Friday 23 August 2019

Karl Henry: How to stay Healthy on Holiday - and what to eat

Karl Henry shares his top 10 tips to help you avoid avoiding gaining excess baggage on your summer vacation

Karl Henry
Karl Henry
Karl Henry
From Karl Henry's Healthy Living Handbook, photography by Paul McCarthy, published by Penguin Ireland
Yoghurt and seed pots from Karl Henry's Healthy Living Handbook
Karl Henry's Healthy Living Handbook is published by Penguin Ireland at €17.00

Holidays are fantastic and very beneficial to our health and well-being. Whether it's a staycation in Ireland, a city break, a beach holiday in Europe or something more adventurous, going on holiday is an opportunity to take time away from the usual routine, spend quality time with family or friends, explore new places or activities, and generally recharge.

Of course, holidays can also be challenging for your food and fitness plans - but only if you let them. If your mentality is that holidays are 'time off for good behaviour' or that somehow foreign calories don't count, or that you have no control over what happens on holiday, you will undo some of your good work. On the other hand, if you approach it by saying that you are going to have a great time, enjoying everything your destination has to offer, while still keeping up your good habits, then you have no reason to fear what will happen on holiday.

1 Weigh yourself before you go

Knowing your weight before you travel and knowing that you will be checking it again when you come home is a good way to keep you focused when you're away, and is likely to motivate you to do more exercise and to think twice before going up to the buffet for second helpings.

2 Be definite at the buffet

Buffet meals are a disaster when it comes to waistlines. Unlimited food and drink encourages you to try everything on display and eat far more than you usually would. For instance, if you normally eat cereal or eggs or fruit and yoghurt in the mornings, a breakfast buffet in a hotel will somehow give you the idea that you should have all three, and maybe a glass of juice and a bit of toast too - it would be a pity not to when everything looks so delicious and you're paying for it.

Try to stick to one filling choice for breakfast, and for lunch and dinner stick to three actual courses - a salad, then protein and vegetables, and then a treat for dessert. One of each. Simple and effective. You may feel like you are getting the best value by indulging more, but stick to your structure and your waistline will thank you for it.

Of course, one way of avoiding the temptation of the buffet, as well as keeping closer tabs on what you're eating and your budget, is to go for self-catering accommodation. That way you can plan your meals and snacks for most of the day.

3 Stock up on water

It can be so easy to order cocktails by the pool, not because you want them but because it's warm and you're thirsty. Instead, try to stock up on water when you arrive - buy a six-pack of 1.5-litre bottles of water - and have one beside you at all times during the day. The same thing applies to ice-creams and hot dogs and other things that call out to you when you're on holiday. Often you eat because you're thirsty rather than hungry.

4 Get your exercise done early

There's no reason not to continue with your cardio and resistance training and stretching on holiday. And the earlier you train, the more likely it is that you will do your session rather than find an excuse to skip it. The endorphins that will kick in will make you feel good and help you to stay motivated as well, and you're less likely to go overboard with food and drink later.

5 Alcohol at one meal only

It can be easy to slip into the habit of having an aperitif before lunch, then alcohol at lunch, then a couple of drinks in the afternoon, and then more alcohol with dinner, and finally a night-cap.

While alcohol has its place in helping you relax, hopefully you are already relaxed by being on holiday. Drinking through the day on holiday can simply be a habit, and it's one you can break if you focus on it.

If you remember that alcohol is just liquid calories, it should help you keep it in its place. Being on holiday shouldn't be an excuse to go crazy. So enjoy a few drinks, but try to keep alcohol to just one meal. If you're thirsty, drink water.

6 Use your feet

If you have to go somewhere, then why not walk as opposed to getting a cab or bus? You're on holiday and not in any rush, the weather is good, so why not? The exercise will do your body the world of good and it's adding to your daily movement. Use the stairs to get around the hotel as opposed to using the lifts all the time.

7 Keep a food diary

Food diaries are a simple, cheap and surprisingly effective way of staying healthy. When you begin to write it down, you will be surprised at what you are actually consuming every day. My clients usually find it quite a wake-up call!

