Sunday, August 5, 2012

A Healthy Approach to Continental Breakfast

I have exciting news to share. My husband and I just moved to sunny San Diego! It all happened rather quickly. My husband was offered a job with another company, and they wanted him to start less than three weeks from the offer date. Needless to say, the past month has been a blur, and I apologize for falling behind on my blog. Trust me, I did not forget about you all.

In terms of testing my commitment to healthy living, July was a challenging month for me. I had a week long vacation, a five day visit from my parents and a move across three states going against me. But, all things considered, I did very well. In order to manage my stress (and my waistline), I worked hard to get in some sort of exercise daily and have figured out how to exercise in virtually any condition. For me, the exercise was the easy part, it was the eating healthy that presented more of a challenge.

After spending 17 nights in a hotel last month, I was reminded of how easy it can be to put on a few pounds. When food is free, like at a hotel's continental breakfast, it is easy to feel like you have a free pass to eat whatever you want. For example, I witnessed a woman pouring half & half over a bowl of Honey Bunches of Oats, and a man pouring sausage gravy over a cheese omelet. Trust me, I am not judging, I've been there too.

So how do you fight the urge to pour maple syrup on a plate full of free bacon? Always keep in mind that even though the food is free, the calories are not. If you wouldn't eat it at home, you probably shouldn't eat it at the hotel. If you know that you have a tendency to overdo it when it comes to a buffet of free food, skip the continental breakfast and keep your own breakfast items ready for you in your hotel room. My husband and I traveled around Europe with a box of French All-Bran and local low fat yogurt (don't worry, we did splurge on the occational croissant).

If you do decide to partake in the hotel breakfast, which I did most of the time this past month, there are a few tricks to making sure you stay healthy. Here are a few of the tricks I use:

  • Most hotels will have small packages of oatmeal. This makes for a good, fiber rich option. Just make sure that you choose the “plain” variety, as the flavored options are loaded with sugar. To sweeten it up naturally, add some slices of banana.

  • My hotel cereal staple is raisin bran. It is usually the only cereal option with any nutritional value. My trick is to remove about half of the raisins before I pour on the milk. The raisins are full of sugar, and provide the bulk of the calories in the cereal.

  • It is always important to watch the type of milk you are using at a continental breakfast. To my amazement, most places seem to have whole milk as the default. You can usually find an alternative if you look around. Sometimes there will be a separate pitcher, or refrigerator with containers of low fat dairy. The last hotel I stayed at had whole milk by the cereal and a carafe of skim milk by the coffee. Go figure.

  • The “whole wheat” bread that most hotels stock probably isn't as nutrient rich as the kind we would buy at home, but it is still going to have more protein and fiber than white bread. Try toasting up some wheat bread, and topping it with about a tablespoon of peanut butter or cream cheese. This will at least provide a little bit of protein (something that is very much lacking in the standard continental breakfast fare).

  • If you are interested in having yogurt for breakfast (you all know I am a fan of this option), make sure to read the label first. Some yogurts can be loaded with added sugar, and therefore calories. At one of the hotels we stayed at they had “Trix” yogurt that was neon pink and yellow. Upon looking at the label I discovered it had twice the amount of calories as the nonfat yogurt I eat at home (18 grams of sugar in just 4 oz).

  • Although I am not personally a fan, hard boiled eggs are a good option for lean protein. They are high in cholesterol though, so avoid the yolk if you have any personal or family history of heart disease.

Those are a few of the options that I find most nutrient rich and calorie poor. Some of the popular items that tend to lean in the opposite direction are:
  • Cheese Danishes (400 calories in Entenmann's)
  • Bagels (270 calories in Thomas')
  • Cinnamon rolls (410 calories in Holiday Inn Express)
  • Sausage patties (170 calories in Holiday Inn Express)

*calorie info from

If you are on vacation, you are going to want to indulge. Indulging is part of vacation, it can't (and perhaps shouldn't) be completely avoided. But indulging at every meal will probably not lead to a very fun vacation (severe bloating comes to mind), and I know that I would rather spend my “extra vacation calories” on dinner at a special restaurant than on breakfast at the Holiday Inn.

In the end, it is most important to remember that just because food is free, doesn't mean you have to eat it!

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic tips. Traveling is fun, but so bad for the waist.

    Wow. Lucky you to be living in sunny San Diego.

    Mom Fitness Journal