Up, Up and Away! – Sue Potgieter

The flight is booked, suitcases are packed – it’s holiday time! Holidays are very important in maintaining a good work/ life balance, and a minimum of two weeks away every year is vital for your health. Holidays are a time to switch off, wind down, chill out and get some well-deserved rest and relaxation but how often do we return home several kilos heavier with maybe a hangover or two . . .

Let’s look at how nutrition and hydration are central to our daily health, particularly when on holiday. We would all be horrified if we saw someone filling their petrol tank with tomato ketchup, sugar or pizza! We all know that for a car to run smoothly and not break down, we have to fill it with the correct fuel. Why do we think that our bodies are any different? Could what we eat be a factor in the alarming rise in chronic disease? Looking at the Blue Zones in the world, where there are large numbers of healthy active centenarians, the common theme is a plant based diet with good quality protein, healthy fats, complex carbohydrates and clean water. In other words high octane fuel!

Let me break that down for you:-

1. Eat a palm sized portion of protein at every meal to balance your blood sugar and prevent those energy slumps and cravings for sweet things. Protein foods include lean red meat; fish; eggs; turkey/ chicken; nuts and seeds; pulses and beans. Aim for grass fed meat twice a week max, and use free range eggs and poultry if you can.

2. Eat oily fish 2-3 times a week for your essential healthy fats. These are required for the brain and nervous system, to reduce inflammation in the body and will help with weight loss too. Remember SMASH fish (Salmon, Mackerel, Anchovies, Sardines, Herrings). Avocados, nuts and seeds are also full of essential fats.

3. Avoid sugar and refined carbohydrates as these are simple carbs: high calorie, low nutrient foods which cause blood sugar levels to fluctuate, possibly leading to insulin resistance. Complex carbs release energy slowly and help to maintain constant energy levels. They are high fibre foods and are especially important in promoting bowel regularity and helping to control cholesterol. Complex carbs include whole grains, vegetables and beans.

4. Eat 8-10 portions of vegetables and fruit a day, mostly vegetables, as these are high in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants; vitally important for all the metabolic processes in the body and for mopping up free radicals which can lead to premature ageing and degenerative diseases. By making a smoothie in the morning for breakfast you can easily ‘hide’ 3-4 portions. Try a selection of berries, half an avocado or banana, a handful of spinach or kale, a handful of nuts and seeds, some oats and some plant based milk (almond/oat/rice)

5. Aim to drink 1.5 – 2 litres of water a day (6-8 glasses). This includes herbal teas (not green tea), and fresh juices but not coffee, tea or alcohol as these dehydrate the body. The body is made up of 70% water, with the brain being 85% water, and is vital for even the most basic of cellular processes. Mild dehydration can leave you feeling tired, lacking energy, with headaches, dizziness or concentration and memory problems. Try adding slices of cu – cumber, lemon or lime, or berries and herbs to your water if you struggle to drink it plain.


When on holiday, you can enjoy yourself and still eat well. Think 80/20! Eat 80% healthy whole foods and 20% could be that pizza or those sticky chocolatey desserts! Choose grilled fish with a side of steamed vegetables or salad; lean steak with sweet potato wedges and a side of steamed veg or salad and avoid rich heavy sauces. If you are drinking alcohol, drink water alongside it, or alternate your alcoholic drink with a glass of water to reduce the dehydrating effects.

Lastly, ensure that you drink plenty of water at the airport and when flying and try to cut down or avoid the free alcohol! This will help towards feeling refreshed when you arrive at your holiday destination. Travel safely and enjoy your time away! Balance is the key.

A fully referenced article in pdf format is available on request from Questions? Advice? Email me at:

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