8 Get your family involved

Activities that the family can do together - walking, hiking, running, swimming, cycling, tennis - are a perfect way of exercising on holiday. There are lots of activities promoted for their fun or adventure aspects, which also involve a lot of physical movement. They are ideal for getting everyone moving and may even get the family thinking about what activity you can all do together when you get home.

9 Use the time to plan

I always use my holidays to reflect on my current training and to look to the future. Taking the time to examine what I have done well and not so well, and learning from any mistakes that I have made along the way, is really helpful. Holidays are a good time to map out what is going to be different when you get home.

10 have fun and de-stress

Stress is bad for your health in lots of different ways. So above all, when on holiday, do whatever you can to relax and unwind and bring your stress levels down.

What to eat on the go

Between work and holidays, we all travel more than ever before, and it probably provides the greatest challenge to maintaining a healthy diet, so let's take a look at what you can do to improve your food choices when you are travelling. When you pick up a product while in transit, ask yourself:

● Is it a real food or is it processed?

● Does it have a long or short shelf life?

● Does it have many or few ingredients?

● What has the least amount of sugar?

● Are there fruits or nuts available?

● Are you actually hungry or are you eating from habit or boredom?

If going on a flight, try to bring something from home (as long as it's not liquid, you should get it through security) or pick up something in the airport shops after security rather than eating what's served on the plane. Most airports now have a range of shops that offer healthy options. (Keep in mind that because of nut allergies some airlines do not permit passengers to bring nuts on flights. Also, unless you have already checked what's permitted and what's banned, you should dispose of foodstuffs before going through arrivals at your destination, as many countries have strict rules about what foods they allow in.)

Drink lots of fluids before, during and after any flight.

If you're on the road, keep this in mind: 'Don't refuel yourself where you refuel your car.' Many garages and motorway service stops in Ireland offer few healthy options. Apart from fruit and perhaps some nuts in their natural state, you'll struggle to find anything that isn't very calorific or sugary. Bring your own healthy snacks for the road.

When you're on holiday or away for work and eating out, the same rules apply as at home. If you order dishes that are in their most natural state, and have been treated as simply as possible, and if you keep your portions modest, you'll be on the right track. Of course, you will want to check out the local cuisine and specialities - just apply the treat rule on a slightly more generous basis.

Keep your drinking and treat meals to a few times during the trip or holiday rather than every meal every day. And, of course, if you're in self-catering accommodation, all the suggestions I've made already about how to shop and cook apply. Indeed, you can make it an exciting opportunity to try healthy new foods in their natural habitat!


Tandoori mixed nuts


Nuts are full of protein and minerals and are super-handy as a snack. Remember, snack size is about a handful (assuming you don't have huge hands and that you fill your hand loosely!).

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cooking time: 10 minutes

Makes 400g


100g unsalted peanuts

100g unsalted cashews

100g unsalted almonds

100g unroasted hazelnuts

1 tsp rapeseed oil

2 tsp garam masala


1 Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4.

2 Line a baking tray with baking parchment.

3 Mix the nuts, the oil and the garam masala together in a bowl.

4 Transfer the mixture to the baking tray and spread out evenly. Put the tray into the preheated oven and roast for 8 to 10 minutes.

5 Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Store in a sealed container and your Tandoori mixed nuts will last for up to 10 days.

6 They're delicious as a snack with a drink watching TV - just remember to put out a small bowl for yourself rather than the whole lot!

Yoghurt and seed pots

Yoghurt and seed pots from Karl Henry's Healthy Living Handbook

These pots are great in the morning when you're rushing out the door, to grab and go and bring into work. I also use them as snacks for large groups - they're super-quick to make and healthy too!

Prep time: 2 minutes

Serves 1


2 tsp honey

125g Greek yoghurt

25g mixed seeds (e.g. pumpkin, sesame, sunflower)


1 Drizzle the honey over the yoghurt and sprinkle with the seeds.

2 For a more interesting flavour, dry-roast half the seeds in a pan (i.e. heat the pan without any oil and toast the seeds for a minute or two, making sure not to burn them). That way you get a nice toasty flavour while retaining the nutritional benefits of the raw seeds.

3 When we were photographing this recipe, we happened to have some flaked almonds available, so we added them. They made a nice addition.

If this is a snack you like to have regularly, you could batch-roast some seeds for quicker preparation.

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