7 Tips for Eating Healthy on Vacation

It's that time of year when families pack everything they can into suitcases and car trunks to answer the calls of destinations far away. It’s that time of year where road trips seem like an exciting adventure; plane rides are paths to forgotten lands; and relaxing pool or beachside with a good book and a tiki bar within view sound like heaven on earth.


There is a lot of preparation that goes into getting to our week in paradise. While we are enjoying swimming, sailing lessons, and lounging around on the beach, I try to reign us in from throwing caution to the wind when it comes to our nutritional routines. And let me tell you, it’s a challenge. Extra large cocktail? Yes, please! Dessert with that? Definitely! Appetizers before dinner? Absolutely! Load up on a second plate at the breakfast buffet? Of course! With so many questions like these where a simple yes can lead to an expanding waistline, the one question we should all be asking ourselves is, "How can we have our cake and eat it too?"


Good News: There IS hope for those who wish to indulge in all the tasty treats that accompany a vacation. After some trial and error, I’ve found that all you need is a little balance, a few compromises, and some moderation to help keep your healthy eating in check and still enjoy yourself.


Tip 1: Pack Snacks
When in doubt, pack a snack.  This is especially true on vacation when your next meal isn’t nearly as structured as it is in your day-to-day life.  A bag of homemade trail mix, some fresh fruit, a handful of nuts, and even a sandwich has saved many in my family from being hangry (hungry + angry), kept the fun and peace in our activities, and saved us from dropping in at the local sweet shop.

Tip 2: Stay Where There is a Kitchen
One of the best ways to maintain your healthy eating is to stay where you have access to a kitchen. This way, you can cook and prepare your meals.  Yes you still might have to do the dishes; but also allows you control over the ingredients and portion sizes.

Tip 3: Go Grocery Shopping
Once you get settled, find a local grocery store to load up on fresh fruit and vegetables, healthy snacks, and even some breakfast staples.  This allows you to follow Tip 1 (Pack Snacks) when out and about. It also is a budget saver and gives you healthy food options to munch on while you follow a more relaxed vacation schedule.

Tip 4: Strive for a Salad
OK, it doesn’t need to be a salad.  But I know that when I strive for a salad or a vegetable at one of my meals (lunch or dinner, bonus points if it’s both), not only do I feel better about myself, but I am focusing on eating something lower in calories and healthy instead of stressing over something that is high in calories and not normally in my “diet.”  

Tip 5: Check Out the Menu Before You Go Out
Most restaurants list their menus online.  Looking at the menu before you visit a restaurant allows you to make an informed choice. Some will list nutritional information on their website that’s not readily available in the restaurant itself.  Even if the nutritional information isn’t listed, perusing the menu in advance increases the likelihood of selecting a healthier option for several reasons: you won’t be distracted by the conversation at the table, the meal choices that others around you have made, or the stress of trying to keep your children from causing a scene!

Tip 6: Moderation is Key
Tempted by something scrumptious at the local cafe?  Want the "Special of the Day" for lunch?  Need to try the award-winning dessert?  Do it and enjoy!  Just remember to do so in moderation. Maybe that means not eating dessert at every meal.  Maybe it means going for an extra long walk or signing up for an exercise class at the hotel.  Maybe it means skipping an appetizer in lieu of a fancy drink. It’s all about the compromise!

Tip 7: Don’t Stress
A vacation should be fun and rejuvenating!  So, if you find that you or your family fell off the healthy eating wagon, give yourself a pass and get right back on.  It won’t derail you from an overall healthy lifestyle unless you let it.  Keep the tips above in mind to help you make the best food choices you can and enjoy yourself!

Written by Amanda Marsh, RD LD
West County Family YMCA

Food, Nutrition

All opinions expressed here are those of their authors and/or contributors and not of their employer.
Any questions or concerns regarding the content found here may be sent to info@gwrymca.org.