Eating is not merely a material pleasure. Eating well gives a spectacular joy to life and contributes immensely to goodwill and happy companionship. It is of great importance to the morale.Elsa Schiaparelli
For some weird reason, people think eating healthy is about consuming boring salads and being miserable. Fun fact: in addition to my personal training certification, I also have one in nutrition. I’m here to tell you that eating healthy foods doesn’t have to taste like cardboard and you don’t have to give up the good stuff. Traveling and eating healthy aren’t two concepts most people put together unless forced.
This week I wanted to share a few tips for eating healthy while traveling that won’t take away a single thing from your experience, except maybe some unnecessary guilt and even a few extra pounds. A few weeks ago I shared my tips on staying active while on vacation, so I wanted to round it out with some healthy eating tips. Don’t forget, food can and always should be fun and something to look forward to. It should NEVER be something you feel guilt over. We live in a world with so many amazing tastes and we travel to experience them. There’s a way to have your cake and eat it too! Seriously.
Choose an Accommodation with a Kitchen
Best case scenario is being able to control all the elements of a meal. Lots of restaurants cook everything in lots of butter and oil and while the taste is incredible, it adds a ton of extra calories. Whether it’s just one meal, a snack, or several meals a day, try to book an accommodation where you do have the option to cook. Shopping at a local grocery store or market gives you more time sightseeing and spending time where the locals do which is always a win. You’ll get to take back lots of new spices and fun memories cooking a new meal in a new country.
Pack Healthy Snacks or Limit Them
Let’s be honest. Airport food is not the healthiest, especially if you know how to read a nutritional label. Most options are comfort food because it’s a stressful part of your day. Bring healthy snacks in your carry on like dehydrated fruit, protein bars (think Quest Bar or Lara bar…not Kind bars).
If you’re the type of person who constantly snacks, maybe you limit them when you travel. A lot of snacking happens as a result of boredom. Your vacation should be filled with lots of distractingly incredible sites and events. I find that when I go on vacation I almost never snack unless I find something I’ve never tried. I’m always so distracted that I don’t think about snacks and focus on enjoying an amazing meal or something special I can’t get at home.
Splurge On Extra Special Items, Not Every Meal
We’ve all been on vacation and heard “calories don’t count on vacation”. I wish this were true and just some weird, beautiful fluke of the world. Sadly, they do count and this phrase can honestly be dangerous for people with underlying health conditions. Yes, PLEASE splurge on vacation. You deserve it, but choose something that’s going to make your brain explode instead of just eating for eating’s sake.
When I was in Italy when I was younger I was like well I’m going to inhale as much pizza and pasta as I can. It didn’t feel great. Now, I love spending time walking around, looking at the menus at lots of places and then choosing a meal that really gets me excited. It’s one of my favorite parts of vacation. I’m picky about what I eat because I want to experience the best of the best and give my taste buds a treat. If you’re stuffed to capacity at every meal, you just can’t really savor it and meat sweats are not fun to experience.
Vary How Much You Eat at Meals
If you have a giant dish at one meal, try to share a dish at the next to let your body recover. Varying how much you eat helps prevent your digestive tract from getting overwhelmed. If you are SUPER excited about one meal, enjoy it! Maybe, take a little bit back to have as a snack or plan a picnic with leftovers for the next day. Get everyone together and share a few plates instead of everyone getting their own meal.
Always Order Vegetables
You don’t need to sadly munch on lettuce while the rest of the table chows down on fully-loaded banh mis. Adding a non-processed whole food that’s packed with nutrients will not only be healthy but will help you stay full. Adding more protein will also keep you fuller for longer, so maybe opt for lean meat choices. You don’t have to go vegetarian at all. Just make sure you add veggies to your meal and you’ll have a great start to a healthy option.
Get Dressing On Side
Restaurants are notoriously heavy handed when it comes to dressing. They give it out like it’s free candy day and it’s basically a giant bowl of calories. I love dressing, but I always get it on the side so I can control how much goes on my food. No one wants soggy veggies that have been sitting in dressing anyway. Plus, it’s more fun to get a few different dressings to play with taste!
Fewer Fried, More Grilled Choices
Fried, battered, sautéed (depending on how much oil), smothered, or creamy are all words on menus that come with extra calories from the way they are cooked or presented. Instead look for words like grilled, seared, roasted, baked, braised, steamed, spiced, seasoned, rubbed, or poached which all indicate a healthier option. Don’t worry, cooking food this way never means you sacrifice on taste. If it’s on a menu at a popular/successful restaurant that means it’s delicious.
Don’t Drink Your Calories
Most people forget drinks also have calories, especially after 2 or 3 go down smoothly. Mixed drinks are a staple on vacation, especially when they are fruity, provide a cool break from the heat, and come with an adorable little umbrella. Until you learn that some drinks have upwards of 700 calories per drink… I’m not huge on alcohol, but the drinks do add up and often cause bloating. Trust me. No one wants to feel bloated when they’re traveling.
Think about limiting your mixed drinks. Try one you’ve got your eye on and then order a water with fruit or cucumber in it. You’ll get fuller faster and be less likely to over indulge (this means less hangovers, better hydration, less bloating and less empty calories).
It might not be fun to think about your food choices when you’re traveling, but it doesn’t take too much time. My hope is that you’ll make just a tiny change to how you eat when you travel so you feel great about your vacation and choices once you’re home. After all, you’re home more than you’re traveling, unless you’re one of the lucky few, so you deserve to feel amazing when it comes to food and eating all the time.