I suppose there are two different areas of interest with a post about food while on vacation.
The first is for foodies - what fabulous restaurants did we discover, how did we enjoy the cuisine, what recommendations would we make to others traveling to the UK, specifically London?
The second is for the health conscious - how does a wellness and mindset coach eat on vacation, how does it fit into overall eating habits and a general health plan, what choices do I make at restaurants, and definitely... how does one enjoy themselves thoroughly on vacation without restricting what they eat and/or obsessing over every bite of food they take?
All great questions.
The best approach to answering them all might be to start with what my daily non-negotiables are while on vacation. These are easy rules that I can follow that allow me to maximize the time I spend enjoying myself without worrying about the ramifications upon my return back to the real world.
My non-negotiables are:
+ Eat protein at every meal
+ Drink as much water as possible
+ Maximize the amount of time spent moving
From a mindset perspective, this gives me some guidelines on what to do, without imposing the dreaded "I cannot have sweets", "I cannot indulge myself", I cannot... I cannot... I cannot. There are NO cannots. It's vacation after all. It's what situational eating was MADE FOR!
The only difference between these vacation rules and my normal every day rules is that when I go on vacation I tend to move significantly more than when I'm at home living my day to day life. I am making a specific distinction between moving and exercising. At home, I deliberately exercise. I work intensely and sweat like crazy. On vacation, I give my body the much needed break from intense exercise it deserves, and replace that with movement. Walking. Hiking. Swimming (if climate allows). We chose to walk almost everywhere in London, opting for the tube only a handful of times when it was a heavy downpour, and once very late in the evening. Even if where we are trying to go is 2+ miles away, we walk. My iPhone pedometer shows that we walked upwards and beyond of 20,000 steps a day.
So back to eating.
One of my favorite indulgences while on vacation is rich creamy coffee (G's new love, the matcha latte pictured above in green!). I never allow myself dairy-laden coffee at home, not just because the calories can be super out of control, but more because I have a legit dairy intolerance in the form of eczema. I am paying for all that vacation coffee right now. Especially in European countries, where there is no "drip coffee" and everything is espresso based, a flat white is my drink of choice. Full fat milk and espresso. I die. I enjoy this so thoroughly that the thought of denying myself makes me eyes water with disappointment. So, I don't. No one wants to cry on vacation.
Typically, breakfast/brunch on vacation comes much later in the morning because of all the great sleeping that goes on. Sleeping is great for fat loss. As is the moving - it all cancels itself out in the end. Actually, I tend to lose weight on vacation because I am so relaxed, my cortisol hormones are at their lowest, I am well rested, not stressed, and am moving constantly. So for breakfast, which is really like an early lunch, every day we were there, was a huge full english breakfast with flat white. That's eggs (protein -- check!), streaky bacon (protein -- check!), beans (protein -- check!), sausage (protein -- check!), toast (which I may have a few bites of with some jam), tomatoes, mushrooms, and sometimes avocado. Because of the bacon and sausage primarily, the meal is also high in fat, but that's great because it keeps me satisfied for a very long time and fuels countless hours and miles of walking.
We had breakfasts at the following establishments, and loved all four, but we rank them in the following order of preference:
1. Station Steakhouse (in Bury St. Edmunds) - full english breakfast with the most amazing bacon we've had, plus waffles to die for. So to die for that we went twice.
2. Pimlico Fresh (London) - my avo toast with eggs, bacon, and pesto shown above, also featured the matcha latte G loved so much
Way to go, Bury, for taking the top spot on breakfast food!
After a late breakfast, we may have a snack mid-day, we bring protein bars with us and beef jerky- and on this trip almost always indulged in a second flat white to warm up since it was so freezing and windy out. And we finish up the day with an early dinner, around 5 or 6pm. Call us blue hairs if you like, but this interval of eating works really great and allows us to indulge in what we like. We can also take the time after dinner to walk home and give our stomachs the time to digest that it really needs.
We had dinner at these restaurants, and all being so different in cuisine, it's difficult to rank them against each other, but we tried!
1. Dishoom (Indian - London) - the indian food here was out of this world. It's served tapas-style so you can try lots of different dishes and share amongst the group. They also have the most amazing cocktails- the best amaretto sours G and I have ever had (and we've had a lot). I got masala prawns and the chicken berry brittania, and a malai kulfi for dessert (this was unexpectedly delicious!)
2. Patara (Thai - London) - not your typical greasy americanized thai place... this is very elegant, richly appointed, authentic thai food of the highest quality. I got the panang beef. Perfectly cooked and the sauce was amazing.
3. Prezzo (Itallian - Stowmarket, but there are lots of locations all over UK) - we were super surprised by this chain restaurant, the menu is diverse and not all pasta and pizza. I had a really good sea bass dish, for example. Great drinks, and of course we loved it the most because we had an adult double date with my brother and sis-in-law.
4. Patty & Bun (Burgers - London) - we've had better overall burger experiences here in the US, but liked the quaint little shop, the chicken skin salt french fries (chips), and I had a fried chicken burger instead of the typical ground beef. Yumness.
There were also two nights when we stayed with my brother and Sister-in-law where we cooked dinner. Jenni made chicken breast pizzas (chicken for crust) with tomato and cucumber salad one night, and we jointly whipped up some salmon, asparagus, and fingerling potatoes on another night. It's always good to have home cooked food whenever possible and we were so grateful to have these two nights in to make good choices easy.
Making good choices at restaurants is also easy when following the guidelines: drink lots of water and prioritize protein. If I want a few bites of rice or ten, like the chicken berry britannia at Dishoom, which is basically a really fancy way of saying biryani, then I have it. If I want fried chicken on a burger, then I get it. But, I'll eat only a little of the brioche bread, and mostly savor the fried chicken and accoutrements. If I want a drink, I have one just one. If I want a dessert, I get one to share. Nothing is off limits.
Full disclosure, there is also lots of sweets eating happening on vacation for me as well. Not excessively, but it's my favorite, so I allow myself. G found the most enormous and amazingly delicious meringues in Kensington at a place called Carluccio's. I got a chocolate dusted one and we shared that over the course of two nights there. We also go Muriel's Kitchen's creme egg white chocolate brownie, so rich that one or two bites are all you really need - I polished that off on the plane back home. And, of course, the infamous stop we made at Fortnum & Mason on a day when our planned dinner was just a little too late for me to power through. I lost control of my senses and I nearly screamed at the poor gentleman behind the treats counter that he did not need to wrap my salted caramel croissant muffin so perfectly in its box because I plan to stuff it in its entirely into my face momentarily. I did not say that to him. I paid and waited patiently, and then completely embarrassed G as I consumed the whole thing in the lobby with pretentious customers giving me the side eye and begrudgingly allowing her two bites. Le sigh. It was so damn good though. I regret nothing.