15 Tips to Eat Healthy on Vacation
A vacation is the perfect time to let go of everyday concerns and treat yourself in ways you usually can’t. But if you’ve been trying to eat healthy or lose weight by cutting sugar, holidays can undermine all your hard work toward your goals. The good news is that staying on track while on vacation isn’t nearly as hard as you might think, and following my golden list of dos and don’ts takes away all the guesswork.
7 Things NOT to Do on Vacation
Let’s start with a simple list of don’ts while on vacation. I’ve compiled this list from a personal trial and error process, so I can speak confidently about what happens when you make these common travel faux pas!
1. Don’t always accept free food.
It’s human nature to want to take advantage of free food, but know that this can really blow your daily intake out of the water, not to mention infringe on your wiggle room for indulgences you actually want. Whether it’s airplane snacks or mediocre hotel breakfast buffets, pick your foods based on quality and how they fit into your diet plan instead of cost. If you do indulge in the freebies, make sure it’s instead of another meal, not in addition to meals.
We can probably all agree that free food tends to be packed full of sugar and simple carbs (which are just sugar in disguise), especially things like pastries and cereals at breakfast or cookies and crackers on the airplane. This isn’t to say you are never allowed a treat while on vacation, but these options almost never make the cut for being worth it, not to mention, indulging here can send you into a downward spiral of sugar cravings for days to come.
2. Don’t bring extra “fat” clothes.
Bringing a return outfit with the idea already in mind that you’ll gain five pounds essentially sets you up for failure. Instead, go with the mindset that while you might have some treats once in a while, you will largely make nourishing decisions that are in line with your goals and will have no need for sweatpants on the plane ride home.
3. Don’t plan to reach your goal weight the day before vacation.
Your body needs ample time to settle into a weight, so if you reach your goal weight the day before vacation and then you significantly increase your food intake, you’re much less likely to maintain the weight loss. Instead, plan ahead and shoot for your goal weight a month before vacation, allowing your body time to adjust to its new set point.
On a similar note, try to eat clean and low sugar the weeks (or even months) before your departure date, as this truly can set the tone for your entire vacation. As an added bonus, clean eating can decrease jet lag symptoms in a big way.
4. Don’t stay sedentary your entire vacation.
Especially if you’re an active person, find a way to include physical activity while you’re on vacation. Even just a brisk walk or jog in the morning can motivate you to make healthier choices and feel more energized all day long. If getting outside is tricky, try doing a YouTube workout video or this simple 7-minute workout in your hotel or scoping out a local yoga class.
5. Don’t overdo it with the travel snacks.
This is such an innocent mistake. I’ve personally fallen prey to bringing an extra carry-on full of healthy protein bars and snack foods, only to end up doubling my overall caloric intake. Bringing a few backup snacks is fine, in case you find yourself unable to find healthy food options when you’re out and about. But having a suitcase full of food waiting for you at night in your hotel room is a recipe for vacation weight gain.
6. Don’t forget your workout gear.
Even if you’re just doing a quick weekend trip, make sure to pack sneakers and a set of workout clothes. You may think there is no chance you’ll use it, but simply having them available will be motivating. You never know when the opportunity will arise to get in a quick exercise session.
7. Don’t eat high-sodium foods on the plane.
Salt and sugar go hand in hand. When you eat a lot of salt, you’re also likely to overdo it on the sugar. Starting your trip with salty nuts on the airplane, tomato juice, or a Bloody Mary can set you up for a day of craving sugar. Combine that with natural water retention at high altitude and not enough water, and you could start your first day of vacation five pounds heavier!
Consider whether you’ll even need to eat on the plane. If your flight is during meal times, plan out what you’d like your snacks and meals to be. If you do bring your own food, make sure you have those instead of the meal service, as it can be tempting to just say “yes” when that cart comes around. I find that saving a meal I brought from home and eating it when the cart comes around is the perfect solution for me.
8 Things to DO While on Vacation
Now onto the surefire tips and tricks to set you up for vacationing success!
