When I was growing up, vacation was just a precursor to an inevitable 5-10 pound weight gain. My family’s favorite dining spots were buffets, our activities involved a lot of sitting and lounging, and we always got a few special drinks like pina coladas or milkshakes. Talk about a recipe for disaster!
Traveling can be a huge challenge to healthy eating, but with careful planning and intentional strategizing, you can manage to maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle.
While everyone’s travel plans, preferences and resources are different, I am going to use some examples from a recent vacation I just took to Phoenix, AZ, USA. I realize not everyone will have the exact same opportunities, but utilize the principles I share here and be creative with regard to your specific situation.
When I arrived home last night, I’d lost over 5 pounds–not intentionally (and not that I need to), but simply due to the choices I made and the style of vacation my family decided to have.
Research Ahead of Time
This is crucial!
Often we travel to larger cities rather than remote areas for events – whether for work or pleasure. If you know where you will be traveling to, the internet is a great tool we can use to find healthy restaurants and grocery stores nearby.
I ordered the V12 Veggie Plate – Take a look at this.
This salad contained organic baby kale, a mix of 12 vegetables: roasted Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, red peppers, eggplant, red onion and tomato tossed with fresh carrots, celery, jicama, zucchini, petite peas, dried sweet corn, feta and sunflower seeds with Mediterranean vinaigrette. Often if bread or a baguette is offered on the side, restaurants will substitute an apple, or you can choose not to have a ‘side’ at all.
It was absolutely delicious and very filling!
Head for the Salad Menu or Salad Bar
Most places offer a salad menu where you can add a protein option (salmon, chicken, etc) for a few dollars more to make it a full meal.
In addition, nearly every location has a market or grocery store and most of them have low carb, ready-to-go choices such as:
- cut up veggies (with hummus!)
- hard boiled eggs
- plain yogurt (add some berries!)
- cut up chicken or deli meat
- tuna (add some mustard, yogurt or avocado)
- and many stores even have salad bars!
More and more restaurants and airports are catering to the low carb community, expanding options such as burgers on lettuce or cabbage leaves, veggie plates, hard boiled eggs, large salads and so forth.
Bring What you Can
While it’s inevitable that you are going to eat out from time to time, you don’t always have to. You can still plan breakfast or lunch when you’re on the road.
- Make a green smoothie (spinach, a little milk or yogurt, avocado, water and some frozen berries) to go.
- Whip up a batch of egg muffin cups.
- Keep a few hard boiled eggs handy
- Eat some cottage cheese topped with berries
You can stock your vehicle with healthy non-perishable items like:
- Baggies with individually portioned (¼ cup) almonds pecans, or walnuts, canned tuna, and peanut butter.
- Portion out some baby carrots, celery, cherry tomatoes, mushrooms and cucumber or pepper slices and you have a nice variety to snack on
I packed many of these items in my carry on suitcase and didn’t need to make any airport choices.
Take Advantage of Healthy Free Options
Often hotels or meetings will offer free fruit (just watch the type and the amount) or complimentary breakfasts. Be a little careful here though as they are also notorious for offering not-so-healthy options such as cookies, chips, candy, popcorn, and other pre-packaged snack food.
Healthy options at many complimentary breakfasts include: hard boiled eggs, diabetic friendly fruit, and plain oatmeal (if you can tolerate oatmeal). Also don’t add sugar or use the flavored packages on anything.
Avoid these things like the plague:
- biscuits & gravy
- sweet rolls
- danishes sweetened cereal….and the like!
Eggs are always going to be a safe option and sausage and bacon are low in carbs too. Sausage and bacon aren’t exactly healthy foods to be eaten all the time either, but if you’re on vacation then choosing the best low carb diabetic friendly options is the goal.
The hotel we stayed at offered a wide variety of choices so each day I stocked up on plain greek yogurt, blueberries or strawberries, cottage cheese, hard boiled eggs, and carrot sticks with peanut butter. These made for great snacks later on!
Does your hotel room have a fridge or microwave? Nuke some chopped broccoli with eggs and top with shredded chicken and freshly diced tomatoes to make a veggie egg scramble.
Grab a couple bags of frozen vegetables and heat them up or add them to a can of low sodium soup.
No amenities? Grab a rotisserie chicken and bagged mixed greens and make yourself a chicken salad. Or bring a cooler with you!
Did you know they make coolers that plug into cigarette lighters? I have one that even comes with an adapter that can then be plugged into a wall outlet on arrival.
Choose ACTIVE Activities
While not always an option when traveling for business or in groups, consider planning your vacations and hobbies in a way that involves a lot of movement!
Not only will this increase your metabolism during the trip, but it will also keep you occupied with something other than food. Plus, a few poor food choices can sometimes be offset by some great activity choices.
This is honestly the reason I tend to lose weight on vacations–they often involve hiking, climbing, skiing, sightseeing–things I am doing out in nature where restaurants aren’t around every corner and the adrenaline and endorphins from exercising keep me from thinking too much about it.
My fitbit tracker showed an average of 21,000 steps (over 10 miles!) over the course of the trip.
Plan to golf, hike, or bike and if you aren’t able to, plan some long morning or evening walks around your daily events.
Pick your Battles
You aren’t going to eat perfectly when traveling, so come to terms with that. Inevitably you will be picking a lesser of evils at times and you’ll want to have a few fun treats here and there.
The goal isn’t perfection. The goal is not letting your trips hinder your health, putting you into a hole you have to dig out of when you return.
Decide ahead of time how many “less-than-optimal” choices are realistic and stick with it. If you have a dinner business meeting, it’s difficult to just “not eat.” However, you CAN choose the better option–grilled chicken over spaghetti, steak and vegetables over a sandwich. It’s your choice, so choose wisely!
If there is a buffet line, you can control your portions, so load up on salad and veggies while minimizing starches like pasta and rice.
If you are ordering from a menu, customize your order by requesting grilled meat over fried, a double order of vegetables instead of potato or fries. and asking for dressing on the side.
You’ll also find that many restaurants now cater for more low carb options. And they are more than happy to alter meals for your convenience.
Above all, don’t fall into a victim-mode where you start thinking, “Well I can’t do anything about it.”
Worse case scenario: if there is only one option and it’s terrible, you can always take a few bites to be polite and eat something healthy later on!
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