How To Eat Healthy On Vacation.
(Note: Though this post is about eating healthy on vacation, the tricks and strategies I’ll discuss will work for any kind of celebration, work event, holiday party, wedding, etc, etc.)
Your vacation is supposed to be fun.
You’re supposed to relax, enjoy yourself, have some new experiences - and take a break from your regular life.
Most of us look forward to a vacation……
UNLESS…..you’ve recently started improving your diet and seeing results, and losing some weight.
Then, a vacation can strike panic in your heart. “What am I going to eat?”
“What if they don’t have brown rice?”
“What if everything is oily and fried?”
“What if I want to DRINK?” Sound familiar?
You don’t want to undo all the progress you’ve made.
You’ve gotten yourself into a good routine with food and exercise - and now it’s all about to be turned upside-down.
It’s possible to have a fabulous time - wherever you go - and still stick to your food/health principles.
I recently went to a resort in Puerto Rico for a few days with my husband - and I kept notes for you!
I’m going to walk you through my thought process on what I ate and how I made my choices - and, hopefully, you will be able to relate and take some of it with you on your next trip.
What I Ate On My Winter Vacation
First things first….
Before you go: You have a few decisions to make. Ask yourself -
1. What is my goal for this vacation?
Are you hoping to maintain your weight? Lose some weight? Not think about your weight/health at all and just indulge, indulge, indulge? Decide.
Nicole says: My personal goal was to maintain my weight and come home not feeling gross.
2. What do I really want to enjoy?
What matters to you MOST? Do you love hotel breakfast buffets? Do you absolutely have to have fried fish tacos?
What food or drink is critical to your vacation ‘experience’? If everything is special, then nothing is special. Make some choices.
Nicole says: What mattered most to me on my vacation was drinking Mai Tais. Hey - don’t judge…..
So now that you have decided on your goal for your vacation, and you have also decided what food/drink matters to you most, you can create a bit of a map for the rest of your experience.
Nicole says: I wanted to be able to drink Mai Tais all the livelong day - and I wanted to maintain my weight while on vacation. This meant that I would need to be mindful with meals and calories - and exercise, if possible - to allow me to enjoy my cocktails and not come home any heavier.
Okay, so you’ve done your pre-planning and made some choices.
Now it’s time to put your plan in to action!
Using my own experience as our example, I’ll show you how I went about making choices so that I could have plenty of wiggle room to enjoy my delicious Mai Tais. And enjoy them, I did.
I love a good breakfast buffet. Walking into the dining room and seeing tables and tables of breakfast food just makes me happy.
But - let’s be honest - those breakfast buffets can doom your entire vacation. They make it possible to eat an entire day’s worth of food in one sitting - and they set you up for sugar crashes and more unhealthy choices later on.
So, keeping in mind that I wanted to maintain my weight - and keeping in mind that I had Mai Tais to drink - here is what I ate for breakfast every day of my vacation:
It’s a banana, with two pieces of what seemed like whole wheat toast. They didn’t have peanutbutter on the buffet table - but I asked for it and they happily brought it for me. I also had 3 spears of breakfast potatoes every morning - ‘cos I really love breakfast potatoes and I never make them at home.
This breakfast was simple, healthy, fiber-rich - and held me ‘til lunch with no problem.
The first day we arrived, I saw that they had coconut shrimp as one of the bar snacks.
Coconut shrimp is something I never, ever eat at home (for so many reasons) - and yet, there it was.
I wanted it. I was on vacation.
So my husband and I ordered it as an appetizer, and we split it. They gave us 6 shrimp. They were greasy, oily, fried - and delicious - and I got my fix for the year. Didn’t need to repeat that experience. I went on to order a salad. And a Mai Tai.
The rest of my lunches were a combination of salad with some sort of fish - with a few tweaks made here and there to save a few calories (and make room for more Mai Tais).
This salad with fruit, greens, and mahi-mahi originally came with a toxic-pink, creamy, fruity vinaigrette on the side that I knew I did NOT want. It was going to be a heap of extra calories - plus it didn’t even look that appetizing. Not worth it.
