Vacations are a great time to visit a new city, celebrate an anniversary, or just give yourself a well-deserved break from the office. And while they're supposed to be a time for you to relax and unwind, vacations can oftentimes make you worrisome and apprehensive about staying on track with your nutrition and fitness goals.
Whether you work hard on your fitness and nutrition all year long or have just begun your fitness journey, an upcoming vacation can be an extremely tempting time to jump ship from your healthy eating habits and overindulge. Don't go swimming just yet! Here are seven tips to help you stay on track with your nutrition while having fun on vacation.
Prepare Ahead of Time
As cliché as it may sound, failing to prepare is preparing to fail. If you are traveling to your vacation destination by car, pack yourself a portable cooler with some of your favorite nutritious snacks like:
- Fresh fruit
- Raw vegetables
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Ready-to-drink protein shakes
Remember to pack a small ice pack and a few bottled waters in your cooler. Or if you don't have an ice pack, just freeze the water bottles and drink them as they thaw.
Packing several of your favorite dry-food items is also a great idea. Whether you're taking a car or plane, it's much easier than many people think to stack your bag with healthy treats. Try any of the following:
Become an Educated Consumer
When you head to a new restaurant, it's easy to get caught up in the excitement of eating out, which can lead to impulsive eating and overindulgence. To combat this, do your homework ahead of time. If you're staying at a resort, hotel, or condo of some sort, check out the surrounding restaurants you may want to try in advance. Peruse the menu ahead of time to identify meals that are appealing but fit within the parameters of your diet. You may even want to call ahead and ask if the restaurant can prepare off-menu meals for you, especially if you're getting ready for any sort of competition.
Once you arrive at your destination, locate a nearby supermarket or grocery store. If you are staying at a condo or hotel for several days, don't rely on restaurants for every meal. It's costly, and there some things you can't always control. Instead, swing by the closest supermarket or grocery store.
Shop for your favorite quick-and-easy dry foods mentioned above so you always have a snack on hand. If your condo or hotel has a refrigerator or mini fridge, purchase some of your favorite nutritious foods that pack well and are easy to grab on the go. Instant oatmeal is a great way to start your morning if you have access to a microwave, and simple sandwiches make excellent on-the-go meals.
Make Smart Swaps
Simply omitting a creamy sauce or substituting a rich sauce with marinara can significantly reduce calories in a meal. Ordering a dish with a different cooking method than what's advertised on the menu—grilled instead of sautéed in butter or oil, for example—can also cut calories tremendously.
If weight loss or maintenance is your goal, opt for grilled and baked dishes in lieu of their fried counterparts, which are typically higher in fat and calories. Communicate your nutritional needs with your waiter or waitress when dining out. Request minor modifications to your meal as you see fit, and certainly don't feel badly about it. After all, you're the guest!
Asking for salad dressing on the side or substituting steamed vegetables for the usual sides like mashed potatoes are more great ways to reduce the caloric composition of your meal.
If you're visiting family and anticipating robust, home-cooked meals prepared by your family members, just keep the overarching principle of moderation in mind. You are on vacation. Do not deprive yourself of enjoyable foods, but practice sensibility and control toward your nutrition.
If you feel better knowing the numbers, use an app like MyFitnessPal to verify the calories and macronutrient contents of foods. Most restaurants also have nutrition facts posted on their website, which is also a great resource for looking for the caloric content of your meal.
Don't Skip Meals
Whether you're busy rushing to tourist sites all day or kicking back on the beach for a full afternoon, it's easy to lose track of time and skip a meal on vacation. This might seem harmless, but skipping a meal can easily lead to consuming too many calories at your next meal. Keeping your hunger in check is key, so pack a few of your favorite snacks whenever you head out.
If you really want to keep things on point and avoid binges or cravings, a good recommendation is to eat every 3-4 hours. If your goal is to add lean body mass, making sure you are eating enough snacks and meals, even while on the go, to support your calorie goals.
Traveling can dehydrate you. Staying out in the sun longer than your body is used to can also dehydrate you. When you don't take in enough fluids, it's easy to mistake dehydration for hunger. Even the slightest bit of dehydration can cause you to believe you need food when, in reality, you just need some sweet H2O.
Recommendations for fluid intake vary from person to person, but an easy way to check your hydration is to, well, check the color of your pee. A well-hydrated individual should have clear or pale yellow urine. Dark yellow or amber urine is typically a sign of dehydration. Remember, you are likely already dehydrated at the initial sign of thirst.
If drinking a gallon of plain water just isn't your thing, try adding zero-calorie liquid water enhancers to your water. After all, no one said reaching your fluid-intake goals had to be boring! I always bring an empty shaker bottle with me whenever I know I'll be spending time at the airport. There are water fountains located in every terminal, and this will save you from spending $5 for a bottle of water.
Keep Energy Balance in Mind
Dedication to training and nutrition is a great attribute, sure. But the truth is, some time off from training can be beneficial for recovery purposes. However, if you're not going to train while traveling, you still need to keep the energy balance equation of "calories in versus calories out" in the back of your mind to keep yourself from overeating.
Energy expenditure also plays a key role in maintaining your weight while on vacation. Make an effort to incorporate physical activity into your daily routine while on vacation like walking, playing volleyball in the pool with other vacationers, or getting outdoors and doing more sightseeing.
Incorporating physical activity into your daily routine on vacation can certainly help you offset the extra calories you may consume, but it's still often better to sample than feast.