Vacations are fun. Vacations are relaxing. But vacations can also be stressful, especially if you live a healthy lifestyle. Vacations are generally a break from the norm, and can mean taking time off from our usual routines. But it doesn’t have to be all bad, nor does it have to make us feel guilty. After all, vacations are meant to be enjoyable. But how are you supposed to take your healthy habits with you on your trip?
I usually go on vacations once or twice a year, sometimes by plane and sometimes by car. Eating healthy while on vacation takes some planning, especially for airplane trips, but it can be done, and it doesn’t have to be hard!
With all the rules and regulations on airlines nowadays, it can seem almost impossible to know exactly what to pack. I recently got back from a trip to Wisconsin, and my family and I took Southwest Airlines to get there and back. The nice thing about Southwest is that they don’t charge for carry-ons, so you can bring a carry-on and a purse and be okay. Going through security with food can be a hassle, so it’s better to keep some things in your checked luggage. I brought some plant-based protein powder packets (great for traveling!), stevia packets and some Larabars in my checked bag, and they all survived the trip just fine. In my carry-on I made sure to bring a Larabar for easy snacking once I got to the concourse and it went through the x-ray machine without a hitch. Powders and liquids should be stored in your checked luggage and double-bagged just in case they spill. Dry, prepackaged healthy snacks like protein bars, raisins and nuts are great for your carry-on so you don’t starve on your flight! And remember, you can always get water once you get past security and on your flight.
Car trips make things a lot easier on the food packing front, but space can still be an issue. If you aren’t sure if your vacation spot will have a decent grocery store, stock up on essentials beforehand and bring a cooler for perishables. Carrots, cherry tomatoes, bananas, grapes and celery make for great, mess-free car snacks and are easy to store. Cans or boxes of beans are a go-to source of protein (just make sure to look for no salt added beans…and bring a can opener) and frozen veggie burgers (get whole foods-based burgers like Sunshine burgers) are great if you have a cooler, or freezer at your destination. Almost anything goes for food on car trips as long as you have enough room to store them!
At your destination.
Whether you’re flying or driving, you may want to stop at a grocery store to get the stuff you left behind. Single-serve items are ideal, so you don’t waste a big container of something. Protein powder packets, trail mix from the bulk section and nut butter squeeze packs are great options for traveling. If you’re going to be staying for a week or longer and you know you’ll finish it up or be able to bring it back with you, you can buy larger containers of products. Buy things that are healthy and as whole foods-based as possible, but are also easy to prepare. Again, things like raw bars, canned beans, prewashed produce and almond milk make meals a breeze. When I was on my vacations this summer, I didn’t want to spend all my time in the kitchen making my meals, so I stuck with healthful things I could whip up in a few minutes.
Some of my staples for my recent trip were sweet potatoes (can be cooked quickly in the microwave, or over a campfire for a better flavor), canned lentils (low sodium), organic lettuce, baby carrots, berries, bananas, protein powder packets, gluten-free granola, Larabars, organic peanut butter, almond milk, sprouted tortilla chips and greens packets. I was staying with family during my trip, so I had lots of fridge space, but if you aren’t so lucky, make sure to bring a cooler and fill it with ice regularly.
Eating out can be a big part of vacations. On my trip to the mountains earlier this summer, my family and I ate out for dinner every night and made the rest of our meals in the condo. On my trip to Wisconsin, we ate out with family twice for dinner and twice for lunch and made the rest of our meals wherever we were. In my normal life, I eat out maybe once or twice a month at places with lots of healthy options but in Wisconsin, those options were few and far between. As a gluten-free vegan, my options were even more limited. My solution to this was to either make sure to eat enough beforehand in case there were no options for me, or to bring along snacks. I ended up getting a side salad (no dressing) at one place and veggie fajitas with salsa and guacamole at the other. Both weren’t my favorite meals out, but I made do and enjoyed the company instead of focusing on the food. For lunches out, I was lucky enough to be able to find Qdoba on the road both times so I could get my usual salad bowl with black beans, salsa and guacamole.
If eating out is a highlight of your vacation, you can still enjoy and indulge while staying healthy. If possible, try to eat out for only one meal a day–this saves on costs and helps you eat healthier. At the restaurant, pick something that sounds good to you and if needed, supplement with something healthier, like a salad or some soup. Enjoy that part first and when it comes to the main dish, you’ll only need to eat until you feel satisfied and there’ll be no need to feel guilty. Have dessert if you really want to, and remember that vacation is a time to enjoy yourself. If you eat unhealthily one night, don’t beat yourself up about it. Move on and make healthier choices the next day. On the other hand, don’t feel bad if you eat healthfully your entire vacation. If you’re enjoying the food you eat, who cares if it isn’t indulgent or ‘bad’? Eat what you like, enjoy your surroundings and move on. Vacations are about more than just food!
What are some healthy eating on-the-go tips you have?