This summer I was fortunate enough to take my wife Lisa and the kids abroad. It wasn’t as extensive as last year’s trip around the world, but just as fun. We spent most of July visiting the Mediterranean regions of Europe and part of August in Maine, where Lisa’s parents own a cabin.
First, we went to Turkey to visit my parents. My son Oliver and I did a little fishing. We hooked some kolyoz (mackerel) and kofana (bluefish). Turkey is known as a fishing paradise because three sides of the country are surrounded by water. As you can see, we didn’t come up short – thanks to my father’s sage fishing advice. He’s 86 and has the wisdom of age with the strength and endurance of youth. I aspire to stay as happy and healthy as he is when I reach that age – and so should you!
We then visited the beautiful islands of Capri in Italy and Santorini in Greece on a Mediterranean cruise. Slathered in sunscreen, we went for long walks and swam at beaches we’ll never forget. Lisa had us try a fish pedicure: Tiny fish named Garra Rufa – also known as the doctor fish – “kiss” your feet. They’re actually feeding off of the dead skin on your feet, and it feels tingly during the process. It may sound a little fishy (and is illegal in some parts of the US), but we all enjoyed it! The practice originated in Turkey, but has since spread across the Mediterranean.
By now you know I love the tastes and health benefits of the Mediterranean diet – so I was in heaven on this trip. One of my favorite dishes was a salad made with raw hazelnuts (pictured below), picked right off the tree. Hazelnuts are delicious and rich in proteins and healthy fats. My second favorite Italian dish was made with spicy Italian peppers and fresh tomato sauce on top of pasta cooked al dente. The capsaicin in the peppers reduces appetite and the lycopene in the tomato sauce helps counter the effects of sun exposure. Though pasta has a high glycemic index, it isn't bad for you in small amounts, so remember to enjoy in moderation!
Before going back to work for Season 4, we went to Maine to spend time with Lisa’s parents. There, we spent a lot of time playing tennis, jogging, and going for long walks in the wilderness. We also took advantage of Maine’s most famous specialty – lobster. One whole lobster is only 135 calories and is a good source of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids and selenium, which safeguards your skin from sun damage and cancer.
With Labor Day coming up, summer’s end is fast approaching. If you haven’t taken a vacation yet this summer, make plans to get away for the holiday weekend or make plans to take a vacation soon. Taking time away extols multiple health benefits. The Framingham Heart Study found an association between not taking enough vacations and a higher risk of heart disease. Another study found that depression and tension were higher among women who took vacations only once in two years – compared to those who took vacations twice or more a year. They also found lower levels of marital satisfaction.
You don’t necessarily have to leave the country or even your own neighborhood to reap the benefits. “Staycations” also reap positive health benefits. Another study showed people who engaged in more leisure activities on a regular basis had, on average, lower blood pressure, lower cortisol levels, and smaller waists.
Often, people feel the need to really let go during a vacation. But there are still ways you can make healthy choices and enjoy your time off.
Here are some tips to help you stay healthy on your next vacation:
- Make sure to stretch during long flights or road trips. Sitting for long periods of time can increase your risk of developing blood clots in your legs, otherwise known as a DVT, which can travel to your lungs with deadly consequences. I stretch my legs every 2-3 hours by doing the “Hippie Stretch.”
- Make a healthy menu list! Vacationing usually means cooking less and eating out more. This puts you at risk of packing on the pounds later. When I vacation, I keep a list of healthy foods in my head that I love and look for them on a menu. For me, they include any type of fish, and soups and salads with raw vegetables – it should come as no surprise that I love raw vegetables. I try to stay away from meals that are high in carbs or fats – like huge pasta dishes or meals made with heavy cream sauces.
- Choose one dessert a day! Eating in moderation applies to desserts, too! To keep your calorie consumption in check, treat yourself to only one dessert a day. And devote yourself to other healthy food choices at your other meals.
- Make sure you have all your vaccinations. If you go abroad, depending on where you travel, you may be exposed to dangerous diseases like malaria or yellow fever. Consult information from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to learn how to protect yourself with the right shots.
- Bring your workout music! I took my workout music along for running and workout sessions. Let the scenery of your new surroundings motivate you to go on long walks or jogs outside. Feel free to do my 7-minute morning workout in your hotel room or outside in the park, or if you have more time, try celebrity trainer Joel Harper’s 20-minute workout. Both require no equipment, so you can do them anywhere. It will not only relax you, but also energize you for an entire day of sightseeing and spending quality time with family.