Calories Do Count

LOVE Hong Kong street food no matter the calories
LOVE Hong Kong street food no matter the calories

Someone once joked that he actually enjoyed eating airline food because up in the air the calories didn’t count. Wouldn’t that be nice if it were true?

High on my list of favorite things about travel is eating. I enjoy getting a break from meal planning, cooking, and cleaning up, but I also love finding great new places to eat, and getting to try out a region’s cuisine including sampling the street fare whenever I can.

It’s very easy for me to overeat when I travel, and as I’ve gotten older I’ve had to develop strategies so that I come home at least weighing the same as I did before I left, if not less. These days I eat what I want when I’m on the road, but I eat less and budget my calories. I’m careful about what I choose to eat, and make sure I get plenty of exercise. I don’t travel somewhere else to eat fast foods or things I can find here at home, so avoid those places (the exception is to get a Teriyaki McBurger and maybe a yogurt shake at McDonald’s in Japan). I want to eat what I can’t get here!

Breakfast! It's always hard to choose from all the beautiful offerings.
Breakfast! It’s always hard to choose from all the beautiful offerings.

My favorite travel breakfast these days is a pastry (muffin, roll, toast or such) and coffee. Sometimes I’ll upgrade to a latte, but I usually try to save those for an afternoon break, and not every day. I’ll always have fresh fruit too if it’s available. Japan has the most incredible bakeries – they give Paris a run for its money – and it’s easy and affordable to stop off and pick up something for breakfast, or to put aside for the next day. I also adore Eggs Benedict in any form, but they are a special treat these days, and only if I can share the order with someone else.

When I’m on the road I try to make lunch my biggest meal of the day. Not only does lunch typically cost less than dinner (sometimes there can be several dollars difference for the same menu item depending on whether it’s being served for lunch or dinner), but eating more at lunch still gives me time to burn some of the calories I consume. My preferred dinner is typically something light, like a sandwich, or in Japan, sushi or a bowl of noodles. I stick with water for my beverage most of the time, although I do like a cocktail or some wine once in a while. The calories from those though can add up fast.

Crepes are my favorite sweet treat in Japan these days. So many delicious varieties!
Crepes are my favorite sweet treat in Japan these days. So many delicious varieties!

As I’ve written before, I am not big on sweets, but it’s easy for me to be swayed when I’m traveling. Sometimes I can snag a bite from Brett or the girls, but usually I just have a cup of coffee. Starbucks are ubiquitous in Japan, and they have different Frappuchino specialty flavors than the U.S., things like matcha brownie or sakura, delicious Japanese cherry flavor.  One of the hidden blessings of eating in Japan though is that portion sizes are usually smaller than what we get here in the States, so I can order my own dessert or sweet snack and not overindulge. Their sweets are also much less “sweet” than what we eat here in the U.S. and don’t contain as much sugar.

Getting enough exercise is critical, and most places we’ve visited have thankfully required a LOT of walking. We hiked all over the Grand Canyon and Sedona when we were there recently, and I usually always lose weight when I visit Japan because I have to walk so much, whether it’s down to the corner to catch a cab, or to a bus stop or train station. There are always lots and lots of stairs to climb up and down there as well (people don’t often just stand on escalators but climb up and down them as they move). When you get off the train or bus somewhere, or out of a cab, there’s always more walking to do, as there is when you visit any historical site. The same was true on visits to Hong Kong, Beijing and other cities in China.

While I love the serendipity of discovering a good restaurant or snack bar or such, these days it’s easy and fun to research restaurants before you depart. Sites like TripAdvisor, Yelp, and others rate restaurants and offer reviews, and you can often read menus as well. These are especially helpful if you are on a special diet or are vegetarian or vegan. I usually head off with a list of restaurants and/or dishes I’d like to try. I also ask locals for their favorite places to eat while we’re visiting and have gotten fantastic tips about places I wouldn’t have known about or tried otherwise.

Whatever I eat when I’m traveling, whether I’m up in the air or down on the ground, those calories do count. I treat them like money in a checking account, spending them carefully, and replenishing my account whenever I can with exercise. Splurges are allowed and encouraged if they’re done judiciously.

OK, now I’m hungry!