Vacation season for many people means eating unhealthy foods. It’s easy to indulge in fast food, processed snacks, and sugary drinks when you’re on the go. If you indulge in these cravings, you may eventually return home looking and feeling bloated and unhealthy.
What can you do to ensure you’re eating healthy on vacation? Is it possible to have your cake and eat it too – to enjoy local cuisine without packing the pounds?
Finding healthy food options while traveling and observing best practices is possible. With some planning, you can enjoy delicious and nutritious meals no matter where you go.
Here are some tips for eating healthy on vacation.
Do Your Research
Before you leave for your trip, do a bit of research about the local cuisine. Find out the ingredients used in popular dishes and buy them at a grocery store when you visit.
Also, look up the menu online if you’re staying at a hotel. This way, you can plan and order healthier items if needed.
Also, if you’re vegan or on a diet, research restaurants in advance to know where to eat, it’s always better to be prepared than to eat unhealthy junk food.
Make a Plan Before Leaving
If you know you’ll be traveling for a while, make a food plan before leaving. You can pack healthy snacks (like trail mix) and meals to eat on the go. With this, you won’t be tempted to buy unhealthy food at the airport.
If you’re flying, bring along a reusable bottle you can fill up after going through security. This will save you money and help you stay hydrated during your flight.
Staying hydrated is crucial when traveling, especially if you’re flying. The dry air in airplanes can dehydrate your skin and cause headaches.
To avoid dehydration:
- Drink plenty of water throughout your trip.
- Avoid sugary drinks like soda and alcohol, which can dehydrate you.
- Opt for water, orange juice, milk, watermelon, or tea if you’re thirsty.
Whenever possible, try to eat breakfast before starting your day of travel. Eating breakfast will help you avoid snacking on unhealthy foods later in the day.
If you’re staying at a hotel, take advantage of the continental breakfast and choose healthy options like fruits, oatmeal, and yogurt.
If you’re on the road, stop at a local bakery or cafe and order something healthy like a fruit salad or whole-grain toast.
Avoid Processed Snacks
While traveling, it’s easy to grab unhealthy snacks like chips or candy bars. But these snacks are loaded with empty calories and won’t do anything to satisfy your hunger.
Instead of processed snacks, choose healthier alternatives like nuts, seeds, or dried fruit. These snacks will give you energy and help you stay full until your next meal.
If you must have a sweet treat, choose something made with natural ingredients like dark chocolate.
Eat Regular Meals
Try to eat regular meals while traveling; skipping meals will only make you crave unhealthy foods later.
If you’re on the go, pack some healthy snacks and meals to eat throughout the day. You won’t have to rely on unhealthy fast food options.
Also, eat slowly and mindfully, which will help you feel fuller faster and prevent overeating.
Choose Healthy Restaurants
When looking for a place to eat, try to find restaurants serving healthy food. Look for restaurants that use fresh ingredients and offer vegetarian or vegan options.
Also, check out the menu before you go. This way, you can find healthier items like salads or soups.
If you’re unsure about a restaurant, ask the locals for recommendations, and they’ll point you in the right direction.
Limit Alcohol Intake
Drinking alcohol can quickly derail your healthy eating plan. Alcohol is full of empty calories and can dehydrate your body.
If you’re going to drink, try to limit yourself to one or two drinks. Also, make sure to drink enough water in between alcoholic beverages.
Avoid sugary mixed drinks at a bar/club, or take them cautiously. You can also opt for something simpler like soda water.
Walk to Burn the Extra Calories
One of the best ways to stay healthy on vacation is to walk as much as possible. Walking is a great exercise and a way to explore your vacation destination.
Also, the extra steps will help you burn off any extra calories you may have consumed.
Make Smart Choices When Dining Out
When dining out, make smart choices that will help you stay on track. Avoid high-calorie items like fries or nachos.
Also, try to avoid ordering an appetizer or dessert. Instead, focus on ordering a healthy entrée or splitting a dish with a friend.
If you’re unsure about a menu item, ask the waiter for more information; they can tell you about the ingredients and cooking methods.
Pack Your Snacks
Packing your healthy snacks when traveling is always a good idea. You won’t have to rely on unhealthy fast food options.
Some good snacks include nuts, oatmeal, kale chips, homemade trail mix, roasted chickpeas, granola bars, and fruit.
Also, pack plenty of water, which will help you stay hydrated and prevent headaches.
Prepare Your Meals in Advance
Consider preparing your meals in advance if traveling by car; it will save you time and money while on the road. You can prepare simple meals like sandwiches and salads; these are easy to make ahead of time and don’t require any cooking.
If you’re traveling by plane, you won’t be able to pack your meals. However, you can still make smart choices when ordering food.
If you have access to a kitchen and fridge, you can also prepare your meals while on vacation.
Splurge on Healthy Foods
If you’re going to splurge on vacation, make sure to splurge on healthy foods. This way, you’ll still satisfy your cravings without sacrificing your health.
For instance, enjoy a small piece of dark chocolate instead of indulging in a large slice of cake. Or, order a fresh fruit plate instead of french fries. You’ll enjoy your vacation without jeopardizing your health by making small changes like these.
Stay Away from the Mini-bar
The mini-bar in your hotel room can be tempting, but it’s best to stay away. The snacks there are usually high in calories and unhealthy.
If you’re hungry, order room service or go out to eat. And, if you’re thirsty, drink water or another healthy beverage. Avoiding the mini-bar will make you less likely to consume unhealthy foods.
Only Eat When You Are Hungry
One of the worst things you can do on vacation is to eat when you’re not hungry. This practice will hurt you more if you’re on a weight loss journey.
If you’re not sure you’re hungry, try drinking a glass of water first. Sometimes, thirst can be mistaken for hunger.
And, when in doubt, wait a few minutes to see if the feeling goes away. If you’re still hungry after waiting, then go ahead and eat something. And when you eat, stop when you’re comfortable. Overeating can make you sick.
Plan Activities Other Than Food
If you want to avoid overeating or careless eating on vacation, plan activities that don’t revolve around food. You’ll be less likely to focus on food and eating.
Some activities you can do include going for a hike, exploring the city, or going to the beach. By planning activities, you will create lasting memories beyond your taste buds.
Plan a Treat a Day
Finally, don’t be too hard on yourself. While it’s best practice to be conscious of your eating while on vacation, don’t deny yourself completely.
Planning a treat a day will help you stay on track while still allowing you to enjoy your vacation. And, by planning, you’ll be less likely to indulge in unhealthy foods.
Some treat ideas include a scoop of ice cream, a piece of cake, or a glass of wine. Or explore new delicacies you haven’t tasted before with caution.
Remember moderation and make smart choices when indulging. For example, share a dessert with a friend or order a small portion.
Eating healthy on vacation is possible if you plan and make wise choices. Be intentional about what you eat and try to limit your indulgences. Focus on activities that don’t center around food. And most importantly, enjoy your vacation!
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Jude Uchella is a health and wellness advocate and founder of Health Makes You, a reliable resource for comprehensive answers to health-related questions/challenges. He is supported by a team of professionals (a doctor, an anatomist, and a fitness trainer) who contribute and fact-check content on the website.