So, instead, I asked for some balsamic vinegar on the side. The fish was grilled - but still had some oil and natural fat - so, coupled with the vinegar, it made for a simple, flavorful dressing.
I wasn’t expecting those fried tortilla strips on top, so I just picked them off.
Remember - I was trying to save calories in places that didn’t matter to me, so that I could gulp down the glorious sugary nectar that is a Mai Tai. That’s what mattered to me MOST. Not some chips that I could get at home, and not a salad dressing.
It didn’t feel like ‘deprivation’ to skip those chips or change up the dressing. No big whoop. That’s how ya do it. Decide what matters. Decide what’s worth it and what’s not.
This lunch was a surprise. It was supposed to be a taco bowl salad with roasted corn, chopped avocado, and shrimp. I asked them to skip the taco bowl and just put the salad in a regular bowl. Sounds good, right?
Well, as you can see, something got a little lost in translation.
I was presented with…..a taco bowl….filled with lettuce, tomato, and canned corn niblets. And then a side order of guacamole. And some sour cream. And a side order of balsamic vinaigrette. And a side order of shrimp scampi, marinating in a pool of butter.
So I ate everything in the bowl, dipping my fork into the dressing to avoid overdoing it. I blotted 2 of the shrimp and ate them - leaving the rest for my husband (!). And then I broke off a small section of the taco bowl and dipped it in the guacamole. The end.
I got some greens, fiber, healthy fat from the guac, and some low-fat protein from the shrimp.
Again - this may sound ‘obsessive’ and annoying and restrictive to you - but it’s all about your GOAL, and what matters to you MOST.
If your goal is to throw caution to the wind and eat whatever you want on vacation, then you would be miserable trying to pursue MY goal and follow MY strategy!
I’m showing you how it’s possible to have all the things you really, really want MOST (have I mentioned that I love a good Mai Tai?) - while maintaining your weight on vacation.
Dinner gave me an opportunity to employ one of my favorite restaurant tricks: The Old ‘order-a-side-dish-as-an-appetizer’ Trick.
This was a side order of sauteed spinach - but I ordered it as my appetizer because I wasn’t thrilled with the available options, and I really wanted some GREENS. Well, I got ‘em! A big, beautiful bowl of’em. Heaven.
I followed it up with……
….a bowl of white pasta with veggies and olive oil. Again - at home, I would never have white pasta - but there were actually a fair amount of veggies in this dish, so I ate those first, and then only had half of the pasta.
Our other dinners were pretty straightforward. I’d order a salad to start and some some sort of veggie-noodle dish as the entree - and make sure I ate all the veggies first. You do the best you can, ya know?
What about dessert?
Well, if a gal wants to down several Mai Tais a day, while also maintaining her weight, then a gal has made her choice. A Mai Tai is plenty sugary - so I chose to skip the desserts. Believe me - I did not miss them.
Besides, I am never without my Trader Joe’s dark chocolate wedges, so I did have a l’il sumthin’ chocolatey if I really wanted it.
What about exercise?
I made it to the hotel gym on only one of our 3 days at this resort - but I made it count. I fiddled around with some free weights and spent a good 40-minutes walking on the treadmill on a steep incline. Then I drank a ton of water. And then I had lunch and a Mai Tai.
The Final Verdict.
My goal was to maintain my weight on vacation - while enjoying unlimited cocktails, first and foremost.
And I did it! I came home weighing the exact same as when I left.
The key is to make CONSCIOUS CHOICES. And those choices begin BEFORE you even get on the plane.
Remember - set a goal. Choose a desired outcome. Decide what counts as ‘worth it’.
You can have everything you really, really want the most - but the thing you want the most can’t be ‘everything’. At least not if you’re trying to lose weight or maintain!
I hope this was helpful to see some real-life choices in action. Please come visit me on Facebook and let me know what you think - or just say Hello!
To your health!