Vacation Tips for Eating Well

Nutrition411

Vacation Tips for Eating Well:
Planning Long, Fun, and Healthful Days

After all that planning, packing, and traveling, you finally have arrived at your vacation residence. Most likely you have a refrigerator or kitchenette available. If so, you can keep perishable items around and even cook some of your meals. This is a great way to ensure that you have healthy foods and meals, and to save some money by reducing the number of times you need to eat out at restaurants.

Locate the closest supermarket

The first thing you need to find out is where a supermarket is located, preferably one within walking distance or a short drive. Most vacation destinations have some sort of grocery store within a few miles of the location, so find out where, go there, and stock up for your stay.
Before shopping, consider how much time you will want to devote to food shopping and cooking. Let that guide you in developing your shopping list. Even something as simple as stocking some breakfast items and foods to carry along as mid-day snacks will make a world of difference in preventing unanticipated trips to the local pastry shop or fast-food joint. Remember, even healthier restaurants tend to serve portion sizes and calorie amounts larger than what we need, but most people do not want to lug around leftovers all day, so they just keep eating.

Check out the options before grabbing that free meal

If you are staying at a location that offers free meals (all inclusive, free breakfast, etc), survey your options before taking any food. Note which foods are healthier and which are higher in calories, saturated fat, and sugar. Apply the 80/20 rule, and try to fill your plate with 80% of the healthier options and 20% of the more indulgent options. Or go for a 90+% healthier portion, and save your indulgence for a better option later in the day. For example, why settle for the soggy bacon at a free hotel breakfast in Italy, when you can enjoy some fresh prosciutto-wrapped cantaloupe at dinner.
Dine out with health in mind

If you are at a restaurant and want to make some healthier choices, here are some great tips:
Order foods that mention these 'good' words on the menu: baked, roasted, grilled, broiled, steamed, cooked in its own juice, marinara/tomato sauce, choice/select cuts of meat, and broth- or tomato-based soups
Choose foods that contain these words less frequently: fried, sauteed, batter dipped, breaded, au gratin, scampi, Alfredo, cooked with butter or cream, gravy, prime cuts of meat, and cream-based soups
Check out the appetizer menu to see if you can mix and match an appetizer with a side salad, soup, or another healthy appetizer - sometimes appetizers are the only healthy options
Ask someone if they want to split a dessert, so you can enjoy it while having half the calories, especially if you want to order a large or higher-calorie entree or dessert
Ask to have the bread or chip basket placed out of your reach, if you find yourself snacking too much
Request a side green salad, steamed vegetable, baked potato, or fruit cup in place of the coleslaw, potato salad, or fries that normally come with a meal
Reduce the amount of mayonnaise, sauces, salad dressings, and other high-fat extras that you consume by ordering them 'on the side' and using them sparingly by lightly dipping your fork into the dressing/sauce before digging into your food - you will get a taste of the dressing/sauce in each bite, but consume much less by the end of the meal
See if you can order a smaller portion, or get half of a large meal wrapped 'to-go' before it even reaches the table
Prevent overeating by eating slowly, putting your fork down between bites, and drinking water before and during the meal
Have your plate removed from the table as soon as you feel full to prevent picking at it
Plan your between-meal snacks

Stock up on some healthy snack foods that you can tote with you during your long days of adventures or sightseeing. Making food decisions when you feel 'starving' tends to lead to poorer food choices and overeating. Having these snacks available between meals will help you make healthier decisions if you get a mid-day hunger pang.
Great snack options are similar to the ones you would pack for traveling:

Fresh fruit
Snackable vegetables
Low-fat or fat-free yogurt
Low-fat or fat-free string cheese
High-fiber, low-sugar granola bars
Small bags of fruit-and-nut trail mix
Enjoy those long, fun days with health in mind

Keep the healthy habits you follow at home by following these suggestions:
Go to the local grocery store to stock up on healthy food options for meals or snacks
Consider buying healthy perishable items if you have access to a refrigerator
Think about cooking a few meals if you have a kitchenette
Use the portion, sharing, and meal ordering tips previously described when eating at restaurants to make healthier decisions
Pack some healthy snacks to take with you when you are sightseeing or traveling away from where you are staying