Tips for a Healthy Vacation

Summer means fun, vacation, and travel. Whether your idea of travel is a weekend road-trip, or something more exotic, you still need to eat- and that can seem challenging if you're following a specific diet.  

While part of the fun of going somewhere different is enjoying local cuisine and specialities, if you have specific dietary challenges (allergies, sensitivities, medical conditions) you might end up feeling stressed out about leaving the comfort zone of your own kitchen and familiar restaurants. As the whole point of a vacation is to relax and refresh, adding stress shouldn't be on the menu! I recently had a surprise mini-vacation and got to test out the tips I'm about to share with you on how to eat, drink, and be merry, on the go! 

First off, if your dietary restrictions are NOT due to a medical condition, go ahead and relax a little. If you want to have a few extra carbs, have a few extra carbs. Always wanted to try a Piña Colada? Go for it! You're probably walking more than usual, maybe swimming or kayaking, hiking or biking, or dancing the night way. My point is, don't worry about being super strict if you don't need to be. It's all good.  

That being said, there are some pretty easy ways to keep up healthy habits while traveling.  

Self-catering saves money and some sanity.  Do your accommodations have a kitchen? SCORE! You can bring or pick up whatever you like and whip up delicious healthy meals whenever you like. Even if you only have a mini fridge you can still keep healthy snacks and quick meals on hand. Think yogurts, ingredients for wraps, hard boiled eggs, cheeses, olives... You get the picture.  

But no one wants to cook 3 meals a day on vacation! Dining out can be half the fun of visiting a different locale.  This is when technology is your friend. 

That fondle slab in your hand (you're probably reading this on it right now) is good for more than taking selfies and texting. You can google whatever dietary restrictions you have + restaurants near me, and get a list of places that can accommodate your needs. You can also pull up online menus, reviews, and make reservations. I do this all the time, and while restaurants can and do change their menus, at least I can get an idea of what their offerings are.  

If you find yourself completely surprised (like I was) or don't have the luxury of a reliable cell signal, we have to use old school methods. Communication and Charm are your friends. Keep in mind that restaurants make their money by making customers happy, and they are generally very open to honoring reasonable requests. Also remember that honey catches more flies than vinegar. In other words, being nice is key to getting what you want. If you can explain to your server what your restrictions are, and ask for guidance on what the kitchen can offer, you will almost always get exactly what you need. Often times you'll be able to order off of the regular menu with a few tweaks. 

When ordering off of a menu it is perfectly acceptable to ask for double vegetables in lieu of a veg and a starch. It's also easy to substitute  a small salad for starch, to request olive oil and vinegar in place of other dressings, and ask if your food can be cooked in butter instead of vegetable oils. I've never been told no to any of these requests at a nice restaurant. And nowadays it's almost routine for vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options to be indicated, saving a lot of effort on both ends. Again, it pays to be nice when making special requests, and appreciative of the kitchens efforts to please you. 

But what about those times when you're not at a higher end restaurant? What about road-trips and budget travel? Are you doomed to living on packaged nuts and bottled water? Nope. Not at all. 

If you're taking a road-trip you are in many ways better off than other travelers. You have the luxury of bringing a cooler, stocked with exactly what you like to eat. And you can stop where and when you want to eat. I love car trips, and mostly for this reason. If have a day or two to plan and shop, I can prep and pack a week's worth of food. Add in a small grill, or a camping stove and we can have downright luxurious meals. The trick to keeping the cooler cold is dry ice. Dry ice is much colder than regular ice, and readily available at many grocery stores. Just remember not to let it touch your bare skin.   

If you aren't the type to lug a cooler along on a trip, you can still pack snacks and foods that don't need to be cold: fruits, nuts, nut butters, jerky, seeds, veggies, canned salmon/tuna, good salami/dry sausages, vegetable chips, seaweed snacks...so many options. And you can stop at grocery stores and farmers markets along the way to resupply or even get full meals.  

If you have no choice but fast food, you even have some options there. More and more chains are realizing that people are wanting better choices.

I know it has had some issues lately, but Chipotle is still in my OK column. It isn't health food-- but you can get a burrito bowl and customize the heck out of it to meet your needs. I'm a no rice, no beans, double meat, double lettuce gal. I usually travel with my own avocados, so I skip their guacamole. My vegetarian daughter goes for the sofritas. 

Panera Bread is another good option. Soups and salads there are reasonably priced and if you eat bread, their sandwiches are fairly healthy, and you can do a half sandwich with a soup or a salad. Just avoid all those sugary pastries and cookies when you walk in.  

And last but not least, if you are in the mid-Atlantic area WaWa is your friend. No it's not a restaurant, but this gas station/cafe/convenience store combo has saved me more than once. Their healthier offerings tend to be in the refrigerated island in the middle of the store: hard boiled eggs, cheese and fruit, hummus and veggies, yogurt, pickles, bananas. Plus ther coffee is usually decent. If worse comes to worst, you can make a low-rent café breve with heavy cream and keep going. 

Americans take less vacation than almost any other country. Don't let being stressed about healthy eating prevent you from enjoying those precious few days. You need and deserve to rejuvenate yourself, body, mind and soul.  

Do you suspend your regular eating habits when you go on a vacation, or do you try to stick with them? Have any favorite strategies for eating while traveling? Share them in the comments! I'd love to hear them. 

If you're ready to take your wellness to the next level, contact me to find out how I can help you achieve your goals. You don't have to stay stuck, frustrated, feeling bad. We can work together and get you right where you want to be!