Plan Ahead for a Healthier Vacation

It may be tempting to let everything go while on vacation, including your diet. But, even a few days of out-of-control eating can have disastrous effects on your waistline and your health. Luckily, with a little advance planning, your next vacation doesn't need to turn into a free-for-all. You can still enjoy a little freedom and return from your vacation feeling relaxed and good about yourself.

Maintain Your Routine

It's easy to eat the way you want when your days are structured and routine — eat a healthy breakfast at home, pack your lunch and snacks for work, prepare a healthy dinner at night. But a vacation can quickly become an excuse for a day-long feeding frenzy. Instead, as much as you can, plan out your meals and snacks for the day, including what and when you plan to eat.

On the Road

On days when you're traveling, planning ahead and packing healthy options are crucial. Avoid eating in the car while you're driving, when possible. It can be just as easy to overeat in the car when your mind is preoccupied as it is to mindlessly eat in front of the TV. If at all possible, plan your stops for gas and bathroom breaks around meal and snack times. Get out of the car and make eating an event. Enjoy your snack and then walk around and stretch your legs for a few minutes before getting back into the car. If you're on a longer trip, research restaurants along the way where you can sit down and have a healthy lunch.

Before you leave home, measure out snacks into single-servings-sized containers so you don't have to worry about measuring later. Pack a small cooler with ice and your favorite perishable items. Consider these great options to eat during a driving break:

  • Nuts and nut butters with whole-grain crackers
  • Hummus and raw vegetables such as celery, carrots, peppers, snow peas, jicama or cherry tomatoes
  • Fruit such as grapes, berries, cherries, apples, nectarines
  • Deli meats, cheese and yogurt

Snack or meal-replacement bars can also be a convenient option on the road, but look closely at their calorie, sugar and fiber contents. A single bar that you eat in under a minute may contain more sugar than you expect and still leave you hungry.

The no-eating-while-driving rule does not apply to drinking water. Many people mistake thirst for hunger, so make sure you stay properly hydrated while on the road. Carry a large water bottle with you at all times and refill it whenever you stop.

Prioritize

It's OK to include treats in your vacation — just make sure to prioritize your "must-haves" over your "nice-to-haves." Are you traveling to the beach? Having a lobster roll might be worth the calorie splurge. But could you say the same about greasy fried clams, soggy french fries or a so-so slice of pizza? Are you visiting your family? A slice of your mother's famous strawberry-rhubarb pie might be worth it, but mindlessly munching on chips or crackers might not. Decide what matters to you and what memories you want to take home with you from your vacation.

Similarly, socializing with friends may be your biggest priority. If you're attending a party or barbecue, make the appetizers and snacks your dinner for the day. Load up on crudités with a sparing amount of dip, choose protein-filled meats and cheeses, and avoid the foods that fill you up without the enjoyment.

Likewise, calories from alcoholic beverages can add up rapidly. If you choose to include alcohol on your vacation, limit yourself to just a couple of drinks, such as wine spritzers or light beer, and always drink water in between. Also, "dress up" seltzer water for a party — try it with a splash of cranberry juice and a lime wedge. Or, flavor water with mint leaves, lemon wedges or slices of cucumber for a refreshing treat.

In general, continue to eat the way you would at home. Prioritize the splurges that are worth it, and avoid those that aren't. You’ll arrive home feeling better than you did when you left — and isn't that the whole point of a vacation?

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Amanda Clark
Amanda Clark is an award-winning Australian dietitian and creator of the Portion Perfection visual weight control plan. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+, Instagram and Pinterest.