A coworker is headed to Branson, Mo. for a family vacation and asked me to share some tips for staying healthy while traveling during the summer.
Eating healthy while traveling can be tough whether you’re taking long car rides and stopping at fast food restaurants, flying and having only airport foods to choose from or facing a long line of restaurants and buffets to choose from at your destination.
But with a little knowledge and planning, you can easily get through your vacay and come home still able to button your pants.
If possible, eat before you leave. Eat a combination of complex carbs and protein like whole wheat toast with peanut butter and a banana, to help you stay full longer.
When I fly, I always pack snacks. I bring Kashi granola bars and trail mix. After I pass security, I buy a bottled water to stay hydrated during the flight. When the flight attendant comes around with snacks and soda, I just tell him/her that I don’t want anything.
If you have a long layover, walk around. Take a lightweight carry on so you are able to walk around the terminal without lugging around a heavy bag.
If I purchase food at the airport I go to Starbucks or whatever coffee shop they have and buy oatmeal, fresh fruit and coffee.
Staying healthy on the road is all about planning. Bring a small cooler and pack it with water bottles, string cheese, low-fat milk and fruit juices. Pack granola bars, trail mix, whole wheat crackers, bananas, apples, etc. Keep a trash bag in the car and dump it when you stop for restrooms or gas.
You can also pack sandwich fixings to avoid fast food restaurants. Pack whole wheat bread, deli turkey, low-fat cheese, baby carrots, baked chips, etc. Stop at a rest area or a park to prepare your meal and eat.
When going to fast food restaurants, choose grilled chicken sandwiches, grilled chicken salads, chicken or turkey wraps or deli sandwiches. If you want a burger, order a side salad instead of fries. When I go to McDonald’s I like to get a grilled chicken sandwich with no mayo and a low-fat vanilla ice cream cone and Burger King has great grilled chicken salads.
Camping and Hiking
Staying healthy while camping and hiking is easy because you are in control of what you bring and there are lots of activities. Pack light hot dogs, low-calorie buns, baked chips, packets of vegetables, fruit, trail mix, etc.
Cut up veggies like carrots and put them in plastic sandwich bags to make them easy for snacking. Bring along egg substitute like Egg Beaters and pre-cut veggies and make omelets for breakfast over the fire.
You obviously can’t camp without s’mores so indulge in one or two. Bring along light beer and lots of bottled water.
Take advantage of your surroundings and go on hikes, walks, swim, etc. Bring along a Frisbee or a ball and play active games with your friends and family.
Beach or Lake
If you’re grilling by the lake or beach, use the same ideas from camping and hiking. If you’re going to a beach side restaurant, choose lean meats like fish or chicken, steamed veggies or baked potatoes.
Avoid high calorie fruity cocktails. Opt for light beer, wine or cocktails with a clear liquor and low-cal mixer like juice or diet soda. Try vodka, club soda and cranberry juice (my fave).
Walk or jog on the beach. Play games like Frisbee or beach volleyball. Go swimming!
Concerts, Sports Stadiums or Amusement Parks
Above is my niece, Brynn, lugging the cooler my fam took to my cousin’s baseball tournament in Omaha last summer.
Before you go to a ball game, amusement park or concert eat something so you aren’t starving when you get there. Food options at these places are not always the greatest. If you ordering something like a pretzel with cheese, popcorn or nachos, share with someone.
Check before you go and see if they allow outside food. If they do, pack snacks like trail mix, baby carrots and granola bars. If you can bring a cooler, pack water bottles, string cheese, grapes, strawberries, etc.
In the City
If you’re staying in a hotel, find a grocery store or even a farmer’s market nearby. Ask the front desk person for help. Pick up items for breakfast like bananas, apples, oranges, Kashi bars, Special K Protein Shakes, those Quaker ready to go oatmeal bowls (if you have a microwave) and other ready-to-eat breakfast items. You could even pick up cereal, milk and disposable bowls and spoons. Also pick up whole wheat bread, deli turkey, condiments and other easy lunch items. You’ll save a ton of calories and money! Choose just a few meals to eat out and make them extra special by going to a fancy place or splurging on a yummy dessert.
If you’re hitting a buffet just be picky. Buffets usually have tons of salad stuff like lettuce, broccoli, carrots, cucumbers, etc. Have a large salad, then choose two or three things for your main meal. Have steamed veggies, a grilled chicken breast or grilled fish and a baked potato. Or have some pasta with marinara sauce and put steamed veggies on top. You could also eat shrimp cocktail. Avoid fried foods, cheesy dishes, potato and pasta salads, meatballs and other high fat dishes.
Don’t get so caught up in being healthy that you miss out on trying regional foods. The best part of traveling is experiencing another culture and the local foods the city/town has to offer. When I went to Israel last year, I splurged on the amazing falafel sandwiches. They were soooo good!
Choose desserts carefully. Eat lots of fresh fruit and choose one dessert or small pieces of a few desserts. In Israel, I was mesmerized by the huge dessert buffets at our hotels. I LOVE sweets and wanted to try everything. I would take a very small piece (one to two bites) of a few different desserts.
Before you leave, find out if your hotel has a gym. Workout when you have time. I rarely use hotel gyms because I generally spend vacations walking, walking and doing more walking. See the sights on foot and by the end of the day you’ll feel like you worked out.
If you’re hardcore or on an extended vacation, you could pack a jump rope or even a workout DVD to do in your hotel room. Or you can do crunches, push ups, squats and other exercises that don’t require equipment.
You may be able to find a walking or biking tour of the city. Or just find a local park and take a long walk or jog.
Enjoy your vacay!