While throwing your healthy routine out-the-window and getting into “vacation mode” may seem like a good idea, I’m here to tell you it’s not. And yes, no one really wants to think about eating healthy or exercising while traveling because…
You want to indulge and not have a care in the world. You want to relax and ignore work emails and phone calls. You want to be slinging fruity frozen drinks poolside as your favorite tunes play over the sound of crashing ocean waves.
When I was extremely overweight, vacation was “freedom” from the eating rules I originally established with myself to lose weight (by the way, rules around eating don’t work – but we’ll save that for another post).
That freedom led me to making decisions I wouldn’t have otherwise made on a normal basis – like eating a pint of ice cream for an afternoon snack, entering into an eating contest to win a t-shirt (yes, this really happened and I felt awful both physically and mentally afterwards), and ordering funnel cake, bucket fries and soft serve all in one sitting just because it’s there.
It was a free-for-all… that was my mentality around vacation and food. I justified my actions by telling myself that I would get back on track when I got home and I wouldn’t have the “opportunity” to indulge like this again until my next vacation.
But let’s be real…
By the time I got home, I felt bloated and lethargic suffering from a food “hangover” – which is how most of us return from vacation, only to make us think we need another vacation.
But what if I told you, you could still enjoy vacation and food while staying on track with your health goals – would you believe me?
Checkout my healthy vacation habits below to help you stay on track for the next time you go on vacay…
1. Pack Lots of Goodies
Whether you’re going by plane, train or car, having snacks prepared ahead of time will keep you from buying overly priced airport food, vending machine food or cheap fast food (is it even real?).
Call me crazy, but I love taking a small cooler bag and filling it to the rim with all my favorite snacks when I travel. It keeps me from making those last minute, unhealthy food decisions. A few of my favorite snacks are…
- Hummus & Pita
- Guacamole & Fresh Cut Veggies
- Homemade Popcorn (or store-bought vegan popcorn like Angie’s Boom Chick-A-Pop)
- Apple Slices with Peanut Butter
- Non-Dairy Yogurt with a side of Muesli & Fresh Berries
- Mixed Nuts
- Whole Wheat Crackers with Nut Butter
- Fresh Fruit
- SBH Honey Almond Butter Bars (subscribe to the StrongBoldHealthy newsletter to get this recipe in my FREE Mini Meal Plan)
- Veggie Hummus Wraps
Also, I always keep water on-hand. I keep my insulated water bottle with me on car rides or buy 2 1-liter bottles at the airport before boarding the plane. It’s so easy to mistake dehydration for hunger, so by drinking plenty of water, you’ll stay satiated and won’t over indulge.
2. Cook or Plan Your Meals Ahead of Time
When I reach my destination, I head straight to the grocery store to buy more healthy snacks and wholesome food staples.
To avoid wasting food, I buy foods that can be used for multiple purposes or used in one sitting like…
- Hummus or Avocado (guacamole) – both can be used as a dip or spread
- Pita Bread – for toasting, dipping or using as a wrap
- Fresh veggies – for dipping, wraps, stir-fry meals or salads
- Sweet Potatoes to be eaten as-is or to cut into fries
I like to follow the guidelines from my SBH Plant-Based 21-Day Meal Plan to make sure I’m eating a variety of nutritious foods. To meet all of the recommended food serving per day, I use my SBH Meal Planning Chart. You can use this chart to plan your meals as well!
If you don’t have access to a kitchen, then no worries! You can enjoy meals out, but you want to plan ahead of time. Just about every restaurant has their menu posted online, so you can decide what you’re going to get before you even get there. This restaurant guide will help you stick to plant-based eating at a non-vegan restaurant. You can even use resources like Happy Cow to find vegan restaurants nearby!
3. Workout in the Morning
I would never workout on vacation because it was my time to relax – not move. Plus, I figured I’d be walking a lot, so that counted for something, right?
But we often overestimate our activity levels while traveling. Taking long walks to explore a new city may seem like a great workout, but it typically doesn’t measure-up to the extra energy (calories) we eat during vacation. This is why I recommend purposefully exercising first thing in the morning.
Even if you’re not a morning person, doing a 30-minute workout before your day really gets started will ensure you stay on track. That morning workout will leave you feeling accomplished and set up for success for the day to come.
Plus, you don’t need a gym to workout – go for a walk/jog or complete a 30-minute Strong.Bold.Heathy Workout Session (the perfect workout if you’re staying in a hotel with minimal space and equipment)!
If you’re staying at a resort, ask concierge or the entertainment staff what activities are scheduled for the day. Beach resorts often offer beach volleyball and activities like water aerobics. Sometimes, they’ll even have sunrise yoga classes!
Whatever you do, take time to get moving! You’ll feel so much better both mentally and physically – plus, you won’t feel like an exercise beginner when you get back home.
4. Indulge… But Don’t Overdo It
The reason I used to overindulge on vacation is because I set strict food rules for myself when I wasn’t on vacation. I’m not saying that I always followed them, but setting up food rules can lead to unhealthy food behaviors like restricting and/or bingeing.
For this reason, give yourself PERMISSION to eat the foods you truly do want. But also keep these questions in mind…
1. Why do I want this food?
Are you celebrating a special occasion? Are you emotionally eating for a quick “release” from reality? Are you eating out of boredom? Or are you wanting this food because you’ve never had it and the chances of you ever eating it again are slim?
2. How will I feel after eating it?
Will this food leave you feeling sluggish or energized afterwards?
3. Will I be just as satisfied with a smaller portion?
Do you think having a smaller portion as opposed to a larger portion will give you that “fix”? If so, opt for the smaller portion. If not, then checkout the next question below…
4. On a hunger scale of 1 to 10, where are you?
1 = stomach growling and physically hungry, 5 = stomach isn’t growling, but I haven’t eaten in over an hour or so, 10 = I just finished a large meal and am physically full.
If you are feeling like a 1-6, then go for the dessert or whatever food it may be. If you’re hitting a 7, then consider getting the smallest portion possible. If you’re between an 8-10, then wait it out for a half hour or so and reevaluate. You may find that you don’t even want to indulge after your meal has had time to settle.
By asking yourself these questions, you become more self aware of your food choices and the reasons behind those choices. And giving yourself permission doesn’t set you up for an “all-or-nothing” scenario.
5. Have a Drink
It’s rare when I drink, but if I do, then I do it socially. I have to admit though, while on vacation I do enjoy a good pina colada on the beach or a glass of wine with dinner.
While having one drink is not an issue, having multiple drinks can become an issue. Not only does alcohol pack on a ton of empty calories, but it also lowers your inhibitions – which could lead to some very unhealthy decisions later on. Also, if you experience a hangover the next day, you’re less likely to get in that morning workout.
If you choose to drink on vacation, chase every single drink with a glass of water. Not only will this help fill you up, but it also keeps you hydrated, which means you can avoid the post-drink feelings. Therefore, you can stay on track with your health goals (for the most part)!
I can guarantee that if you pack snacks, plan your meals ahead of time, workout, evaluate those moments of wanting to indulge and chase every alcoholic beverage with a glass of water, then you can stay on track with your health goals and continue to make progress as soon as you get back home.