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Tips for Eating Healthy on Vacation

July 23, 2019

"Here are a few things you can do to stay on track and stay as healthy as possible without sacrificing fun."

Today’s live with Dr. Nancy Lin, PhD, holistic nutritionist, is another great show helping us get the most out of life. Today she explains the best ways to eat healthy while on vacation. There is nothing worse than when we do our best to eat well and exercise every day, only to see it all derailed with a week of bad food on vacation. 

Today Dr. Nancy will share her top tips you’ll be able to take with you, so you can enjoy your vacation without worrying about how you’re going to stay on track with your health.

Video Highlights

  • 03:34: Top Ten Vacation Destinations
  • 05:18: Vacation Food Facts
  • 10:52: Avoid airport and airplane food
  • 13:46: Stay hydrated
  • 15:38: Don’t skip breakfast!
  • 18:54: Eat in every once in a while
  • 22:26: Sharing is caring
  • 23:36: Food is fuel, not an event
  • 26:41: Choose your indulgences wisely
  • 28:58: Do your research
  • 30:06: Prepare Road Trips Snacks
  • 38:57: A Little Perspective
  • 40:35: Wrap-Up

It’s summertime and that means vacation time! If you need some ideas for your next destination, here are some:

Top Ten Vacation Destinations

  1. New York
  2. Rome
  3. Paris
  4. Las Vegas
  5. Orlando
  6. Cancun
  7. London
  8. San Francisco
  9. Miami 
  10. Myrtle Beach 

Vacation Food Facts

Did you know that 88% of people in the U.S. believe food and eating out are vitally important to their vacation experience? So much so that 22 million Americans took an exclusively culinary-themed vacation in the last few years!

Americans also spend about $63 per person per day on food while traveling — whether that’s on groceries or on dining out. When looking at total travel budgets, a third of spending is dedicated to food. And more and more today, people are going into excessive amounts of debt just to go on vacation. 

It’s important then to do a bit of planning in terms of what you’re going to eat so that

  1. You can account for the money you might spend on food
  2. You know where to find the healthiest food options possible on your trip

With the growing popularity of social media, where you see all these pictures of beautifully plated food, restaurants could be labelled the new art museum for some.  But just how many of those dishes in those pictures you see are actually healthy for you? They usually feature perfectly melted grilled cheese or gorgeous cuts of meat drizzled with sauces. And we get it (really)! When you go on vacation, you want to be able to enjoy yourself. You want to be able to let your hair down and do whatever you want because… you’re on vacation!

But what you don’t want, is to return home from vacation feeling bloated, heavy, and full of regret in terms of what you ate and drank while you were away. It kind of defeats the purpose of going on a relaxing, decompressing getaway doesn’t it? And you deserve a break! But not at the expense of your health and mental well-being once you get home. 

So here are a few things you can do to stay on track and stay as healthy as possible without sacrificing fun. 

Tips for Staying on Track While Traveling

Avoid airport and airplane food

Did you know that the average traveler consumes 3,400 calories between takeoff and landing? That’s more than double the recommended caloric intake for a lot of us! Did you also know that 1/3 of your taste buds become numb at high altitudes? Crazy, right? Airplane food is prepared many hours in advance and is loaded with excess salt, additives, preservatives and flavor enhancers so it stays fresh and overpowers those numb taste buds.

It might seem like a daunting task, but pack some healthy snacks or pack a full, healthy meal before you set out on your journey. Nuts and seeds are easy to pack for travel, as are apples, quinoa salad, nut butters and sliced fruits and vegetables. You can stow them in your purse or carry-on and get a healthy start right out of the gate — literally!

Stay hydrated

This is important whether you’re on vacation or not, but not drinking enough water while on vacation can lead to dehydration and overeating. We’ve talked a lot about water, dehydration, and heat-related illnesses recently, and the same rules apply when you’re on vacation. Whether you’re lounging by the pool or on the beach, or you’re super active and hiking all day, make sure you take some water with you. Buy a reusable water bottle as a souvenir if you couldn’t bring one from home, or buy a collapsible one that packs easily. And remember: by the time you feel thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. And often we can experience what we think is hunger, when really our bodies just need water, and that’s when overeating and overindulging can occur.

Don’t skip breakfast! 

Vacation is a great opportunity to not have to be anywhere at any specific time, so you turn off the alarm and sleep in a little bit. Still, do not skip breakfast, even if it’s almost lunch time by the time you get up and running. If you’re staying somewhere that offers all-you-can-eat breakfasts or continental breakfasts loaded with lots of bread, pastries, butter, and bacon, opt for an egg-white omelet if you can and a side of fresh fruit. The same goes for that all-you-can-eat buffet — limit yourself to one trip down the food line and load up on proteins, fruits, and veggies. Hard-boiled eggs make great, inexpensive breakfasts to give you energy until lunch time!

If you do sleep late or get a late start eating breakfast, try to avoid eating an extra late dinner in the evening — that's not good either. Your body will have to work much harder to digest your food if you eat too late, which could make sleep difficult, as well as contribute to bigger health issues down the road like heart disease or diabetes. 

Eat in every once in a while

This one is great advice if you’re renting a house or a condo while you’re on vacation. The house has a kitchen — use it! Treat it like your home away from home, which is why you chose it, right? You don’t go out to eat every day when you’re at home, right? By making your own meals, you know exactly what ingredients are going into your food. Plus, portion sizes tend to be smaller when you’re cooking at home versus eating at a restaurant. Explore the local flavor your vacation destination has to offer a few times during your stay rather than every meal during your stay.

