How to Eat Healthy on Vacation – 15 Easy Tips
Last summer, my mom and I took a foodie tour of the American South. Never having been, we flew into Nashville, rented a car and wound our way through Tennessee, Alabama, and the Carolinas before ending our tour de gluttony in Savannah. For a couple of food-obsessed folks, it was the trip of a lifetime.
But it easily could have gone the route of the world’s most epic Tums commercial. And you can only imagine the strain that two week’s of chicken-fried errrrthang can put on the ol’ ticker. To the rescue: 15 super simple tricks we implemented then (and I’ve implemented since) that can help you make the most of even a foodie’s vacation while still keeping health front of mind.
Find the farmer’s market
If you’re a foodie, chances are scoping out the local famer’s market is already somewhere on your itinerary. If it works with your schedule (or if it’s a daily farmer’s market), try to make it one of your first stops and load up on fruits, veggies and homemade artisan snacks to last through your trip. They’ll (usually) have less processed ingredients than the conventional packaged snacks you’ll find at the grocery store.
Obvious but true – communities like Yelp! and TripAdvisor can be a great resource when you’re looking for healthier options in a new city. In the apps, use the “nearby” search function and keywords like “healthy” (duh), “salads” or “vegetarian” to find popular lighter fare in your area.
Many ethnic cuisines emphasize vegetables and plant proteins – without sacrificing flavor or a unique dining experience. You’d be surprised to find a variety of Thai, Vietnamese, Indian and Ethiopian restaurants in most big cities, many of which have cult-like followings.
Load up on veggies at breakfast
Just get ‘em outta the way. When dining out, ask for extra veggies to be scrambled into your eggs or folded into your omelet; or order off the lunch menu. Often times everything the kitchen needs to make a leafy, green salad is already prepped and ready to go. Top it with a slice of bacon and a poached egg and you’ll hit all those breakfast-y notes while getting your greens for the day.
Shop Costco and Trader Joe’s
If you’re traveling domestically – with kids, in particular – work a trip to the local Costco or Trader Joe’s into your trip and stock up on affordable, healthy (and often times organic) snacks to last throughout your vacay. Just be sure you go in with a laser focus: fruits, nuts, veggies, hummus, trail mix, fruit leathers, popcorn, snack-sized cheeses, whole grain crackers — you get the idea.
Drink plenty of water
Pack a reusable water bottle along for every member of your family, and keep it filled at all times. Airplane travel, long days on the beach or several laps around an amusement park can quickly lead to dehydration, which is often mistaken for hunger. Drink more water than you think is necessary and nip jetlag, snacky cravings and headaches in the bud.
This healthy eating trick is no different on the road. To keep it fun for kiddos, challenge them to eat the rainbow each day. Sure, that might mean peppers, carrots, bananas, broccoli, grapes – and blue cotton candy. But we’re talking vacation here. All things in moderation.
Get yourself a kitchen
Use airBnB and VRBO to find short (or long)-term vacation rentals with all the comforts of home – often times for around the same or less than you’d pay for a hotel. Then, put your kitchen to work. Plan a locally harvested supper with those farmer’s market finds, pack a picnic or whip up a breakfast salad of your own.
Going the hotel route? Choose something with a fridge and a microwave. They’re super handy for storing perishable snacks – and if you’re like me and you’d rather overeat than see food go to waste (whoops), they’ll save you at least a few hundred calories a meal since you can box up leftovers to reheat another time. (Fried chicken for breakfast? It’s a very, very good thing!)
Pack your own homemade snacks
If you’re setting out from home, kick things off right with hearty snacks that’ll last through at least the first few days of your trip. A batch of salted chocolate-pistachio energy bars will keep tummies full (and chocoholics satisfied) when travel interrupts mealtimes.
Drink your fruits and veggies!
A little green juice can go a long way when it comes to replenishing vitamins and nutrients that might not otherwise make it into a vacation diet. Snap up a couple bottles of your favorite brand at the local natural foods market – or better yet, scope out a trendy pressery. While you’re there, ask the bartender (is that what they’re even called?) for tips on her fave local, healthy(ish) eateries!
Share, share, share!
Too many good things on the menu – or are there more places on your belly list than there are meals in the day? Skip the larger, personal entrees and pick smaller plates that can be easily shared family style, ensuring everyone gets a taste. That way you can still say ‘Been there, ate that! And that…and that!’ – without the bellyache.
Probiotics are your friends
I won’t delve into the details here, but we all know traveling can trigger some…digestive inconsistencies – no matter how great an effort you make to eat mindfully. While you’re at it, pop a multi-vitamin, too. That way you still get a basic dose of daily nutrients, even if you’re not eating greens at breakfast or drinking your veggies (…wink).
Take (or create!) a walking food tour
Most big cities have food tours that allow you to explore some of the area’s most coveted eats coupled with a leisurely stroll that often lasts a couple of hours or more. Reserve spots as far in advance as possible as tours often book up fast. Or, do a little research and put together a tour of your own that will allow you to experience the tastes of one or more neighborhoods on foot. As long as you keep moving, the calories don’t count – right?
Don’t eat meals anywhere you can eat at home
This one seems sort of wonky, but it forces you to get creative – nix a lot of those convenient chains we all know and love and really make every calorie count when you’re on the road. Yes, Chipotle is delicious, convenient and reliable – and yep, those McDonald’s fries sure do smell like home. But you can do better, I promise. Even if you’re trading a fast food burger for an equally sinful diner burger – and a shake! – at least you’ve got a unique experience to go alongside.
Take the stairs
Unless you’re one of those folks who actually makes use of the hotel gym (whoa, those people exist?), taking the stairs is the surest, simplest way to feel the burn on vacation. Sure, it might be asking a bit much if you’re on the 30th floor, but start with five or 10 flights and add one every time you go up or down. And don’t limit this practice to the hotel. Look for the stairs at the airport, the subway, the museum, the shopping mall, wherever. Rest assured, they’ll add up quickly!
Emily Stoffel lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband, Chris, and their three bikes. In addition to attempted kitchen wizardry, her passions include marketing, sustainable living, chatting with Mama and planning elaborate vacations that sometimes work out.
Follow Emily’s twice-weeklyish adventures in food, love and life at www.ThePigandQuill.com, on Facebook at facebook.com/ThePigandQuill; on Pinterest at www.pinterest.com/efstoffel; and on Twitter and Instagram: @ThePigandQuill.