the Cucumis genus. It's a member of the genus Citrullus, which totally matters, right? Anyway, why did the CSPI go nuts for watermelons? They're loaded with vitamins and minerals, including vitamins C, A, B6, and B1, as well as potassium and magnesium. More importantly, they're loaded with carotenoids, pigments existing in plants that give them their vibrant colors. Carotenoids also have beneficial effects on those who eat them, including protecting cell walls from free radicals, improving your immune system, and helping to maintain reproductive health.

One of the most prominent carotenoids in watermelon is cardiovascular-system-enhancing lycopene, which is usually associated with tomatoes, even though watermelon contains a much higher concentration by volume.

Haters sometimes criticize the watermelon for its lack of fiber. While this is true, it's fairly irrelevant. This fruit is incredibly water- and nutrient-dense, meaning you get a lot of vitamins and minerals for very few calories. One cup, which works out to about a pound of fruit, is only 49 calories.

Furthermore, I defy you to show me anyone who's ever gotten fat from eating watermelon.

Picking a good watermelon is easy. As is the case with all melons, once it's been plucked from the vine, it stops ripening, so don't buy it hoping it'll improve. According to The World's Healthiest Foods by George Mateljan, there are two tricks to identifying a ripe watermelon. First, the "ground spot," where it rested in the dirt, should be yellow. If it's green or white, it's probably not ready. Seedless watermelons sometimes don't have ground spots, so this doesn't apply to them. Second, give it a thump. If it responds with a dull thud, that's good. It if sounds hollow, put it back.

On a final note, if you're concerned about the genetic modification factor when it comes to seedless watermelon varieties, don't be. They're hybrids, meaning they're a cross between two types of melon. No genes are manipulated in the making of this summer treat.

Woman Eating Cantaloupe Cantaloupe

My grandmother used to say, "Cantaloupe—'cause we're already married!"

Bwahahahahaha! [Wipes tear from eye.]

Okay, now that I've gotten that out of my system, let's talk about the fruit the CSPI ranked as the eighth healthiest fruit. The cantaloupe, as we know it, is actually a muskmelon. Real cantaloupes are grown in France and rarely make it to the states. Whatever you want to call them, they're packed with vitamins C, A, B3, B6, and B9, as well as potassium. Unlike watermelons, they have a little fiber, a little over 1 gram for a 56-calorie, 1-cup serving.

They're also a good source of carotenoids, particularly beta-carotene, which you'll also find in carrots. Are you seeing the pattern here? Remember how I said carotenoids are pigments? Cantaloupes and carrots are both orange. Watermelons and tomatoes, with their lycopene, are both red.

Cool, huh?

Cantaloupes stop ripening when picked, but unlike watermelons, the tap test should sound hollow. They should have a subtle, fruity smell. If a cantaloupe smells too strong, it's probably overripe. Also, the side opposite the stem should be slightly soft. Other than that, there should be no bruises or odd spots.

The only real downside to cantaloupe—and it's a weird one—is that people with latex allergies sometimes react poorly to them, so look out for that. Who knew?

Honeydew Melon Honeydew

Although they're still yummy, honeydew melons fare poorly from a nutritional standpoint when compared to their pink and orange brethren. That 1 cup of cubes has 61 calories and 1 gram of fiber, but the vitamin C is only about half that of cantaloupe, and there are also much lower amounts of other micronutrients, although there's still a pretty good amount of potassium.

The carotenoid that gives honeydew its green hue is zeaxanthin, which promotes eye health. You'll find even more impressive amounts of zeaxanthin in almost all leafy greens.

You determine whether a honeydew's ripe the same way you find a good cantaloupe. Hollow tap, fruity smell, and no soft spots.

Casaba

Although it's less well known, I thought I'd mention the casaba, because of the special role it plays in the melon world. While nowhere near as nutritionally dense as the melons we've discussed previously, the casaba still features a nice little hit of vitamins C and B6, plus some potassium. Casabas also tend to have slightly more protein and fiber and less sugar than other melons, which gives them less of a glycemic load. In other words, they might be considered a "low-carb" fruit.

Though not as flavorful as some other melons, casabas have a long shelf life, which is convenient. The ripeness smell test doesn't really apply here, as they have no aroma, so look for color instead. The outer skin on a ripe casaba will be bright yellow.

Assortment of Melons Which melon is right for you?

The answer? Any of them. However, if after reading all this, you're stuck as to which melon to pick for your next BBQ, I have an idea: Buy one of each! Chop them up, mix them up, and you have a colorful, nutrient-rich fruit salad that'll kick that picnic into overdrive. With any luck, Cousin Millie and Grandma Bertie will finally get the message that you don't need mayo and refined sugar to make food delicious.

Related Articles
"Seasonal Summer Produce"
"5 Ways to Make Over Your Veggies"
"7 Substitutes for Diet-Killing Picnic Foods"

Questions about your workout program, diet, the latest newsletter, or anything wellness related? Chat with Denis Faye, Beachbody fitness advisor in the Beachbody Chat Room on June 27th, at 3:00 PM ET, 12:00 PM PT.

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

Check out our Fitness Advisor's responses to your comments in Steve Edwards' Mailbag on the Message Boards. If you'd like to receive Steve Edwards' Mailbag by email, click here to subscribe to Steve's Health and Fitness Newsletter. And if you'd like to know more about Steve's views on fitness, nutrition, and outdoor sports, read his blog, The Straight Dope, recently named one of the Top 50 blogs covering the sports industry by the Masters in Sports Administration.

Submit A CommentTell A Friend Bookmark and Share

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Recipe: Frozen Shakeology® Pops

By Sandy Carter (and her daughter)

Frozen Shakeology® PopReady for a frosty treat that's as healthy as it is delicious? Try this recipe for frozen Shakeology pops. They're simple to mix up and freeze, and best of all, there's no guilt—just icy-cold choco-peanutty refreshment!

  • 1 serving Chocolate Shakeology
  • 3/4 cup nonfat milk
  • 1-1/2 Tbsp. peanut butter (all-natural is best)
  • 1 cup ice (more or less to taste)

Place ingredients in blender and blend until thoroughly mixed and creamy. Pour into 4-oz. pop molds and freeze until solid. Makes 4 pops.

Nutritional Information (per serving):

Calories Protein Fiber Carbs Fat Total Saturated Fat
91 8 g 1 g 8 g 3 g <1 g

Fuel your workouts with Shakeology® THE HEALTHIEST MEAL OF THE DAY®—Click here for FREE shipping†

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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