Often times, when someone comes back from vacation and you ask, “how was it?”, they respond with, “it was great, but I could use a vacation to recover from my vacation!” What if a vacation could be both great and revitalizing, without the all-too-common "post-vacation hangover"? And I’m not talking about a staycation. What you eat while you are out adventuring can help you come back feeling just that; great and revitalized, just like a vacation was intended. One of the highlights of vacation is experiencing the culture by eating the best of the best local foods. There’s a way to do it all, you just have to be more mindful of what, where and how you eat.
Let’s dive in!
Vacation starts before you leave the house.
Before leaving town, people often don’t want to buy a bunch of food that will go to waste so the fridge becomes barren in the days leading up to the trip. Eating well right before you leave will impact your comfort level while traveling, which is uncomfortable enough as it is. Also, think about the exposure to potential toxins you will be getting as you travel – you want to keep your immune system strong to better combat what the world might throw at it!
What can you do about it?
Buy only exactly what you need for the last few days before leaving, and keep it simple – for example, brown rice, roasted veggies and chicken thighs (or a whole pre-roasted chicken!). Easy, little work required, and little to no leftovers if you plan accordingly.
If eating out, think before you go out – pick a place that has salad options or offers seasonal vegetables as a side. Then use your leftovers as travel or airport meals!
Eating healthy in the airport is tricky (and expensive) but here are a few things you can do:
Eat at home right before you head to the airport. If you’re hungry, of course. This can be rolled into the recommendations above; if you know you will need a lunch before you fly out, make enough dinner the night before for leftovers to cover lunch the next day (or keep leftovers from eating out).
Bring snacks! You may not be able to bring liquids through security, but you can bring food through. Make some homemade trail mix and/or granola bars to bring with you so you have something to munch on in a pinch, and pack some fresh fruit!
If you don’t have time to plan ahead and you find yourself starving at the airport you have a few good options:
Grab a fruit and some yogurt from a coffee stand
Get a pack of nuts from the magazine stand (just look out for added sugar)
Grab a sandwich with lots of veggies on it
Order a salad at a restaurant
The key is to look for fruits, veggies and nuts because they will be beneficial for digestion, and include the least amount of added (and hidden) ingredients.
Start your vacation mornings right.
While on vacation, make sure to eat a large breakfast before you start your day of adventures.
Go as fresh as possible with fresh berries and veggies, eggs, avocado, and as a bonus, some whole grains if you have the opportunity.
These foods will kick start your day and encourage you to make the most of it. They will also help to prevent that blood sugar spike and impending afternoon crash.
Start the day off right, relaxed and with a full tummy. This way, you have a little flexibility in your day because you won’t be scrambling to find a place to cure your hunger when it comes on strong.
Search the internet for local hotspots and check out reviews before you visit a new place. You don’t have to pick exactly where you are going to eat but if you have a few options you have a place to start. Oftentimes delicious, fresh food is grouped together in neighborhoods so it really just comes down to deciding which area of town to go to.
Look at reviews – and read them fully, everybody has a different opinion of what makes a place good or bad
Review menus – look for places that harness seasonal produce and have a lot of fresh foods, including gluten-free grains, pasture-raised and organic meats, and fresh fish
Locate great places on the map so you are familiar and see if there are a lot of other restaurants in that area
Vacationing is becoming even more of an experience with sites like Airbnb helping you connect with local homes that immerse you in neighborhoods providing you with the feeling like you live there. The great part about this is these places usually have a full kitchen. If you are staying in a place that has this available to you, use it!
Make a plan to visit a grocery store on your first day in. This is also a wonderful opportunity to explore the culture of the place you are visiting.
Add in a local farmer’s market to enjoy local produce and local dishes.
Pack snacks - this is an easy way to create a buffer between you and making an unhealthy restaurant decision.
Navigating eating out.
If you’re trying to stay on a consistent diet while on vacation to minimize the "post-vacation hangover", follow these tips to stay on track! Make sure to focus on eating enough fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and protein. It can be difficult while on vacation to completely avoid high-fat and processed foods in restaurants, but whenever possible look for these options:
Oatmeal with fresh berries, nuts and seeds or granola. Avoid cane sugar and use honey or maple syrup and non-dairy milk instead.
Smoothie with fresh fruit, kale or spinach, and nut or seed butter. Avoid smoothies that use fruit juices as the base, as they increase unnecessary sugars and can cause a mid-day energy crash.
Egg and vegetable scramble or omelet with avocado and/or lean meat. Enjoy whole grain or gluten-free toast and fresh fruit on the side.
If out and about and eating breakfast on-the-go, bring trail mix, granola, fresh fruit, natural/organic jerky, hard-boiled egg, nut butter and banana or apple.
Salad with a protein like egg and/or meat. Ask for dressing on the side so you can control the amount that goes on it.
Sandwich on whole grain or GF bread. Avoid conventional condiments, if possible.
Grain or legume bowl with roasted vegetables and a sauce, option to include meat if desired.
Salmon or other fish with seasonal vegetables and rice or a sauce such as pesto, chimichurri, romesco, or a yogurt sauce
Burger with GF bun (or go bunless!), with a salad or vegetables instead of french fries. Look for grass-fed and organic whenever possible.
Tacos or a taco bowl with beans, rice, vegetables, guacamole, pico de gallo or salsa. Add chicken, ground turkey or fish if desired.
Thai curry with vegetables and chicken; brown jasmine rice if possible, instead of white.
Stir fry, a great way to get a wide variety of vegetables in one meal. Essentially a warm salad!
Try to avoid the following preparation methods, which are often high-fat and processed:
Fried / Pan-fried
Creamed / Creamy
Instead, stick to the following healthier preparation methods:
The last thing to remember, don’t be too hard on yourself when eating out on vacation! These guidelines will help you to stay on track, but don’t feel like you need to follow them 100% of the time. First and foremost, enjoy yourself and try not to put too much pressure on yourself to be “good” the entire time you’re gone. One of the best parts of traveling is enjoying the local cuisine of the region you’re in - whether you’re in another part of the world or simply a few cities away from home. Have fun, relax, and eat well!