10 Ways to Eat Healthy While on Vacation

Don't leave your good eating habits behind when you get away from it all

Medically Reviewed by Kathleen M. Zelman, RD, LD, MPH on June 30, 2006
4 min read

A vacation is a time to unwind, to celebrate, to rejuvenate, to see newplaces and try new things. But it can also make you very uneasy about eating --if, for example, you are trying to eat healthy and maintain or lose weight.Here are 10 ways to stay on a healthy eating plan while on vacation and stillenjoy yourself!

According to a study led by Linda H. Clemens EdD, RD, of the ConsumerScience and Education Department at the University of Memphis, women tend tosplurge when they eat out, then eat normal amounts during their other mealsthat day. This means they end up with an abundance of calories and fat that day-- much more than the body needs!


Clemens believes we should no longer think of eating out as a special treatand thus give ourselves carte blanche to overindulge.

"Most of us grew up thinking of eating out as an event that didn'thappen too often," she explains. But today, many of us eat out on a dailybasis.

What has happened to women nutritionally because of this trend? In a studypublished in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association in 1999, Clemensand other researchers found that the more often women ate out, the higher thetotal calories, grams of fat, and milligrams of sodium their dietscontained.

There are probably three main factors that contribute to this overabundanceof calories and fat coming from restaurant meals:

  • We tend to splurge by choosing higher-fat and higher-calorie menuselections,
  • Restaurants are serving us large portions,
  • And we are eating it -- all of it.

According to a recent survey by the American Institute for Cancer Research,67% of Americans say they finish their entrees always or most of the time.Sometimes, it isn't what you are eating as much as how much youeat that gets you into nutritional trouble.

Melanie Polk, RD, nutrition director at the American Institute for CancerResearch, recommends exercising portion control even in restaurants.

"Some Americans are now ordering half-sized portions, sharing entrees,taking home leftovers, and ordering appetizers as meals," she says.

When it comes to table-service restaurants, customers are asking to have ittheir way more and more, according to a recent National Restaurant Associationreport. Some 80% of restaurants with meals averaging $25 or higher per person,and 70% of restaurants with meals averaging under $25 per person, say customersare more interested in customized menu items now than even two years ago.

What, in particular, are customers asking for? They often want menu itemsprepared or dressed a different way than is listed on the menu. People alsolike to have a range of portion sizes to choose from, and many diners areasking to have part of their meal "doggy-bagged."

You are on vacation, for heavens sake. It doesn't make sense to depriveyourself of an enjoyable food; the trick is carrying "moderation" inyour back pocket. Sample these delectable foods, instead of feasting onthem.

I personally never deny myself any foods I want when I travel, and I rarelyput on extra weight. I'm usually sightseeing, which means I'm walking all day,every day, and this seems to offset any extra calories I might consume. So goahead and take that stroll after dinner, swim in that beautiful hotel pool,take your kids up on that early morning hike!

How do you pass up strawberry crepes with cream if you are in Paris? How doyou manage to vacation in Hawaii without tasting pineapple cheesecake? How canyou resist stopping at Dairy Queen with the kids and having a chocolate-dippedFrosty?

The answer is: you don't. Just try to keep your treats to one a day. Afterthat, opt for a healthy choice instead.

Make healthful choices that appeal to you at fast food and restaurantswhenever possible. Why is it important to order more healthful choices only ifthey appeal to you? Because if they don't, you're going to feel like you aredepriving yourself and resent it.

Sometimes you can make a fast food or restaurant choice instantly betterjust by ordering it with a different condiment or sauce (say, Dijon mustardinstead of mayonnaise, or marinara sauce instead of a white sauce).

You know that little refrigerator that comes with your hotel room that isfilled with all sorts of beverages and candy? Hide the key, it can only lead tono good -- physically and financially.

Keep all systems going by drinking your daily water requirement. Travelingcan dehydrate you, and so can being out in the sun more than your body is usedto. If you can, stock your car, backpack, or hotel room with ice-cold bottlesof water. Bring water everywhere you go.

Now, more than ever, make an effort to get five servings of fruits andvegetables a day. It will make meals seem more filling and satisfying. It willprovide enough fiber in your diet, and keep your intestines regular. And itwill keep your levels of antioxidants and important vitamins high so you areless likely to get sick.

It sounds simple, but many of us have gotten out of the habit of payingattention to whether we're truly, physically hungry. Eating opportunities andcelebrations are all around us when we are vacationing, and we're in the"I'm on VACATION!" mindset. That's when we will be the most vulnerableto eating even if we aren't hungry and not stopping when we arecomfortable.