Summer’s here, and so are many, many temptations. What is it about the summer sunshine that makes us just want to eat…well, bad? There’s the fried foods, the barbecues, and of course the ice cream…and then there’s vacation. For a long time vacation to me meant a vacation from everything – including all sense of rationale and all things healthy. French fries, pizza, danishes and donuts, all was fair game on vacation. No matter how healthy I had become in my eating and exercise habits, when I went on vacation, exercise and healthy eating did not exist. But what I began to realize (thanks in part to my first vacation with Japheth where he inspired (er, forced) me to do workouts each day) was that I really didn’t feel good when experiencing vacation this way. To the point that I was actually taking something away from my vacationing experience by eating poorly and then feeling sluggish, bloated, and gross for the rest of the trip. Things are very different now, and vacations are less about food for me and my family, and more about the experiences, sometimes food-related but most often not. I no longer come home to a post-vacation hangover and a closet full of clothes that fit tighter. It’s taken a while, but I’ve finally got a grasp on how to vacation without letting go of my healthy lifestyle choices! And so I’m sharing these hard-learned tips with you.
6 Tips For Staying On Track Even On Vacation
- Plan Ahead. I use the week before vacation to plan meals ahead. It doesn’t take long, and the payoff is huge. I decide what meals to make, how many meals we need, what snacks and grab-n-go items we need, and of course what “fun” foods to take to make the trip special. I like to make bulk meals, such as a large container of chicken salad, and/or my version of potato salad, as well as plenty of boiled eggs, homemade beef jerky, and/or liverwurst for quick meals when needed. If going for more than 2 nights I will usually take my trusty Instant Pot which can be used for cooking meats, steaming veggies, boiling eggs, or warming precooked sausages. This is especially handy if we’re staying in a hotel or somewhere that doesn’t have a full kitchen or oven.
- Make and Take “Fun” Foods. Making and taking our own fun foods helps to prevent us from the temptation to eat unhealthy foods while on vacation. For example, I might take a couple of bags of paleo-friendly chips, make a batch of brownies or fudge, or even take our ice cream maker and ingredients for a fun treat! Check out some of my favorite snacks to make and to buy.
- Plan a Picnic – or Two. We love picnics, and honestly for our active kids picnics turn out to be more fun than sitting down in a restaurant for an hour. When we picnic, not only are we surrounded by beautiful scenery, but the kids aren’t forced to stay seated or to stay quiet! And I actually enjoy packing a bag of food and drinks for the day, instead of having to worry about taking the time to find a kid-friendly and relatively healthy restaurant, parking, waiting for a table, and entertaining the kids before the food arrives. Even without kids, Japheth and I tend to opt for picnics over eating out, often dining on a blanket under the stars…
- Focus on Non-Food Experiences. One thing that has changed dramatically since I changed my way of vacationing, is the amount of quality – and mostly outdoor – experiences that I now engage in. Before, my vacations consisted of a couple of hours of activity a day, between restaurant or bar-hopping, and napping. With the way I eat now, I have more energy and rarely feel the need for napping, even on vacation! And by packing and eating our own food, we have more time to hike, play, swim, and explore everything around us. We find that we have much more time open during the day to see sights, to relax on our own, or to just enjoy moments with our children without the nagging feeling of hunger or need to time everything just right.
- Splurge…Reasonably. If you’re someone who has a hard time imagining a vacation being a vacation without certain “bad” foods that you’ve come to know and love, there are ways to still enjoy these foods without going too off track. For example, going out for a homemade ice cream cone at your favorite shop at the beach one night, or grabbing a burger and fries from an old family favorite one day, doesn’t mean you’ve failed. The point is to find ways to enjoy your vacation while still maintaining your healthy living choices, as opposed to going completely overboard and letting go of everything you’ve worked so hard at accomplishing during the other 51 weeks of the year. Which brings me to the next tip:
- Perspective. No one is asking – or expecting – you to be perfect. Every individual has their own way of doing things that works for them. For me, the way I vacationed before was not working for me. It made me feel yucky, for lack of a better word, and diminished my vacation experiences because of how food affects my body. That’s me. And probably many of you feel the same way when you take the time to notice. Just as with any lifestyle change, changing the way you view vacationing, and the way you approach vacationing may not be an easy task at first. It takes more work to plan and prepare meals than it does to go to a restaurant. You put more time in ahead of your vacation in order to have more time during the vacation for doing things that don’t involve food. And you have to have the willpower to let go of some of the things that you associate with a “good” vacation in order to help your body feel and function better. But once you make the shift, and approach the change with a healthy and reasonable perspective, you will never vacation the old way again!
My hope is that in reading this, you are inspired to try something different and healthier on your next vacation, while still enjoying this time set aside for yourself! I’d love to hear from you – what tips would you give for staying on track even on vacation?