Vacations are about getting away from it all and trying new things, including the local cuisine. While experiencing the tastes of your vacation spot is fun, you want to ward off bringing extra pounds back home.
“It’s easy to leave our nutritionally savvy selves at home when we travel,” says Lawrence Schlitt, MD, a primary care physician at Scripps Clinic Del Mar. “While it can be challenging to stay focused and not get tempted to overindulge, you and your family can keep your eating habits in balance and still enjoy your vacation.”
These eight tips can help you eat healthy while seeing the sights, so you return with memories, not extra weight.
Pack travel-friendly nibbles for the plane or car ride, such as pretzels, cheese sticks, packets of nut butter or cut-up veggies with hummus.
“Your vacation begins at the airport or packing for the car, so take that into account,” says Dr. Schlitt, who is a family medicine specialist.
That little refrigerator in your hotel is filled with snacks and drinks loaded with sugar and salt. Instead of raiding the mini-bar, pick up snacks at the local farmers market or grocery and stock your room with easy finger foods, such as fresh fruits, nuts, seeds and pre-cut vegetables, as well as plenty of water.
While vacation schedules vary from your local routine, don’t skip the first meal of the day. If you are staying at a resort, take advantage of the breakfast or brunch buffet and fill up on fruit, salads and whole grains, such as whole-wheat toast or oatmeal. If going out for breakfast, choose lean protein, such as eggs, and fruit.
It’s a vacation, so enjoy special treats. If you are in Paris, you might want a fresh-baked croissant from the bakery around the corner. If you are on a road trip with the kids, you might want to stop at the ice cream stand for a homemade indulgence.
"The trick is to monitor your portions, eat slowly and savor every bite,” says Dr. Schlitt.
If you can cook where you are staying, take advantage.
“Experiment with local produce and items you might not be able to get at home,” says Dr. Schlitt. “Check out the farmers market, buy bread from bakeries in town and search for small grocery stores with unique items.”
Now is the time to try fern shoot salad or Connecticut shad.
Ask for directions to favorite spots that serve local products. Explore the regional cuisine and enjoy food prepared traditionally, which usually has fewer processed ingredients. Don’t be shy about ordering a meal to split if you think the portion sizes will be too much for you to eat at one sitting. Alternatively, if you have a refrigerator in your room you can ask for a doggy bag.
Strolling through museums, a new city or on the beach is a chance to explore while burning up calories. If a destination is within a mile, walk. Make sure you bring comfortable, supportive shoes and a first-aid kit for any blisters.
Dehydration is common when traveling, especially when flying. Bring an empty water bottle to the airport and fill it once you are past the security checkpoint. Stock up on water bottles once you are at your destination and bring a bottle wherever you go.
“Most importantly, have fun,” says Dr. Schlitt. “Vacations are a time to enjoy yourself with family and friends and explore both new and familiar places.”