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A guide to healthy eating on holiday

Lorna Cowan / 01 September 2016

All-inclusive holidays are a perfect way to ensure all your catering needs (and expenses) are taken care. But be careful not to overindulge.

Buffet at a hotel resort
Many spend months trying to shed a few pounds in preparation for their holiday, only to pile them (and a few of their friends!!) back on by overindulging while away.

Top tips to keep you healthy on holiday.

Many of us spend months trying to lose a little bit of excess weight before going away on holiday. We cut back on alcohol and sweet treats, then over the course of a week or fortnight, all the pounds pile back on.

It’s not surprising though. If you book an all-inclusive holiday or a cruise, you have the opportunity to eat and drink throughout the day, so you can easily overindulge and consume more calories on a daily basis than you do back home.

Even on a package holiday, a breakfast buffet will be waiting for you every morning, so a fry-up and pastry may be replacing your usual quick cuppa and slice of toast.

But you’re on holiday and, rightly so, you should be able to enjoy a cocktail, ice cream and three-course meals without feeling too guilty. Just keep everything in moderation and you’ll return home looking relaxed, sun-kissed, healthy and better than ever.

Related: What to expect from cruise food

Beware the buffet

It’s easy to think you must get your money’s worth if you’ve booked an all-inclusive holiday, but that doesn’t need to entail eating every item in the self-service buffet.

It can be tempting when there’s a wide selection of different foods on offer to try a little bit of everything. But if you’re dining at the same restaurant for a week, there will be other meal times to sample all the delicious delicacies.

Fill a dinner plate by all means, but after eating don’t go back to the buffet for second helpings. If you know you don’t have the willpower and won’t be able to resist, use a side plate or small bowl instead of a dinner plate and don’t pile food too high.

Eat slowly and remember it takes around 20 minutes for your brain to register that your stomach is full.

Related: Tips on making the most of a buffet

Start the day on a good note

Breakfasts on holiday can be a leisurely affair, and will often involve you eating a considerable amount more than you do at home. And that’s not such a bad thing.

It’s important to give your body fuel for the day ahead, especially if you’re going sightseeing or are about to embark on some strenuous activity. However, on some mornings choose a healthy option.

Perhaps one day give the full English (or Welsh or Scottish) breakfast a miss, and swap all that fried bacon, eggs, sausages, tomato and black pudding for a boiled egg or scrambled eggs on toast. Full of protein, eggs will fill you up and keep you going until lunch time.  

If you’re faced with a continental breakfast buffet, steer clear of the croissants, muffins and pastries, and calorie-laden cheese. Look for low-fat Greek yoghurt and fruit salad instead, and opt for some lean ham in a bagel.

Fill up with fruit

You’ve no excuse on an all-inclusive holiday or cruise, it’s easy to have your five a day. You just need to reach for the fresh fruit when you’re feeling a bit peckish. If you’re lucky to be on holiday somewhere exotic, there may even be unusual varieties of fruit for you to try.

Heading off to the beach for the day? Then ask for a bag of fresh pineapple to take along with you. It tastes even more delicious in the sun, and it’ll keep you hydrated too. A fruit smoothie can also be refreshing – just don’t drink one packed full of sugar.

Related: Discover Saga’s range of all-inclusive cruises

Drink plenty of water

We’re often reminded to drink at least eight glasses of water a day, to keep your body hydrated and functioning properly. When on holiday and the weather is a lot warmer, your intake needs to be more. If you don’t drink enough water, you risk getting sunstroke.

When you’re hot, it’s very tempting to cool down with cold beers and fizzy soft drinks, but stick to water – at least until later in the day when you’re not going to be swimming again in the sea or pool.

It’s easy to go overboard and drink more units than you’d planned when you start early – especially when, on an all-inclusive break, you’re not continuously opening your wallet to pay for them.

Limit your alcohol consumption

Lazing on a sun lounger with a lager beside you or watching the sun set with a cocktail in hand – it’s all part of the holiday experience, isn’t it?

But keep tabs on how many alcoholic drinks you are slipping back. Alcohol is full of empty calories with no nutritional value, and too many alcoholic drinks can cloud your judgement.

If you’re calorie-conscious - and want to avoid a sore head - choose wine spritzers or mix clear spirits with a mixer such as soda and lime juice. Fancy a cocktail? Ask the bar waiter to make you up a Sea Breeze or Vodka Martini rather than a Margarita or Mudslide.

Also be aware that on sunnier shores, spirits are usually poured straight from the bottle so your drink may be a lot stronger than you’re used to. One G&T in Spain can easily be the equivalent of three in your local.

Study the menu

Part of the joy of being on a package holiday is that someone else decides what’s on the menu, cooks the meal for you - and does the washing up afterwards. All you need to do is turn up at the restaurant, take your table and enjoy a delicious three-course dinner. What you choose from the menu, though, is all-important if you don’t want your bathroom scales to scream at you when you return home. 

Don’t even look at the contents of the bread basket, keep your eyes glued to that menu. If you’d like fish or chicken, see if it can be grilled rather than fried. And choose a salad instead of chips – just don’t then smother it with rich salad dressing. 

You can still enjoy a creamy cheese pasta dish but request it’s served with the sauce on the side, so you can decide how much to add. Remember too that if you are on holiday in the States, portion sizes tend to be bigger than you’re used to in the UK, and fries seem to come with everything. 

Ponder over puddings

Got a sweet tooth? Then it’s going to be hard to resist the dessert trolley, stacked with cakes, tarts and all sorts of appetizing puddings.  

You don’t need to deny yourself a treat, but perhaps every other night, have a fruit salad or refreshing sorbet rather than a large slice of chocolate gateaux or raspberry meringue. Or order one dessert and two spoons and share. 

As for tucking into ice cream available on an all-inclusive holiday, see if you can satisfy your craving with one scoop rather than a huge sundae topped with whipped cream. An ice lollipop made of fruit juice is also a great thirst-quenching alternative. 

Say no to naughty nibbles

 If you want to stay healthy on holiday, it’s no good being careful at meal times if you’re just going to nibble on snacks throughout the day. A biscuit with your morning cup of tea, a slice of cake in the afternoon, nuts with a glass of white wine in the evening – all these calories soon add up. 

Rich Tea biscuits aren’t quite so fattening as Digestives, and a few olives are a much healthier choice than a handful of salted peanuts. Popcorn (without salt or sugar) and sunflower and pumpkin seeds are also good substitutes. 

Keep active

You may want your holiday to be a week of rest and relaxation, but if you’re going to be overindulging a little when it comes to food and drink, balance this with some exercise. 

Take a dip in the sea, go for a walk, play a game of tennis or hire a bike for the afternoon. You’ll feel all the better for it. On an all-inclusive holiday, you could even get the chance to try something for the first time, so sign up for that line dancing class, try pilates, take a windsurfing lesson – you might discover a new hobby or interest. 

NHS Choices offers more advice on how to stay healthy on holiday

Related: Keeping fit on a cruise 

Saga offers a range of all-inclusive holidays and cruises. Find out more today. 


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.