Here’s Dr. Nancy’s secret to creating a delicious, healthy eat-in dinner while on vacation: head to the local market (any vacation town should have a market with premade, to-go meals) and pick out a few great premade protein options. They usually feature a local favorite or specialty, like poached salmon — already perfectly cooked and seasoned. Pair that with a simple salad and a few vegetables, and you are good to go!

Sometimes you might need to jazz up your eat-in dinner. Try buying a fresh lemon, some sea salt, and fresh herbs — you can do pretty much anything with those ingredients and the lemon and herbs are great sources of  antioxidants.

Sharing is caring

Speaking of portion control… meal sizes at restaurants have doubled in portion size in the last 20 years. So try going family-style when you do eat out. Order a few dishes for everyone at the table to share. That way, you won’t overeat. 

Food is fuel, not an event 

Many of us have grown up with the idea that going out to eat is an event. And it’s true, it’s a great opportunity to try new foods and catch up with friends and family. It can also be a huge temptation to overindulge. If you’re staying in a hotel (as opposed to renting a house), it can be especially challenging to find healthy food options. More and more, though, restaurants are offering heart-healthy menu items, as well as vegetarian and even vegan options.  Here are a few healthier choices you can make when dining out:

  • Choose protein-heavy meals over rice or pasta dishes
  • Ask for a to-go box as soon as your meal arrives and put half in the box for another day.
  • Ask for a side salad or a side of veggies instead of fries, pasta, potatoes, or rice.
  • When lured by more food for less money, look to see if they are just adding more starch (pasta, French fries, or rice). If this is the case, don’t bite! 

Choose your indulgences wisely

Of course it goes without saying that if you’re vacationing somewhere like Hawaii, you’re going to want to sample the poke or in Paris, you’ll want to try a fresh baguette. Japan would be an ideal place to sample some sushi or Ramen, whereas a place like Montreal is known more for their poutine than their sushi. The point is, it’s okay to make little indulgences from time to time, when you’re on vacation, and in real life too. Just don’t indulge with every meal of every day. 

Pick one day, or even one meal a day or every other day,  when you’re going to sample the local flair, and savor it slowly. Taking your time to enjoy every bite will help prevent going overboard.

In addition, you’re on vacation, so it’s good to get out and explore the local culture and scene, which means you should be walking a ton!  

Do your research

Before you go on vacation, you research where you want to go, where you want to stay, and the sights you want to see, right? How many of you researched where and what you wanted to eat before you left? Get a beat on what local restaurants are nearby, or where the best, healthiest options are located. That way, you’ll avoid walking blindly into the first place you stumble upon and find that it doesn’t offer any healthy options whatsoever. There are tons of great apps for this — like Yelp or Urban Spoon.

Prepare Road Trips Snacks

If you are heading out on a road trip or day trip in the car and have a chance to get to a grocery store, there are plenty of healthy snack option you can stock up on to eat healthy and still enjoy your vacation. Grab organic (if possible) snacks for the road like:

  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Dried Fruits
  • Apples
  • Carrots and celery
  • Organic Popcorn
  • Granola/nut bars
  • If you are short on time and need to grab pre-packaged food, try roasted chickpeas instead of chips. If you have more time, you can make them on your own at home by roasting at 400°F on a cookie sheet with a little himalayan salt and olive oil.
  • RX nut butters

Or make this next recipe ahead of time and take it with you!

Superfood Trail Mix Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 1 cup almonds
  • 1 cup dried fruit (such as chopped pineapple, blueberries, and cranberries)
  • ½ cup goji berries
  • ½ cup raw mulberries
  • ¼ cup raw dark chocolate, chopped
  • 2 tbsp hemp seeds
  • Optional: 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Toss all together and take it with you! 

A Little Perspective

We talk a lot about balance — so let’s keep this in perspective. You are on vacation, after all. It’s ok to unwind and treat yourself… just keep it in check, so you can feel great about it when you get home.  One area to really pay attention to when you vacation are your supplements — you know your diet is going to change while you’re away, so make sure to pack a few hearty go-to supplements, including curcurmin and probiotic. Both provide the added protection and support you need while traveling to keep your system on track. Vacation is when you need them most!

Wrap-Up 

Today we gave you our top tips and tricks you can use to eat healthy when you’re on vacation:

  • Start at the airport. Pack some healthy snacks like fruits, veggies, seeds, and nuts that you can enjoy on the plane instead of eating calorie-heavy airplane food that’s loaded with preservatives.
  • Drink plenty of water! Stay hydrated, especially if you’re somewhere warm or participating in lots of activities.
  • Cook as many meals as possible and try and avoid eating out for every meal.
  • If you do eat out at every meal, order food choices that are high in protein (like fish), and skip sides like fries and pasta. Swap them out for veggies or salad. And don’t forget the to-go box — pack half you meal as soon as it arrives.
  • Plan ahead! You plan out every other detail of your journey. Where and what you’re going to eat should be included in that too. That way, you’ll know exactly what restaurants offer the healthiest, most versatile, food options, which will better benefit your waistline.

Vacation is a time to relax, unwind, treat yourself. But doing so shouldn’t come at the price of feeling guilty or gaining a few unnecessary pounds as soon as you get home. Not to mention the detrimental effects that eating out three meals a day, every day can have on your health. Enjoy yourself on your next vacay without sacrificing your health — you deserve it!

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