Whether you're headed for the sandy beaches of Fiji, braving the high seas on an ocean cruise or just doing a weekend trip for work, traveling can be one of the most exciting parts of life. However, many people use vacation as an excuse to forget about their weight loss goals. And while sampling different foods is a main perk of traveling, it is possible to still have fun trying new things without derailing the progress you've made.
With a little advance preparation, you'd be surprised how easy it can be.
Kimberly Bradley, RD, dietitian at Franciscan Physician Network Weight Loss Specialists in Indianapolis, shares nine easy ways to keep your weight-loss goals in check — without depriving yourself of fun or fancy fare.
Rent a house, condo or hotel room with a kitchenette. Choose a room or suite with a kitchen or microwave and fridge. This enables you to control the content of your meals. Eat one meal a day that you made yourself, to significantly reduce your overall vacation calorie consumption. You can stop at a local grocery store and purchase food to prepare in your room, or you can commit to eating at least one healthy meal a day in your room (think high-fiber cereal, berries and low-fat yogurt for breakfast). If your hotel offers a free breakfast, grab fruit to eat for healthy snacks throughout the day. We consume more calories and less healthy foods when dining out than when eating at home.
Before leaving home, pack water and healthy snacks, like popcorn, trail mix, carrots, apples and nuts. You’ll more easily avoid a later stop at a convenience store, where you’re more likely to pick up candy and sugary drinks.
Stock a cooler with waters and healthy snacks, like turkey sandwiches, apples, bananas and pre-cut veggies before you hit the road. This will save you money and officially eliminate the need to stop at a fast-food drive-thru. Get more tips for healthy road trips.
Since you're only allowed 3.4 ounces of liquid on a plane, pack solid snacks like apples, trail mix or energy bars that will easily pass through security checks. Once you're through security, look for lower-calorie meal items like salads with dressings on the side and entrees with lots of vegetables.
At your destination, seek out a grocery store or farmers market. Stock your room with water, produce and healthy snacks. Avoid vending machines and mini-bars that are loaded with high fat and sugary options for late-night snacks or early breakfasts.
Eat hearty, healthy vacation meals early in the day. If you’re planning to sightsee, swim or stay active another way, fill up for breakfast and lunch. Getting hungry between meals can lead to grabbing undesirable snacks while you’re out and about. Choose fibers and proteins, like fruits, vegetables, salads, lean chicken and whole grains.
Allow yourself one daily splurge. Have a dessert, a burger or a local delicacy. Enjoy treats in moderation. Choose the smallest option and eat only half of what you order.
Eat strategically and stay hydrated. Sometimes we think we’re hungry, when we’re actually thirsty. Drink a full glass of water before eating anything. Eat the fruits and vegetables before moving to the entree. Take the time to enjoy every bite.
Choose sit-down restaurants over fast food or the buffet line. The options are typically healthier at these restaurants, and you can also ask to have your food specially prepared. Ask to have items cooked dry instead of in butter, substitute cheese sauce with marinara, and have half of your entree packed in a to-go container before it reaches your table.
Make that sit-down restaurant a local one, instead of eating at a chain restaurant. Their produce and meats will likely be fresher. The fresher the food, the more nutrients it retains.
Order one less entree than people in your party. If you’re a family of four, order only three entrees, and share your plates. Restaurant entrees are notoriously larger than recommended portions, so there should be plenty of food to go around. Practice portion control at restaurants by eating half-portions of meals and bringing the leftovers back to your room to heat for lunches.
Hopefully following these tips during your vacation will make the transition to getting back on track with your diet a little easier once you arrive at home.
There are several smartphone apps to help you find healthy food in your travel area. Veg Out and Happy Cow identify vegan and vegetarian-friendly restaurant options, while Eat Out Well (an app by the American Diabetes Association) allows you to search restaurant menus and see nutrition information at chain restaurants in the U.S.