Adults, kids, and even teenagers look forward to vacations: escaping the everyday routine and indulging in fun and relaxation. However, the joys of escapism need not include assaulting the healthy habits you’ve created for your daily life.
Evaluate your options before grabbing that free meal
If you’re staying at a venue that offers free meals (an all-inclusive resort, or the ubiquitous breakfast buffet, for example) survey your options before putting any food on your plate. Note which foods are healthier (fresh fruits and veggies) and which are higher in calories, saturated fat, and sugar. Apply the 80/20 rule when filling your plate, 80% of the healthier options and 20% of the less healthy options. It may also be worth it to save indulgences for later: why settle for soggy hotel bacon when you could have prosciutto-wrapped cantaloupe at dinner?
Stock up on select staples
Of course, nobody wants to be a slave to the kitchen while on vacation. But just a little food shopping and prepping goes a long way, especially when you’re away from home. In addition to having some smart snacks on hand (see below), consider stocking up on some basic staples for at least one healthy, home-prepped meal for the day: whether it’s a hearty breakfast (think oats, fruits, whole grains) or a balanced lunch, ensuring that you’ve got one healthy meal for the day will make a world of difference in preventing unanticipated trips to the fast-food joint.
To make this even easier, some grocery delivery services—FreshDirect, AmazonFresh, PeaPod—even deliver to the beach house! We discovered this just prior to a recent beach vacation. I simply added in our vacation address, reserved a time, pre-shopped, and the food arrived an hour after we did. Food shopping=check!
Dine out with health in mind
If you are at a restaurant and want to make some healthier choices, here are some great tips:
- Look for menu items that say: baked, roasted, grilled, broiled, steamed, cooked in its own juice, marinara/tomato sauce, choice/select cuts of meat, and broth- or tomato-based soups
- Choose foods with these words less frequently: fried, sautéed, batter-dipped, breaded, au gratin, scampi, Alfredo, cooked with butter or cream, gravy, and cream-based soups
- Check out the appetizer menu to see if you can mix and match an appetizer—which are usually smaller portions with less calories—with a side salad, soup, or another healthy appetizer
- Ask someone if they want to split a dessert, so you can enjoy the delicacy with only half the calories
- Skip the bread or chip basket if you find yourself snacking too much
- Request a side green salad, steamed vegetable, baked potato, or fruit cup in place of the coleslaw, potato salad, or fries that normally come with a meal
- Reduce the amount of mayonnaise, sauces, salad dressings, and other high-fat extras that you consume by ordering them “on the side” and using them sparingly by lightly dipping your fork into the dressing/sauce before digging into your food—you will get a taste of the dressing/sauce in each bite, but consume much less by the end of the meal
- See if you can order a smaller portion, or get half of a large meal wrapped “to-go” before it even reaches the table
- Prevent overeating by eating slowly, putting your fork down between bites, and drinking water before and during the meal
- Have your plate removed from the table as soon as you feel full to prevent picking at it.
Pack your snacks
Stock up on some healthy snack foods that you can tote with you during your long days of adventures or sightseeing. Making food decisions when you feel “starving” tends to lead to poorer food choices and overeating. Having these snacks available between meals will help you make healthier decisions if you get a mid-day hunger pang.
Great snack options are similar to the ones you would pack for traveling:
- Fresh fruit
- Snackable vegetables
- Low-fat yogurt
- Low-fat string cheese
- High-fiber, low-sugar granola bars
- Small bags of dried fruit-and-nut trail mix
- No-sugar-added applesauce
To be sure, vacations are special little opportunities to escape the drudgery of the everyday. But an occasion to luxuriate and revel shouldn’t be an excuse to damage your body or sabotage your health.
Cheers to summer and you!