THE BLOG

How To Keep the Weight Off When You're Away From Home

03/04/2015 12:59 EST | Updated 05/04/2015 05:59 EDT

It's almost a foregone conclusion. Travel -- for business or pleasure -- likely results in unwanted weight gain, and not much can be done to avoid it.

True, once you venture outside your own kitchen, it gets harder to make optimally healthy choices, and who wants to constantly think about diet restrictions anyway, especially on vacation.

So, shall we just accept the inevitable and try to undo the damage after returning home, or is there a better way to stay on track regardless of the circumstances? I believe the latter is possible and deserves to be pursued.

Maintaining your weight is a realistic goal during your getaways, whether it's work- or vacation-related, says Dawn Jackson-Blatner, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) and author of "The Flexitarian Diet" (McGraw-Hill, 2009).

While traveling may not be the best time to begin a weight loss regimen, it doesn't mean your good intentions and otherwise reasonably sound eating habits have to fall completely by the wayside the moment you leave home.

When you are on the road, you probably eat out a lot. But besides dining at restaurants, you can find other ways to exercise at least a bit of control over your eating pattern -- for example by going to a grocery store and bringing your food back to your hotel room where you can keep items in the fridge or even cook small meals from scratch, if a small kitchen or microwave is available.

Being prepared often makes all the difference, says Kathleen M. Zelman of WebMD.

Whenever you travel, whether by plane, train, or automobile, bring a few healthy edibles along so you won't have to make do with whatever is available, she recommends. Don't wait until you become too ravenous, only to fall victim to the next temptation that comes your way, like fast food or snacks out of a vending machine.

Instead, make sure you eat a healthy breakfast that carries you through the day until you have a chance to eat a proper meal. For 'in-between' eating occasions, keep some high-quality, easy-to-pack foods on hand, such as nuts and dried fruit, to give you a quick boost if your energy level falls too low.

Also remember that even when you can finally relax at your destination, the opportunities to deviate from your regular diet are plentiful. Excuses like "It's happy hour," or, "I'm on vacation," easily lead to the assumption that, at least for the time being, anything goes.

Vacations are there to re-energize and refresh you, not to take a break from your health, says Zelman. Use the time when there are no demanding work schedules to fit in more health- and fitness-promoting activities than you normally can, she suggests.

For instance, you may want to stay at hotels that offer lots of facilities for exercise like well-equipped gyms, swimming pools, tennis courts, etc. Patronize only restaurants that accommodate your particular dietary needs and allow for modifications of ingredients and cooking techniques. Don't be shy to ask. Any professionally run kitchen should be able to satisfy reasonable requests of this kind.

The good news is that it has generally become much easier these days to find healthier options where they didn't exist before. Even cruise ship operators, once notorious enablers of gluttonous behavior, now offer countless wellness programs, including for weight loss, as well as menus designed to keep you from getting off course, but without making you feel deprived and left out of the fun.

If despite your best efforts you realize that you've failed in some ways, there is no need to get upset about it. First, find out how much extra weight you've actually put on. Perhaps you are just dealing with some minor weight fluctuations due to higher than usual sodium (salt) intake that causes you to retain more water in your body. If you have gained more than that, simply go back to your former eating habits and gradually shed the unwanted pounds.

What you shouldn't do in your remorse is to aggressively start dieting by restricting your calorie intake too extensively, warns Dr. Mike Roussell, author of "Your Naked Nutrition Guide." Radical diet changes like these can cause metabolic disturbances and even lead to serious eating disorders long-term, he says.

Of course, how successful you will be in maintaining your diet and fitness routine outside your home depends on many factors, not all of which are controllable or foreseeable. But the better prepared and the more proactive you are, the better you will fare, leaving you only with happy memories about your trips.

Food and Health with Timi Gustafson R.D.

ALSO ON HUFFPOST:

Lost It: Weight Loss Success Stories