1. Do have a game plan for travel days
This rule applies to both the day you leave and the day you get back! On the day of departure, try and get in a healthy, protein-rich breakfast to prepare yourself to continue eating in the same vein. Extra points if you can fit in a quick workout. Plan your airport and plane meals, too, to avoid the temptation of going crazy the moment you step foot in the terminal.
I’ve seen many clients have an incredibly healthy vacation and then fall apart the day they arrive home. Getting home to a stack of mail and a fridge full of spoiled food can definitely be stressful, so plan to have a healthy takeout option that night, go for a long walk, or do whatever else you need to ease yourself back into reality.
Personally, I love to unpack and organize the house first thing. That way, I feel more settled and grounded before dinner time. Then I treat myself to a healthy dinner when I’m situated.
2. Do stay hydrated
This can’t be stressed enough, as people often mistake thirst for hunger. Make sure you’re drinking at least half of your body weight in ounces of water (and probably more), especially if you’re in a warm climate where your water will needs increase.
This rule also applies to the flight. Bring a big 1.5 liter bottle with you on the plane. Try to reserve an aisle seat so you can get up to use the bathroom as needed.
And if you’re planning to drink alcohol on vacation, have a glass of water in between each alcoholic beverage.
3. Do save your indulgence for night time
Starting the day with a sugary donut, pastry, or another carb-rich treat can set you up for a blood sugar roller coaster all day long, meaning you’ll be craving sugar and carbs. To allow for the occasional indulgence on vacation, try to plan it for after dinner, like a delicious small dessert. Savor every bite, don’t feel guilty, and start the next day with another healthy breakfast. Rinse and repeat!
If you do get hit with a sugar craving earlier in the day, be sure you have a Sweet Defeat on hand at all times, so you don’t have sugar when you’re not planning on it. I always keep a few in my purse throughout vacation, and I feel like it makes a world of difference.
4. Do focus on the first 24 hours
I find that the first 24 hours of vacation truly sets the tone for the entire trip. Do you binge on airport nachos and hit the minibar as soon as you get to the hotel? If so, this has the potential to put you into that unhealthy mindset, which can continue throughout vacation. Indulgences are important, but don’t plan on having any the first day. If you wait to reward yourself, you’ll be able to choose them sensibly throughout the trip.
5. Do eat a healthy dinner when you arrive
On that same note, plan a delicious and healthy dinner the first night you arrive. Plenty of protein, some healthy fats, and lots of veggies will keep you satisfied, and you’ll start your vacation feeling capable and proud of your food choices.
6. Do exercise to reset your body clock
As part of that first 24 hours, make sure you plan to fit in a little exercise. There is nothing more powerful than a quick workout once you arrive! It can help with jet lag and reset your body on a physical, mental, and emotional level, leaving you ready for a healthier vacation.
7. Do skip the snacks
Vacation is a perfect time to experiment with cutting snacks altogether. Many people snack out of habit rather than out of hunger, and you’re more likely on vacation to eat three square meals. If you’re out and about between meals, try to go without snacking and see how that feels. In fact, I’ve seen many people actually lose weight on vacation without even trying, because they nipped their snack habit in the bud.
8. Do eat fat
This one might surprise you, but I’d much rather you focus on minimizing refined carbs and sugar than fat. Studies solidly link sugar and sugar-sweetened drinks to obesity, while research shows that healthy fats in moderation can actually help you to lose weight along with providing other benefits.
In practice, this might look like skipping the bread baskets, pizza, and ice cream and ordering whole milk or getting an extra portion of guacamole to stay satisfied.
Here’s to Healthy, Happy Travels!
With these tips and tricks, you’re ready to make the most of your vacation and not get completely derailed from your health goals. While travel is certainly a time to let go, relax and de-stress, you also don’t want to completely undo your weight loss or press the restart button on your progress. Pick which of these strategies will work best for you, and set out on vacation ready to stay on track.