Ever had that pit in your stomach on the flight or car ride back from vacation? You feel like it will take a month to get back on track after that week of binging on foods and drinks you would normally pass up. You feel sluggish and achy and have a hard time sleeping. Who hasn’t felt that way?? It sucks.
It’s what I want to avoid on every vacation I go on this summer and forever. And it’s not because I need to always be a picture of perfect health, but rather because when I’m eating mostly fresh foods, drinking plenty of water, and getting a good balance of rest and exercise I feel GREAT. I enjoy myself more, I’m kinder to others, I have lots of energy.
I’ve learned (the hard way) that I don’t want vacations to be week-long binges because I just don’t enjoy my vacation as much that way. I do like to indulge, but not for every meal for several days. When I eat mostly the same way I do at home and have a few special treats thrown in there, that’s when I feel best and enjoy my vacation the most. You with me?
OK, but HOW can you maintain a similar way of eating on the road, at hotels, with unexpected activities popping up?
This is it – my #1 tip for eating healthy on vacation: Always make a plan.
No matter how many unknown variables you have to account for or how many times your plan has to change, having some semblance of a plan makes all the difference between eating what makes you feel best and eating everything you see.
What I try to do before any trip (and believe me, when I don’t it isn’t pretty) is to think through each day: what activities will I be doing, when will I be cooking or eating out, who will I be with and will they encourage me or derail my good habits, where will I be during meal times, what restaurants are there, etc. That sounds like a lot but it really just takes a few minutes to jot down some notes about what you’ll be up to. If you haven’t done this before, you might be shocked how easily this activity leads into planning out your meals.
Once I have a general idea of what I’ll be up to each day of my trip, I know roughly how many meals I’ll need to cook, how many times I’ll be eating out, and how many snacks I may need due to the likelihood of missed meals. That’s super helpful!
Also, here are a few ideas for taking your plan (your relaxed, likely to change, not very detailed plan) and preparing ahead of time to eat well your whole trip:
1. Bring Snacks
For me this is an absolute requirement. I tend toward low blood sugar and have a fast metabolism. Not having healthy snacks -> blood sugar dips -> hangry Barb. No one wants that. My favorite snacks to bring on the road are:
- Fresh fruit with nuts or nut butter. For extra easy grab and go packets I like Artisana and Wild Friends.
- Chopped carrots, celery, or cucumber and guacamole. Make the guac at home or buy it from Costco. Is it expensive? Yes. Is it cheaper than tableside guac at a Tex Mex joint? Yes.
- Jerky. Not my favorite food but a great option for getting to the next meal. Epic is pretty good, but I prefer making it at home using a recipe like this.
- Chia pudding. This is a fun mix-it-up snack, try this recipe here (I'd make it without the sweetener).
2. Find ways to cook for yourself
- Bring leftovers on the airplane. So many of us bring lunch to work every day – the airport really isn’t that different. As long as it’s not soup, you should be good to go. Salad dressing is OK so long as it’s less than 3.4 oz and thicker consistency foods like guacamole and yogurt are OK too. And do you really want to pay $15 for a sub-par sandwich at the airport?
- Stay at an AirBnB with a kitchen. I love staying in AirBnB homes. I sleep better than in hotel beds and I love being able to cook at least breakfast. If I can swing it, I like to go to farmer’s markets in the city I’m visiting to buy veggies – it’s how I get to explore somewhere new.
- Get a grocery store salad bar for lunch. OK this isn’t exactly cooking for yourself but it’s not eating at a restaurant either. Google grocery co-ops in your new city - many of these have salad bars. And if not, many places have Whole Foods or a similar high quality grocery chain.
3. Think about restaurants ahead of time
- Google restaurants in the city you’ll be in ahead of time. Peruse their menu and find a great looking dish with meat and veggies in it. Even if I end up going somewhere different, I find that having a plan and changing it allows me to relax and enjoy the day so much more than if I didn’t have a plan at all.
So try one of the above tips for your next vacation. All of these are intended to help you put a minimal amount of effort in ahead of time to help you enjoy your vacation even more. If this proves to be stressful or overwhelming, don’t plan! But I’d encourage you to try a bit of planning before you write it off.
Then go, have fun, and eat most meals just like you would at home. AND indulge in a few fun things too – it is vacation after all! 😊
What tips have worked well for you to stay on top of your nutrition game while on vacation? Share in the comments below!
Find these tips helpful? [email_link] or family member you're vacationing with this summer!