The open road, a schedule of activities (or not) and time set aside for all play, no work. This is the joy of vacation! A little recovery is exactly what we need for good health. And yet, have you noticed how hard it can be to eat healthy while on vacation?
Okay, so it’s not uncommon to go on vacation and give our normal diet, and physical activity routines, permission to take a vacation too. Not the end of the world, but if you’re starting to feel sluggish, want to maintain healthy habits, or flat out crave something healthy to eat – how do you make it happen with the uncertainty and reduced accessibility that come with travel?
Making healthy food accessible
A view from the interstate, or as you pass through small town USA, may make it appear as if only fast food options exist. So remember, wherever you go, there are people living, working, and eating in their hometown. Find a local grocery store as this gives you access to a wide variety of healthy foods. A pre-cut veggie tray, or pre-made sandwich, salad or soup from the deli eliminate the need for food prep, while also supporting your desire for healthy food.
If you have enough time, which you likely do because you’re on vacation, grab healthy meals from the grocery store, then find your way to a local park, or rest area. Let the temptation to move your body set you free. Playgrounds and open space create perfect opportunities for a quick set of modified push-ups using a picnic table, stair steps on the playground equipment, or simply a walk. Open space is also conducive to a game of tag with your grand/kids.
Keeping simple snacks cool
A small cooler, easily accessed from inside the car, can hold other healthy snacks such as low-fat yogurt drinks, string cheese, hummus, hard boiled eggs, fruits and veggies (once they are cut). Healthy snacks not needing to be kept cold include popcorn, nuts, beef jerky, and dried or whole fruits or veggies. Keep low calorie beverages in the cooler too. This will help you stay hydrated and discourage you from purchasing soda when you stop for gas.
Freeze dried meals
In many cases, you may find it convenient to purchase freeze dried meals, like the ones used for back-country camping. All you need to do is add hot water and let them sit. Remember that you will need a way to heat water and utensils to eat. They are designed to eat right out of the bag, adding to their convenience. Do note, they can be a bit higher in calories and sodium since they are intended for consumption after long periods of physical activity. The serving size on the label may be more than you need after a sedentary day of travel.
Healthy food for when your flying or staying in a hotel
When your vacation includes flights or hotel stays, prepare in advance by packing some non-perishable, light weight, healthy foods. Individual applesauce, nut butters, whole grain crackers, dried fruit, and freeze dried chickpeas can supplement meals on the go that often become a necessity when traveling.
Airport and fast food restaurants tend to offer meals that are less healthy, but that’s not all they offer. You may choose a burger, but it doesn’t mean you have to get fries on the side. Fruits or vegetables may also be an option. If you do choose a burger and fries, leave a few bites of each. Portion control, especially with calorie dense foods, is just as good of a strategy for eating healthfully, as the type of foods you choose.
If all else fails, try portion control
If planning ahead is not your forte, and you’ve accepted that you are going to eat all meals out, commit to making healthy choices for at least 50% of your meals. Healthy choices include larger portions of vegetables, such as a salad for lunch. Healthy meals use low fat preparation techniques, such as baked chicken instead of fried. And, healthy meals are served on a 9 inch plate, not a 12 inch plate.
At the end of your vacation, what do you want to remember the most? Food is certainly an enjoyable experience, but so are the sights and people you visit along the way. Including healthier foods will help you stay energized and present so you can make the most of your time for recovery.