An all-inclusive vacation with drinks and food sounds like a traveler’s paradise, but it’s probably a nightmare for your health.
Often sought out by rowdy Spring breakers and budget-conscious families, all-inclusive places promise food, drinks and lodging at a reasonable price tag. But with the exception of a handful of places, you usually just get a standard room, watered-down drinks and less-than-stellar cuisine that leave with nothing but fat on your waistline.
Honestly, we totally get the temptation. It’s all free! (Sorta.) And you deserve a relaxing vacation! But is it really worth sacrificing your healthy lifestyle to save a few bucks? Unless it’s a higher-end resort or one that is surprisingly progressive, many all-inclusives are just the worst. Here’s why:
1. So many sugary drinks
Piña coladas and strawberry daiquiris are the quintessential vacation drinks. But most all-inclusive places water down their drinks and can’t make homemade mixes for a mass crowd, so you wind up with sugar-loaded juices that don’t get you that buzzed. A frozen margarita, pina colada, or strawberry daiquiri can add hundreds of calories and over 50 grams of sugar (the daily limit, according to the FDA) to your daily diet. Sarah-Jane Bedwell, RD, LDN explains, “When simple sugar is consumed in excess, the sugar molecules combine with proteins in the body and form compounds that can damage the skin’s collagen. This, in turn, has an aging effect.” Sugar is, after all, one of the 20 Foods That Age You 20 Years.
2. The must-indulge mentality
Raise your hand if you ever used the excuse “I’m on vacation” to justify your splurging and indulging habits. (Shoots hand up.) Well, take that excuse and your “It’s all free now that I’ve already paid for it” vacation and you’re setting yourself up for disaster. At all-inclusives, with an endless array of buffets, bars, and snacks, people tend to eat more than they ought to. And chances are, you’re definitely not splurging on salad—but instead on the dessert buffet or processed snacks. FYI: According to a study from Virginia tech, all it takes is five days of eating fatty foods to alter your metabolism.
3. All that “free” alcohol
You’re on vacation—have a drink! But wait: At an all-inclusive place, there’s a good chance you won’t stop at one. But when you drink a lot of alcohol, it builds in the bloodstream and restrains an antidiuretic hormone that causes your kidneys to excrete a diluted pee that doesn’t contain any electrolytes like sodium, says Abbey Sharp, R.D. So the sodium ends up staying in your system and makes you retain more water, leaving you with a morning-after bloated stomach along with that nasty hangover. Who wants to deal with that on vacation?
4. The unhealthy restaurant meals
All-inclusives do a great job of allowing you to relax while letting them take care of the food. However, it comes at a price that your waistline will have to pay. Restaurant meals are generally packed with more sodium than home-cooked meals, plus hidden sugars, saturated fats and other mystery ingredients. When that restaurant is required to be essentially a bottomless barrel of food, because that’s what their patrons expect, you can bet that it’s less likely you’ll be consuming the very best ingredients.
5. You won’t want to pay for extra food
Some all-inclusives offer more gourmet dining options but at an extra cost. And who wants to pay that when you’re already eating for free? Well, you may want to reconsider. According to researchers from Cornell University, restaurantgoers who pay more at restaurant buffets think the food is tastier than the same food offered at a lower cost. And those customers who paid for the cheaper buffet were more likely to report they felt guiltier about eating the meal. Moral of the story: You might be both happier and trimmer if you shell out some extra coin for better-for-you options.
Read more: 10 Best Low-Carb Snacks for Weight Loss
6. You’re trapped in the resort
Many all-inclusives are located far away from the country’s metropolitan area, making it harder to venture out and explore its culture and cuisine. But taking the offbeat path could benefit your weight loss goals: A study from the Cornell Food and Brand Lab found that people who are adventurous eaters weigh less and are generally healthier picky counterpoints. Plus, you could be missing out on some amazing food! It may be worth it for your taste buds and weight to find a hotel closer to town.
7. Overeating is inevitable
Five words: All You Can Eat Buffets. With an endless array of food and dessert, a buffet is practically a free pass to overindulge, leading to weight gain, lack of portion control and mindless recreational eating. In a study in the journal Obesity, researchers looked at the habits of people dining at an all-you-can-eat buffet and found that 83 percent of normal people were more likely to use larger plates to serve themselves.
8. You’re more prone to doing nothing
Some all-inclusives offer activities and excursions but at an extra cost. We’re all entitled to a few lazy days on vacation, but when you suddenly have to justify spending money to do something like snorkeling or hiking, you end up doing nothing. Also, some resorts might only offer a small gym with limited amenities or none at all—or worse, at a cost.
9. You’ll sleep too much or not enough
Even though vacation is a time to relax, that doesn’t mean your typical daily schedule should fly out the window. Researchers at Brown University have already shown that an erratic sleep schedule can sabotage your routine enough to result in weight gain. Speaking of sleep, find out the 30 Best and Worst Foods To Eat Before Sleep.
10. You load up on free food
Just because the breakfast bar and lounge snacks are free doesn’t mean you won’t pay for them. According to one survey, 60 percent of travelers admitted to sneaking food from the hotel breakfast bar. If that’s the case, we hope you’re grabbing a piece of fruit instead of a processed cereal, cheese danish or instant oatmeal packet. All these breakfast buffet items are packed with waist-widening, diabetes-inducing, blood-pressure-raising sugar. The easiest way to stop eating so much sugar? David Zinczenko, author of Zero Belly Diet, explains here.
11. Your healthy habits go out the window
Vacations are the ideal time to let go of stress and perfection, but that doesn’t mean you should forgo your healthy diet and exercising habits. According to a study by the University of Georgia’s College of Family and Consumer Sciences, adult Americans gain on average one pound during a one-week vacation, which is a short amount of time to gain weight. The study found that the weight was attributed to the participants’ alcohol intake, which doubled while they were soaking up the sun. While this can be the case anywhere—all-inclusive or not—you’ve got to admit that it’s much easier to let loose and never look back if there aren’t restaurant decisions, bar bills, or how-to-get-there plans to worry about.