Have you been waiting for the day when you can finally start planning vacations again? Getting away can mean many things - seeing friends and family, hitting the beach to soak up some sun, getting out into nature, having conversations that last late into the night, and enjoying lots of good food and drink, etc. While on vacation, many of us tend to forget about regular life and health goals, which can sometimes make for a difficult transition back to regular life, exercise, and healthy eating once you return. So, while you’re dreaming of the places you are going to visit, the people you’re going to see, and the food and drink you’re going to enjoy, let’s discuss some ways to maintain balance when you finally get that long-awaited vacation.
- Plan ahead with some great travel snacks. On nearly any vacation, travel is involved; and when you’re out of your comfort zone, maybe even in a hurry rushing from gate to gate in an airport or quickly stopping for gas on a long road trip, it is easy to grab the closest snack and eat it on the go. Well, as all of us know, airports, train stations, bus terminals, and gas stations are not exactly the best places to find healthy eating options. However, if you plan ahead and bring some of your favorite healthy foods to help you stay on track, you’ll be off on the right foot (and save some money along the way!). A few great options are homemade granola, fresh fruit, homemade trail mix, etc. Related: You can find more snack options on our Healthy Recipes page. Also, remember to bring your water bottle to fill up after security if you’re flying. Airplanes are notoriously prone to leaving us dehydrated, not least because of the air filtration systems and low humidity, which combine to cause moisture to evaporate from our bodies more quickly. So, fill up and keep drinking even if you don't feel thirsty. Related: 17 Quick, Easy, and Healthy Snack Ideas.
- Start Strong. Eat a good, healthy breakfast. You are more likely to have healthy choices throughout the day if you start by making good choices at breakfast time. On the other hand, if you grab a chocolate muffin on your way out the door, you might be prone to making poorer food decisions throughout the day. Choose a healthy protein and fiber to ensure you will be full until lunchtime. Some eggs, whole wheat toast, and fruit would be a great choice. Once you are at your destination, consider purchasing some items from a local grocery store or farmers market so you can have an easy, healthy breakfast and ensure you start your day off right. If you have access to a fridge in your room, consider starting your day off with some fresh fruit and/or low-sugar, high-protein yogurt.
- Plan to splurge, but don’t overdo it. Have a chat with yourself and decide where you are going to indulge. What are you most looking forward to trying? Pick at least one thing per day that is going to be special and fully enjoy it without one bit of guilt. This might mean a great dessert after dinner. A decadent dish you don’t get often. An extra helping a favorite food. It seems that the first couple bites of a dish always taste the best, so be on the lookout for those fullness cues. When you’re full, stop eating. The last thing you want is to be so full that you cannot enjoy the rest of your day poking around a museum or evening of dancing after dinner. We all have our favorite splurges, and that is totally fine - just try not to overdo it.
- Fruits and veggies are your friend. We know this already, of course, but fruits and vegetables are so incredibly good for us, and loaded with all types of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Just because you’re on vacation, it doesn’t mean you cannot load up on great, fresh goodness. Often, while on vacation you might have access to fruits and vegetables you might not have at home, so take advantage of that! Just like when you’re at home, try to have at least one portion of a fruit and/or veggies with every meal. Not only will it fill you up, but you will feel more energized to enjoy whatever activities you have planned for the day thanks to all of the vitamins and minerals.
- Turn your room into a kitchen (of sorts). Regardless of where you’re staying, look for ways to prepare some of your meals (or at least snacks) yourself. Breakfast can be particularly easy to prepare, and can save you some serious cash too. Even if you don’t have a full kitchen, find a local grocery store or market and take advantage of pre-cut fruits and veggies, grab some whole wheat bread and nut butter, or have some healthy cereal.
- Walk this way. Vacation is a great time to put on your shoes and go exploring. Take off up that hill, go on a hike with the family, or go explore the town. Even if walking isn’t your cup of tea, think about what you love to do or what you’ve always wanted to try. Surfing? Paddleboarding? Mountain Biking? Volleyball? Golf? There are so many fun activities out there waiting for you to explore - and vacations are often perfect opportunities to try new things.
- Beware of beverages. Empty calories can start to pile up when it comes to alcoholic beverages, especially cocktails. The average glass of wine will set you back about 125 calories. A bottle of beer is around 150 calories. Some favorite vacation drinks, however, may contain upwards of 600 calories (think margaritas or pina coladas). So, you can see how a few drinks could really add up. As with most things, moderation is key. Enjoy yourself, but don’t overdo it. If you want to imbibe, you might want to consider “lighter” beverages, like a skinny margarita or vodka soda, which are around 100 calories per serving.
- Go local. Wherever you happen to spend your vacation, make it a point to find out where the “locals” eat, buy their produce, go for walks, and what they do for fun. You might find a great farmers market, or a local bakery with an amazing specialty, or a great place to have drinks with friends. Don’t depend on guide books or the internet - strike up a conversation and just ask!
- Stay well hydrated. This is kind of a theme throughout the article, but that’s because it is so important. Adequate hydration ensures nutrients are delivered to our cells, keeps our organs functioning properly, aids in good sleep quality, increases our mental function, and improves mood. We always need these things, of course but on vacation they can be even more important. So, keep a refillable water bottle handy at all times.
So, when planning your next vacation, keep some of these tips in mind. However, we’d be remiss if we didn’t highlight the most important part of any vacation, and that is to stay safe and have fun. Enjoy your experiences, don’t worry about following strict rules at every turn, take everything in, and appreciate the fact that you’re on vacation. Do you have any tips or tricks on how to stay healthy when you travel? What are your favorite vacation stories? Share it with us!
Written for Fitness Blender by Alexandra (Allie) Gregg, RD, RDN, LDN
Registered and Licensed Dietitian