Eating While On Vacation

Nichol is on vacation. Amy is going on vacation. Summer is coming and many of us will be out of town, at least for a little while.

What can we do to keep some semblance of order in our diets?

Road Trip

The easiest way to make a road trip healthier (and less expensive!) is to pack a meal and snacks. We drive to southern California a fair amount because The Big Man has several siblings there. We know ahead of time that we’re going to stop just this side of the border to get gas (much cheaper in AZ than CA) and to eat lunch or dinner. If we have that meal with us in the car, we have complete control over what’s available. And because snacks are cheaper at the grocery store at home than at the convenience mart on the interstate, we’ll pack a few snacks as well.

Sometimes we’re good about this on the way back as well — stocking up for the return trip before we leave — but often we stop at what’s available or eat a meal before leaving and just power through until we get home.

A note about snacks in the car: it is really easy to eat too much in the car. You’re completely sedentary. Eating gives you something to do. Try to make your snacking habits the same on a long car ride as they would be on a normal day. If you’re a grazer, graze in the car. But if you’re a three-meals-a-day kind of person, don’t take a lot of snacks in the car. You know you’ll eat them…

Plane Trip

Actually, there aren’t really differences between a road trip and a plane trip. Food at the airport is expensive and healthy fare is hard to come by. Food on the plane is so-so. You can take food with you. As far as I know, the only restriction is on liquids — you’ll need empty water containers when you pass through security. (I believe there are exceptions to the liquids rule — including infant formula and drinks connected to medical conditions — but I don’t know them well.)

Even if you have a short flight, between the time you leave your house, arrive at the airport, wait for your flight, and execute the flight, there is a meal in there somewhere. Pack it. Bring it with you. Pack snacks.

A note about packing snacks in general: Since this post is about eating healthily while on a trip, keep that theme in mind when you are buying snacks. There are many fruits and veggies that make excellent snacks to pack. Nuts and trail mix do well, too. Cookies and candy are easy to pack, but they defeat the purpose of the exercise…

Hotel Stay

Does the hotel you’re staying at provide breakfast? What is served? I have stayed at some places that have fresh fruit, yogurt, oatmeal (instant, but oatmeal none-the-less). I have stayed at some places where breakfast was muffins and coffee.

If your hotel includes a good breakfast spread, then you’re good to go. If it doesn’t, don’t despair! Hit up a local grocery store and stock up on a few breakfast items. If your room has a fridge, you have a ton of options. If not, options are more limited. If you know ahead of time that you’re going to buy cold cereals for breakfast, see if you can sneak a little bowl and spoon into your luggage. Otherwise, you’ll need to find or buy them when you get there, which could be a pain.

What’s your itinerary look like? Are you going to be back at the hotel around lunch time? If so, the same advice applies: stock up on lunch foods. Again, you have many more options if you have a fridge in your room.

(Also, if you can take advantage of the hotel breakfast and/or have breakfast and lunch in your room, you will save a lot of money on eating out.)

Snacks follow the same guidelines as previous sections: buy ’em at a food store and bring ’em with you. If you packed snacks from home in reusable containers, then you can use those containers for the duration of your trip with replacement snacks.

Restaurant Meals

Of course, you’re not likely to prepare all of your own meals while on a trip, especially dinners. The guidelines are similar to eating out when you’re not on vacation:

  • skip appetizers, desserts, and drinks
  • steer clear of fried entrees
  • look for vegetables, especially if they’re raw (as in a salad) or steamed and not in sauce
  • split a meal with a dining partner
But I’m on Vacation!

All that being said, there’s a little voice in most of us that says, “I’m on vacation! I deserve it!”

There’s nothing inherently wrong with veering off of your usual path while on vacation. Do keep a few things in mind:

  • Weight goes on a lot faster than it comes off. Next week, when your pants are snug and you need to lose five pounds (or five more pounds…), will all of the excess still be worth it?
  • Splitting treats with others will help you to eat less.
  • How many “treats” can you have in one day before it’s a habit and not a treat?
  • If you’re eating more (whether in the restaurant or during the course of the day), stick with water to drink.
  • Which of these things can I have any time and which are special to the vacation? It makes sense (to me) to get off the wagon for specialty foods, not so much for foods you can have any time.

Also, it depends on what your goals are and what are acceptable outcomes. Some people wear vacation weight gain as a badge of honor, indicative of how great their vacation was. Some people need to eat a lot of junk in order for vacation to be fun. How do you define yourself and your vacation? Is that something that you want to adjust?

How healthy is your diet now? How many sweets do you eat? How much fried or greasy food? If you eat very little sugary or fried/greasy food now and eat a lot (especially at one sitting), you are likely to upset your stomach.

Do you have any other tips on eating while on vacation?

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