With summer now officially upon us, many people now turn their thoughts toward that long-awaited summer vacation. Whether it’s the sun and surf of the beach or just time away from the daily grind, summer is seen as a time to take a break and relax. Along with that rest-and-relaxation mindset, often comes a carefree approach to lifestyle concerns such as diet and exercise. When we’re on vacation, we can be more inclined to try that rich desert at the restaurant or have an extra alcoholic beverage or two to unwind. Certainly, none of this is out-of-line or even unexpected, but if you’re trying to lose weight, eat better and live an overall healthier lifestyle, summer vacations can be that one slip-up that forces you to spend more time at the gym feeling guilty for all those indulgences.
Registered dietitian Heather Pierce with the Blount Memorial Weight Management Center says there are ways to still indulge yourself on vacation without destroying your diet. “If you’re at a restaurant, for example, you don’t have to avoid those high-calorie foods or decadent desserts, just reduce the amounts you eat. Allow yourself a few bites, and then share those foods with those you’re traveling with,” she said. “Restaurants typically serve very large portions that are much more than one person needs. Whether it’s healthy or unhealthy, too much food is too much, so be willing to split an entrée or share it,” she added. Another problem with vacation is the tendency toward “grazing.” “It’s sometimes hard for people on vacation to stick to those typical meal times. You’re sleeping later, at the pool or doing other activities that keep you from eating at your usual hour, so you tend to just snack throughout the day when you can. Remember to try to stick to meal times as much as possible, and space your meals out throughout the day,” Pierce said. “Watch your beverage consumption, too, as those calories from drinks can add up quickly,” she explained.
One useful tool toward staying healthy on vacation is simply having a cooler. “If you’re going on a road trip, pack a cooler with healthy snacks, such as strawberries, orange slices, boiled eggs or carrot sticks,” Pierce said. “You also can add protein-packed snacks to help keep you full between stops. Foods such as string cheese, deli meats and yogurt can help with this, but remember to keep the cooler full of ice to help maintain a temperature below 40 degrees Fahrenheit and prevent spoiling,” she said. “If you don’t have room for a cooler, there are plenty of shelf-stable healthy snacks you can pack. Some options include apples, bananas, cherry tomatoes, applesauce and dried fruit. More substantial snacks include peanut butter sandwiches, pouches of tuna, whole grain crackers, granola bars and nuts,” she added.
"While watching what you eat is crucial, it’s also important to keep up your level of physical activity,” Pierce said. “Stay at a hotel with a fitness room, or bring a workout or yoga DVD you can do in your room. If you’re a member of a gym, check to see if there is a location near your travel destination. You also can explore your vacation spot with a walk or a jog, or look for nearby hiking trails or parks. There may even be more activities nearby, such as kayaking, rock climbing or scuba diving. Just do your research,” she explained.
It may seem like a lot of work and stress for a vacation, but Pierce says it actually can help you feel better while you’re relaxing. “Incorporating activity into your vacation can provide stress release,” she said. “Adding activities and staying well-fueled will help keep your energy levels up so you can incorporate as many new and fun experiences as possible into your summer vacation,” she added.