Tips to Avoid Long Weekend Weight Gain

With pending statutory long weekends ahead (this Monday is the Victoria Day long weekend for Canadians while the May 30th is Memorial Day for Americans), it’s easy to get caught up in a holiday loop of eat, drink, snack…repeat without giving much thought to the consequences of those overindulgences.

On long weekends, when the weather is nice and the patio is calling for a few pitchers of beer and a side of nachos it’s easy to let our healthy eating habits go out the window. However, you can still enjoy your summer without turning it into a season of total gluttony…

Avoid Creeping Obesity

It’s easy to throw your cares to the wind and indulge in the moment on a long weekend. So much so that researchers at the University of Georgia’s College of Family and Consumer Sciences department came up with a name for this sneaky substantial weight gaining trend: “creeping obesity”.

The researchers monitored 122 participants between the ages of 18- and 65-years old and discovered that vacations and holidays during the months of March and August generally led to a 1-pound gain. Considering that the average U.S. adult gains 1 to 2 pounds per year, scientists consider the 1-pound gain over a short-term holiday pretty substantial.

Avoid Restaurants

It’s super easy and convenient to dine out on a local patio when cottaging over a long weekend. However, you can greatly avoid holiday weight gain by preparing most of your meals at home, in the great outdoors.

Make a trip to the nearest grocery store or farm to purchase an impressive array of lean meats for grilling and fresh seasonal produce. The family will remember grilling up chicken breasts with dad, and eating locally-grown corn on the cob right from the farm far more than another meal at the local restaurant. Create summer memories with healthy meals prepared as a family.

Stay Active

Sure, you’ll inevitably indulge once in a while on your vacation or long weekend away. However, one great way to curtail taking in those extra calories is to burn them off with some fun summer activities.

If you’re vacationing near the beach, forgo the book and lawn chair for a few hours of swimming, paddle boarding, or kayaking. Or if you’re not a water baby, choose to take a long walk or run down the beautiful sandy shoreline. You can also join the kids for a game of frisbee or beach volleyball so you can indulge with a beer and a few s’mores around the campfire. Trust me, they’ll taste better after some energizing activities.

Practice Moderation at the Buffet

All you can eat buffets are not evil. But for some reason people tend to approach them with the mindset to eat everything in sight. You do have control over your portions whether you prepare scrambled eggs at home or scoop them onto your plate in a buffet line. You’re always in control.

So if you are dining at a buffet this long weekend do so with healthy portion sizes in mind. Otherwise you can easily all-you-can-eat your entire days worth of calories in one meal. My trick is to use a dessert sized plate. The smaller size let’s me enjoy a few buffet dishes without eating too much. I also tend to stick with customizable options (i.e., make your own omelet, pasta, or stir fry) so I’m still in control of what goes in my food.

Start Healthy with Breakfast

When I go away for a long weekend or vacation I usually start my day the same way: with a healthy breakfast that I make myself. If I’m lucky enough to have a mini fridge in your hotel or camper, I bring along fresh berries and yogurt. If I’m not, I opt for prepackaged oats, homemade breakfast bars, or apples and bananas.

This way, I’m setting a healthy tone for my day and not overindulging in lunch or brunch because I skipped breakfast. After all, it’s easy to go overboard on fat and carbohydrates at the buffet, particularly if they’re offering pancakes or waffles. Plus, providing your own breakfast (and still dining out for lunch and dinner) will save you money.

Be a Smart Snacker

Why is it that campfires often beckon the unhealthiest snacks. Spark one up and a bag of marshmallows will most certainly appear, followed by a few bags of chips and (gasp) hot dogs. However, you can opt for healthy snack options and still enjoy those stunning summer nights around a campfire with your friends.

Sure, many feel limited to processed convenience foods for portable snack options. However, you can DIY your own snacks so they include more than empty carbs, sugar, and trans fats. Aim for snacks that include fresh foods, fiber, and lean protein (i.e., veggie tray with a Greek yogurt dip, fruit slices with raw nut butter, or a handful of unsalted nuts.

Julie Ching, MS, RDN, CDE

Julie Ching, MS, RDN, CDE

Julie Ching is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator in Los Angeles. She decided to become a Dietitian after traveling through Europe, South America, and Asia and discovered a passion for food. She now works with people of all ages and varying disease states to improve their health. She is passionate about teaching people about nutrition so they can live their best life while still considering their cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds.