Here's How To Indulge On Vacations While Staying Healthy
Perhaps it is possible to have your cake and eat it too.
After miserable stints at two live-in weight loss facilities and a series of failed attempts to attain a healthy—and sustainable—lifestyle, Delray Beach resident and self-proclaimed gourmand Fred Bollaci knew there had to be a better way. So, he took his transformation into his own hands.
Before heading out to eat, Bollaci would scrutinize a restaurant’s menu in order to determine which options fit in with his daily calorie goals. He pored over the dishes, took a magnifying glass to ingredients, plugged recipes into smartphone apps like Livestrong and SparkPeople, and then let chefs and waiters in on his mission.
Finally, armed with the freedom to dine out on food he loved (in moderation), Bollaci shed 150 pounds—all on a regimen of gourmet eats and fine wine. “Healthy and gourmet should not be mutually exclusive,” Bollaci insists. “Losing weight shouldn’t be this short-term, miserable experience. You should be able to enjoy eating out if that’s what you like.”
Bollaci has kept the weight off for seven years and even wrote a book on the subject, The Restaurant Diet: How to Eat Out Every Night and Still Lose Weight, which hit stores earlier this year. “I look at The Restaurant Diet as my love letter to food,” Bollaci says. “It’s also about learning to love yourself enough to want to give yourself the best—and not overeat.” Today, Bollaci travels the world bestowing awards on establishments that meet his strict criteria of quality, service, dedicated ownership and healthy offerings.
Local restaurants to receive Bollaci’s approval include Mario’s Osteria on Glades Road in Boca and Henry’s on Jog Road in Delray Beach. But Jamie Schlifstein, a registered dietitian who provides nutrition counseling to clients in West Palm Beach and Boca Raton, says “it’s really about being able to choose the right items on the menu.” Both she and Bollaci maintain that dining at restaurants without causing waistline grief requires a few key ingredients, including preparation, accountability and commitment. “Learn how to read a menu,” Bollaci advises. “Go for things like poached, broiled, baked, grilled or pan-seared. Avoid things like fried, deep-fried, breaded or anything like that.”
With all there is to love about travel, there’s no denying that eating well away from home presents challenges. How do you stand firm when faced with a flight delay, a rumbling stomach and the scent of fast food wafting through your terminal? Schlifstein suggests making healthy choices in situations like these depends on planning ahead. Any time flights or road trips are on the itinerary, she advises packing snacks like nuts, a simple turkey-avocado sandwich on whole wheat bread or fruits with skin—apples, bananas, oranges—so they’re easy to transport. When scenarios that couldn’t be foreseen arise, check the grab-and-go section of a coffee shop. “Even Starbucks has yogurt parfaits now,” Schlifstein points out. “That’s a healthy option.”
Still, it’s vacation. Local foods and specialty items are part of the travel experience, whether or not they’re optimal for health. Schlifstein says missing out on cultural eats isn’t necessary. “If you want to try that extra special dessert they have because it’s special to that area—for example, you’re going to Key West, you want to have that piece of Key lime pie—well, you know what? Have it. But share it with someone. Get one for the table and everybody takes a few bites. You don’t need to get your own dessert in order to be able to try these new things, and then you save all those extra calories.”
Finding a balance and minding your portion sizes are crucial. “You can still lose weight while you’re going out to dinner, [but] generally the portions are larger than what you would make yourself at home,” Schlifstein explains. “The theory, ‘I’m going to just eat half of what they give me,’ is sometimes a good rule of thumb.” She and Bollaci also recommend sharing entrées or asking for a to-go box to accompany the arrival of your meal.
Accountability is another secret to Bollaci’s success. “When you walk into the restaurant—assuming you’re able to do a bit of homework in advance—sit down and tell the staff, tell the owner, tell the chef what you’re doing, that you’re trying to lose weight. [Ask for] things like: ‘please no bread basket’ or butter, sauces on the side—reasonable accommodations,” Bollaci explains. “Don’t tell me about the chocolate soufflé.”
Staying slim while enjoying a summer of fun isn’t all about diet. Ellen Latham, creator and co-founder of Boca-headquartered Orangetheory Fitness will tell you that while spending your days poolside in a lounge chair may be relaxing, it won’t do your body any favors. Taking a break from your regular workout routine can also make it hard to bounce back after a trip. But going on vacation doesn’t have to put a halt on progress.
“In the early morning, do intervals,” Latham suggests. She points out that this type of training is a great way to get a workout in without taking too much away from your trip. “You get more done in a shorter period of time,” she explains. “And always opt to take the stairs.”
Bollaci shares another simple way for travelers to stay active while immersing fully in the adventure of a new locale: “Walk there. The last time I was in Rome, my hotel was maybe 2 miles from where I was going to go have lunch,” Bollaci shares. “I walked there. You see so much when you see [a city] on foot.”
Latham agrees. “Walk, walk and walk some more,” she recommends. “If you can take a bike tour, that’s also a great way to see sights and get exercise in.” When in Rome, take a brisk jaunt past the Colosseum in order to earn guilt-free indulgence in a creamy cup of gelato.
When heading out this summer, Schlifstein advises to “keep in mind that food is important, but it’s about fueling your body. Not excess.” According to Bollaci, the good news is that you don’t have to shy away from allowing food to factor into the list of reasons you enjoy traveling to new places—you simply have to put food in its place. “Since you can’t give up food, learn to improve your relationship,” he recommends. “Study food. Get educated. Take cooking classes.” For Bollaci, the point isn’t depriving yourself of life’s palatable pleasures. “It’s about establishing a new relationship with food—one where you eat to live, not live to eat.”
“The last time I was in Rome, my hotel was maybe 2 miles from where I was going to go have lunch. I walked there. You see so much when you see [a city] on foot.”
- Fred Bollaci
Want to dine on Bollaci’s approved dishes? Here are five of his award-winning restaurants in our own backyard and tips on what to order.
If you go: “One of my favorite things is the vesuvio fish. It’s like a française, with capers and roasted peppers and artichokes. It’s been a favorite for almost 30 years. I love that dish.” 1400 Glades Road, Ste. 210, Boca Raton; 561.239.7000; mariososteria.com
If you go: “[Have] the turkey burger with cranberry relish and, as he calls it, his magical split pea soup—it’s something that’s almost Thanksgiving-like. I’ll have a bite of it with the bun and then I’ll put the bun aside. I don’t need the bun. I just want a good, solid burger.” 16850 Jog Road, Delray Beach; 561.638.1949; henrysofbocaraton.com
Kathy’s Gazebo Cafe
If you go: “[The Gazebo] has been a favorite upscale experience for years. One of the best-sellers is the Dover sole. It’s flown in fresh from Holland, never frozen. It’s the best I’ve ever had anywhere. Have some Dover sole, sauce on the side, a nice glass of white Burgundy and enjoy the experience. That’s what it’s all about.” 4199 N. Federal Highway, Boca Raton; 561.395.6033; kathysgazebo.com
If you go: “[Tramonti] is Italian-American comfort food by way of Mulberry Street, New York. Have the zucchini flowers with a salad and a glass of wine. Often times, if you eat an appetizer as your main course and then pair it with some veggies or a salad, you’re more than satisfied.” 119 E. Atlantic Ave., Delray Beach; 561.272.1944; tramontidelray.com
If you go: “The eggplant pie is a favorite. But again, that’s typically an appetizer. I get the eggplant pie as a main course. It’s not as high in fat and calories as people think. That’s been a favorite forever, and they do nice salads and veggies.” 499 E. Palmetto Park Road, Boca Raton; 561.393.6715; trattoriaromanabocaraton.com