Vacation is often a time to escape reality, abandon routines and indulge in things we enjoy. If you’re eager to get away from it all but want to hang onto some healthy habits, UR Medicine registered dietitian Mary Johnson offers advice to help fuel your fun without fretting over food.
When you’re traveling, you want to relax, have fun and treat yourself to foods and drinks you normally might not eat at home. With a little planning, it can be easy and rewarding to find a balance between letting go and eating healthy.
Here are six steps to help guide you:
Plan ahead: A little pre-trip research will help you determine where and when you’ll be eating meals and gives you a chance to find good options for airport dining, restaurants, and grocery stores near your destination. Look for locations that serve healthier options (such as sandwiches and salads as opposed to greasy fast food). Vacation often means dining out so here are a few things you can do to help you stay on track:
- Strive for five servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Don’t stress over it, just try and work them into your meals when you can. When traveling with kids, balance their entrees with healthy side dishes. For example, if they’re munching on chicken tenders and fries, adding in some fruit or vegetables will bring good nutrition to the meal.
- Choose flavorful options prepared in healthier ways—broiled or grilled versus fried, for example.
- Splurge once a day rather than with every meal and savor what you choose. You’ll enjoy it more than treats with empty calories that are eaten on the run.
- Enjoy desserts in small portions—maybe share one with a friend or family member. Often, a few bites are all you need to satisfy your sweet tooth. Fresh fruits make a good dessert, too.
- Sip an occasional sweetened or alcoholic beverage, but try to avoid drinking too many calories.
Book where you can cook: Vacation rentals are great places to stay because you won’t have to eat all of your meals in restaurants. Having family members plan menus and prepare favorite foods can make it fun. A side benefit: You’ll likely be able to stretch your vacation budget further and add in some additional activities with money you’ve saved.
Pack healthy snacks: Before heading out for a day of activities, pack some easy, nutritious snacks such as trail mix, fruit, or granola for fueling your fun in between meals. It’s a great way to make sure that between-meal munching is well balanced and packed with nutrients, especially if you’re traveling with kids.
Get physical: Whether it’s an after-dinner walk, a round of mini golf, or a game of beach volleyball, any exercise on vacation can be fun and beneficial.
Keep the water flowing: Bring or buy plenty of drinking water. Travelers often get dehydrated so quench your thirst frequently. Water is always the best choice. Water safety can be an issue, particularly for international travel and trips to developing countries. Avoid drinking tap water (including ice made from tap water) and stick with sealed, bottled beverages.
Stay safe: Food safety is important when traveling. Avoid foods that pose a risk of being in the temperature danger zone—those that are not kept hot or cold enough. It’s a good idea to steer clear of buffets and make sure any foods you are transporting with you during your travels are kept cold enough. If you order hot food from somewhere, be sure to eat it within two hours. The CDC and Academy of Food and Nutrition offer great resources with guidelines for food and beverage safety when traveling.
Mary Johnson is a registered dietitian in the Food and Nutrition Services Department at UR Medicine.