Do holiday calories count?

do holiday calories count

Nutracheck member ‘Sprog’ tells us about her holiday calorie counting experience


Before I went on holiday I decided the “holiday calories don’t count” approach wouldn’t work for me. It strengthens the link I want to weaken (between overeating and pleasure) and undermines the habits I want to develop (of moderate and healthy eating and drinking; enjoying everything I like, but in smaller quantities and less frequently than previously). On the other hand, I like food, eating out is a part of a holiday for me, and this is a diet and not a punishment. I needed a plan! But first, I needed a list.

I also thought about holidays and diets and realised four things:

  1. Eating a lot of high calorie food just because I am on holiday is not ever the best memory
  2. Feeling bad about my holiday because I overate is a waste of a good holiday
  3. “Eating well” = eating nice, fresh, novel, food; eating out; NOT simply eating lots of rich, sweet, creamy food.
  4. There are lots of things I don’t stop doing just because I am on holiday (brushing my teeth, locking the door, looking when I cross the road, applying suncream) so why would I stop thinking about eating healthily?

Armed with those thoughts I then thought about my previous typical holiday eating and if any of them were non-negotiable i.e. I would spoil my holiday pleasure without them. Typical holiday eating would include: treats at the airport; pastries for breakfast; ice creams on the beach; cocktails / lager / wine at lunch and in the evening; eating out probably one meal a day; nibbles and alcohol before the evening meal.

I decided I could cut out the pastries for breakfast easily: I can get them at home any time. I love fresh fruit and I knew there would be an abundance of good quality fruit I hadn’t been eating lots of at home (peaches, nectarines, mango, melon, apricots) and plain yogurt is always available. I planned to eat fruit and yogurt (instead of croissants & butter & jam) for breakfast.


We went self catering and generally only have one meal out a day. I decided to have salad for lunch whether we were eating it out or not. I like bread, but thought I didn’t need it every day, so planned to have it only every other day with lunch.

I reckoned if I wanted alcohol twice a day I would have a bigger problem than simply the need to lose weight and planned on sparkling water or low alcohol lager at lunch time!

I realised that nibbles with a drink in the early evening were non-negotiable. Normally these would be crisps and nuts and alcohol. I decided to try a substitution here: I cut up carrot and cucumber and also had little gherkins and silverskin onions and a few olives. That way I got a nice crunch, lovely sharp tastes, but far fewer calories. I started with a glass of sparkling water, then had a low alcohol lager before moving onto alcohol and alternating alcohol and water.

7 tips to stay on track on holiday

1. Both airport days are diet days

2. Swap breakfast pastries for fruit and yogurt

3. Only have one meal out a day

4. Always have salad for lunch and bread only every other day

5. Only drink alcohol once a day and don’t overdo it

6. Swap calorific savoury nibbles for vegetable sticks

7. Start your evening meal with a glass of water and alternate between water and alcoholic drinks



With a bit of thought and making substitutions which were not sacrifices I think I saved around 1000 calories a day. I decided that travel days are diet days and not eating airport food is no loss! I also lost a couple of extra pounds before I left.

All of this meant that I had the calories for whatever I fancied from the menu (after going out for a cocktail!) for one meal a day, trying new foods, enjoying no washing up, and eating loads of fresh fruit.

I had an ice cream or a cocktail most days (and occasionally both) and one alcohol free day. I swam for about 30 minutes each day, and got 10000 steps minimum daily. I wore a bikini for the first time in decades and relished walking in the heat without my thighs chafing. Those two things have gone on my list of reasons to stay the weight I am now!

My weight the morning after we got back showed a 2lb gain (i.e. my insurance pounds) and within a couple of days of normal NC eating I lost those again as well.

I didn’t weigh anything, I didn’t agonise about calories (though I estimated for the diary), I just stuck to my plan.

I also had a fantastic holiday without weight gain: it can be done!


  • bridgetjonesknickers says:

    Really, really helpful, as ever. I will definitely be taking this onboard. Thank you Sprog. PS you’re answer to my last post was just what I needed to hear too.

  • Margaret Donoghue says:

    Thank you – really enjoyed reading this very helpful article.

  • Thanks so much for great advice. As I sit here on the first morning of a 3 week self-catering holiday in Spain, worrying about putting weight back on after reaching my goal weight the day before I got here, your words make perfect sense! With some sensible, healthy choices I can still enjoy meals out and not feel guilty.

  • Marie2050 says:

    Great advice Sprog. Really doable too. Thanks so much. Preparation is the key and like you said, there are loads of yummy healthy food choices on holiday. Fruits / fish dishes etc. Thanks :)

  • Mary Worby says:

    I have read your blog with great interest and I will be using your advice. Thank you for thinking it all through so well and explaining it. You make it sound possible to have a good holiday and not get significantly heavier. I have resolved after 27 years of being over weight to stop it now and get back to a normal BMI for the rest of my life. Like you this means a massive change me. I am too fond of food and cooking and I need to do a lot less of both forever. What I have found since I’ve been eating less is that I feel better, more energetic and happier.

    • Sprog says:

      Thanks, Mary. Like you, I really enjoy cooking. I haven’t given it up, just channelled it: far less baking and much more interesting things to do with vegetables. Making food taste really good with less fat is a challenge, but the results can be great – both on the plate and weight wise. e.g. I make a “crustless” quiche by putting a thick layer of wilted spinach underneath instead of pastry. Not exactly the same, but a very nice healthy dish instead! You’ll probably find there are lots of tricks you develop as you change your identity as a cook into a “cook who thinks about calories and nutrition”. Wishing you well.

  • Steve Marshall says:

    I found this in the deep, deep archives! It’s good stuff, and with 23 away-eating days looming I thought that la famille Maréchal could learn something.

  • Sprog says:

    I’m flattered you remembered it and sought it out; and delighted if you think it might be of use to you. I look forward to hearing which bits have worked for you on your return …

    Bon voyage!

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