Eating Healthy on Vacation


Eating Healthy on Vacation


Written by: Heather Gerrish

Traveling is a part of life. It’s fun, exciting and can take you to places you have never been before! But what is it with traveling that takes us so far from the norm [including our eating habits] that makes it difficult to stay on track during time away from home? That question might not have an easy answer other than being “out of your norm”, but this blog will review ways to help support not only your health and fitness goals while traveling, but also ways to create a balance between having fun and incorporating healthy habits while on vacation. We will break it down as a timeline of before, during and after your trip and include information applicable to vacations near and far.

Before you leave:

Plan out 2-3 days of meals and snacks that include the last of your fruits and veggies (fresh produce) so you don’t waste anything, but also that you are still having a healthy meal leading up to vacation and are not limited to the healthy choices you can make due to not wanting to purchase groceries before your trip.

Prep before (bring snacks) - Traveling can be tough with not knowing when or what your next meal or snack will be comprised of. Plan ahead as much as you can and as permitted by your travel destination to bring non-perishable snacks. Some ideas to reduce your “hangry” feeling while on the road include:

  • Mixed nuts or trail mix (make your own or opt for unsalted nuts)

  • Dried Fruit

  • Fruit and Grain bars (limiting added sugars as much as you can, granola bars can be tough!)

  • Individual peanut butter or nut butter packs and crackers

If you are not traveling far or can keep a cooler or cold pack with you, feel free to include fresh produce like whole pieces of fruit (easy to eat and store) or sandwiches for something quick and easy to grab on the go. Airplane food can be expensive, so plan as much as you can beforehand (no liquids!) or bring your favorite protein powder and anticipate adding water after security. There are so many options to prep and be prepared for travel that there is likely a method that will help you and your travel partners arrive fueled and ready for an adventure.

Dependent on what your mode of transportation is, driving can be an easier way to travel with food due to the available space for food storage. A small cooler is a great way to keep snacks on hand while traveling and increase the diversity of what you can bring. Some cool ideas for on the road travel snacks can include more perishable items, but be mindful of the temperature of your cooler and your car. Hot weather can more rapidly place items that should be kept out of the “temperature danger zone” [40-140 degrees Fahrenheit] to ensure that you are practicing good food safety guidelines and preventing food-borne illness for you and your travelers.

During your Vacation:

During your vacation, there is a lot of flexibility that can come along with each location, and duration of your trip. If you are familiar with the location you will be traveling to and know roughly the accessibility to grocery stores and restaurants then you can plan ahead and scope out at least a handful of potential meal combinations to keep you fueled and focused for your trip. Otherwise, if you are traveling to a new location or are completely unaware of what the access to food will look like during your trip, it might be best to pack a little more snacks to ensure that you at a minimum have something to rely on if you are not able to get to a store or prep your meals at all. This list can mimic the “prep” you did for traveling.

Regardless of what your destination might look like in terms of accessibility to food, it’s important to scout out a plan of attack once you arrive. Determining an outline of what your “healthy meal” will look like could include the following:

  • Focus on lean protein (grilled over fried, baked over breaded - similar to what you practice at home)

  • Optimize fresh produce when possible (fruits and vegetables)

  • Limit added sauces/gravies (eating out can often include these sides, be aware and as for them to come in a separate dish and serve up your own if possible)

  • Seek out whole grains (as often as you can!)

  • Try something new! Experiment with different cuisine if you are in a new location, be adventurous!

Not every meal has to be perfect and a little experimentation with meals and cuisine is definitely within an acceptable scope of practice for any vacation. Live a little! Try something new! Throughout your vacation, just like if you were home and eating out for every meal, try to be mindful of portion sizes and respective “treats” as much as you can, knowing that there is a time and place to indulge (which you should do on vacation) but to do so in moderation over the scope of your trip. Being mindful of the aspects you practice at home while you are on vacation will help you to keep on track with your goals but still enjoy the wonderful ability to relax and take some time away from the norm and practice some “you time” as well.

Other notes to consider include activity and although this does not directly fall under the category of nutrition, it is included under wellness and can be easily integrated into any vacation (it might just take a little research!). Activity while on vacation could be simple, walking around town or on the beach, riding bikes instead of driving or finding a nearby hike to explore. More structured exercise could include body weight exercises (you don’t have to miss a workout!) or if you are traveling in a hotel, often there are gyms available if you have the time or feel inclined to have a quick sweat session between your vacation adventures. Don’t discredit the value of being active and staying on the move as much as you can while on vacation. Being active is an important consideration for long term adherence and inclusion of healthy habits - vacations are no exception!

The next time you are traveling or are planning a trip, try out a few of these tips and see what you can do to make your vacation health conscious and inline with your hard work and dedication at home to implement a sustainable, balanced lifestyle.

Heather Gerrish