Eating Healthy on Vacation

Written by Amy Boulanger | Published on September 4, 2014
Medically Reviewed by George Krucik, MD, MBA on September 4, 2014

Eating Healthy on Vacation

Vacations tend to cause our schedules and routines to fall by the wayside. Gym routines and careful meal planning take a backseat to continental breakfast buffets and overflowing ice cream sundaes.

A vacation is a chance to get away and unwind. That doesn’t excuse pulling away from healthy habits, or establishing new bad ones.

Whether you’re going solo or planning a family vacation, develop strategies to overcome fast-food chain temptations and other unhealthy roadblocks.

On the Road

Pack Snacks

Start your trip off right by packing a cooler filled with healthy snacks, including:

  • trail mix
  • homemade granola
  • popcorn
  • hummus and raw veggies (carrots, celery)
  • apples and pears

Steer Clear of Fast-Food Chains

Considering that most highway signs point you in the direction of the next fast-food restaurant, it can be a challenge to eat healthy on the road. If you’re out of snacks and don’t see a healthy option in sight, keep these tips in mind at the counter.

  • Hold the mayo.
  • Skip the cheese.
  • Be a kid — select a child’s item on the menu for a smaller serving size.
  • Skip the caffeine and opt for water instead. Staying hydrated will regulate blood sugar levels.

Red-Flag Words

Be a menu-savvy traveler. Know which words to watch for when making your meal choices. According to the American Society of Travel Agents, words to avoid include:

  • battered
  • breaded
  • cheesy
  • platter
  • fried
  • buttered
  • smothered
  • stuffed

The Hotel Traveler

At the Airport

Flying can bring on dehydration, so remember to sip plenty of water before and throughout the flight. Look for healthy alternatives like fresh fruit, granola bars, yogurt, and hummus to replace empty calorie snacks.

Likewise, when you reach your hotel, load the mini fridge with these healthy options and plenty of bottles of water.

At the Buffet

Even though you may want to pile on the portions, try to be mindful of exactly which foods you’re piling on. Fill your plate with healthy options, such as fresh fruit, greens, and whole grains. Opt for oatmeal rather than sweet, sugary cereals. Grab a banana instead of a slab of coffee cake. According to the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition, your diet can help you maintain a healthy weight, reduce your risk of chronic disease, and promote your overall health.

Vacation time doesn’t have to mean abandoning healthy guidelines. While it’s tempting to splurge, completely veering from your normal routine could end up causing more harm than good, and can lead to weight gain and low energy levels.

Restaurant Guide

Find restaurants that serve local products and showcase healthier options. On the menu, look for grilled meats and fatty fish, such as salmon, as well as fresh salads and entrees free from heavy sauces. Sauces tend to both disguise flavor and hide a lack of nutrients.

Portion Control

Gigantic serving sizes served as a meal for one can realistically be divided into a meal for two. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), research shows that people consume more calories unintentionally when faced with larger portions. Think about sharing your meals instead of filling yourself with more food than is necessary or healthy. If you’re traveling solo, consider taking half to go, or ordering an appetizer as an entrée instead.

Stick to Your Routine

A study from The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) of the University of Florida encourages the importance of breakfast, stating: “for adults, eating breakfast is a great way to help control body weight because it keeps them from overeating during other meals.”

Remember, just because you’re not at the office doesn’t mean you get a free pass to skip breakfast. If anything, the extra downtime during your vacation provides an opportunity to sit down and savor a hearty morning meal.

The IFAS recommends ditching the same old, same old for creative re-creations of last night’s leftovers, and incorporating milk, fruit, and grains into your breakfast.

The Healthy Traveler

It is a vacation, after all, and on vacation it’s completely normal to want to indulge. However, to avoid putting on weight, it’s important to eat balanced meals at regular times. Sticking to scheduled meal times, sharing desserts, and incorporating physical activity will keep you on track to having a healthy vacation.

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