We all look forward to vacations. Part of the adventure is eating out, trying local cuisine, or indulging in special treats.
Vacation is a time to take a break, although healthy eating can continue to be a part of your plan.
Try not to use vacation as an excuse to go crazy,” cautions Marcy Dorsey, RD, a nutritionist at EvergreenHealth. “Allow yourself some indulgences but try to balance them with healthy choices. And avoid making your vacation an all-day, or all-week, all-out splurge.
On vacation, as with everyday eating, moderation is key.
Marcy recommends limiting yourself to one treat per day, whether that’s a beachside cocktail or a s’more with a marshmallow roasted over the campfire.
Marcy recommends following these travel tips, no matter your destination:
When in Rome -- While on vacation, Marcy suggests asking local residents (or your hotel concierge) for guidance on healthy eating options. “Ask someone local to recommend a restaurant that offers healthy fare,” Marcy advises. “You can also search smartphone apps for terms such as ‘healthy lunch’ to find nearby options.”
Eat local – Marcy recommends using a vacation as an opportunity to try foods you might not find at home. She suggests trying local dishes and produce (make sure it is washed thoroughly).
Visit a farmers market to sample local foods or find an independent restaurant that uses local ingredients. Try a regional specialty, such as grilled fish if you’re near the sea or fresh fruit in a tropical locale.
Snack your way through the day – Avoid going too long between meals, Marcy advises, and never skip meals. If you are overly hungry, you are more likely to make less healthy choices or overeat.
Pack snacks, especially if you will be on the road or in the air. Chopped raw vegetables, apples or other whole fruit, trail mix with nuts and dried fruit, or whole grain crackers with natural peanut butter are good portable choices.
Make healthy choices – Marcy recommends eating whole, fresh foods and making sure to eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables each day, just as you would at home. They will provide you with fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants, making you less likely to get ill on your trip.
Marcy also suggests starting each day with a breakfast that contains fiber without too much sugar. Try to balance indulging in any rich foods or desserts by eating lighter for the rest of the day.
Stay hydrated -- Flying can dehydrate you, Marcy warns, so drink plenty of water to keep you hydrated and help prevent jetlag. A long car trip can be dehydrating, too, so drink plenty of liquids on the road as well.
Eat mindfully – On vacation, it’s easy to overindulge, eating too much or eating when we’re not really hungry. A tip Marcy recommends all the time is to practice mindful eating, meaning eat slowly and pay attention to when you feel full.
“Make sure that you take a break to eat, as opposed to eating in the car or on the go,” Marcy says. “Even if you pick up fast food, find a place to picnic, and get out of the car.”
Prevent digestion problems – Marcy warns that you may notice a slowdown in digestion while traveling. Too little fiber and water, along with unfamiliar facilities, can bind you up. Eat food high in fiber, such as fruits and vegetables and whole grains, and drink eight glasses of water a day to keep things moving.
There are many ways to eat well wherever your adventures take you:
When flying -- If you eat at the airport, seek out healthy fare. “Airports have an increasing number of healthy options,” Marcy says. “There’s a lot more than just salad out there.”
Eat a healthy meal before you head to the airport, so you will be less likely to be tempted by high-calorie foods before your flight.
On a road trip – Marcy advises preparing for your road trip by packing a cooler full of healthy snacks or even complete meals. Chopped vegetables, fresh fruit, low-fat yogurt, and hard-boiled eggs are easy to take along for the ride. Make sure you practice good food safety, keeping dairy and meat products on ice.
While on the road, fast food may be your only option. Choose the healthiest items on the menu.
In a hotel – Avoid the mini-bar and pick up your own healthy snacks at a local store or farmers market. Make wise choices from the room service menu. If your room has a refrigerator and microwave, you can take, store and reheat your leftovers so you eat less when dinning out.
At the beach – Ice cream, fudge or fried clams are fine as a splurge, as long as the rest of your time in the sun is spent taking advantage of the healthy options the beach has to offer, such as fresh seafood and produce.
If you are renting a beach cottage, pick up some local seafood to grill for a lean meal that includes healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
Avoid drinking all of your calories – a pina colada or strawberry daiquiri can contain over 500 calories – so have one for a treat and then switch to water or flavored seltzer.
In Mexico – The cuisine is one of the highlights of traveling to Mexico. To eat well while south of the border, eat small portions and stick to healthy fats, such as avocado instead of cheese.
For breakfast, try local fruits; for lunch, lentil soup is often a local specialty and is loaded with fiber and protein; at dinner, try chicken soup, choose fish instead of pork, add lots of fresh vegetables and salsa, and go easy on the cheese and cream sauces.
On a cruise or at an inclusive resort – Be careful at the buffet. Fill your plate only once with half fruits or vegetables and the rest with lean protein and healthy carbohydrates, or use a salad plate for your trips to the buffet to control your portions. Fill up on healthy foods, so that your overall diet is balanced, even if you indulge now and then.
Many cruises may offer a “spa menu” with healthier entrees and desserts. It’s okay to have a fruity cocktail now and then but stick to unsweetened iced tea, seltzer or water the rest of the time.
If you’re camping – Swing by a store on the way to the campground to pick up fish fillets or chicken breasts to make in a skillet over the fire. Try them with our vegetable fun packets recipe, below.
Try simple food swaps to eat a little healthier at camp, such as turkey hot dogs or grilled banana boats in place of s’mores.
If you are hiking, be sure to pack portable snacks that will sustain you. Nuts, trail mix, or a protein bar will keep your energy up.
If you’re going skiing -- If you are cooking for yourself in a chalet or condo, keep meals simple to give you lots of time on the slopes.
Eat a breakfast with protein and a healthy carbohydrate, such as a vegetable omelet or nut butter on whole-grain toast.
Quick lunches and dinners could include salads with chicken you cooked the night before or vegetable stir fry.
Plan for lots of healthy, protein-rich snacks that you can take out with you, such as almonds, string cheese, or Clif or Lara bars.
If you’re going to an amusement park, check out some useful tips from our story on fairs and festivals.
A vacation should be a time to relax and take a break from work, school, and home responsibilities, yet you need to continue your healthy eating.
By choosing healthy options while allowing yourself some indulgences, you can eat well no matter where your travels take you.
Visit our Healthiest Best Foods homepage for more great ideas to get you and your family eating healthier.