Guide to Vacation Dining

Vacations take us away from our regular daily routine. This is beneficial to our mental wellness because we experience new scenery and can rejuvenate ourselves, but it also can take us away from our healthy habits, such as dining on nutritious meals and snacks. Traveling doesn’t have to result in unhealthy eating. The key is to fill up on healthy foods when you can and make smart dining choices throughout your trip. By planning ahead and knowing your options, you can take a break from your stressful routine but not from your healthy eating.

  • Take your own snacks for a road trip or plane ride. This will keep you from stopping at convenience stores or vending machines for packaged foods, or having only cookies or chips to select on the plane. Trail mix, homemade granola, popcorn, pretzels, chopped raw vegetables, hummus, apples, plums and pears make great travel snacks.
  • Look for opportunities to order dishes that include high-nutrient, high-fiber fruits and vegetables. Entree salads or side salads made with spinach or romaine lettuce are a fun way to get your vegetables. If you’re ordering something like a shrimp or chicken quesadilla, you can ask the restaurant to add some grilled vegetables.
  • Choose sit-down restaurants instead of fast food establishments during your travels. This might take extra time, but you will have a better opportunity to ask your server how foods are prepared and add special requests for healthier meals, such as dressings on the side, grilled or broiled instead of fried, and substituting vegetables and salads for fried side dishes.
  • To save both calories and money during your trip, try “eating in” for one meal a day. Pack some tried-and-true breakfast options in your luggage, like lower-sugar instant oatmeal, whole-grain breakfast cereal, power bars or breakfast bars (look for brands lower in sugar and saturated fat but high in protein and fiber). You can also find a local market and stock up on fresh fruit to have in your hotel room for breakfast and snacks.
  • It doesn’t make sense to deprive yourself of enjoyable foods while you’re on vacation. Instead, downsize your portions by ordering from the kids’ or junior menu, or ordering an appetizer instead of an entree. You could also split an entree with your dining partner, or save half for another meal and stash it in the hotel refrigerator.
  • You don’t need hundreds and hundreds of calories from beverages on top of the extra calories you’ll be consuming from food. The good news is there are usually plenty of no-calorie drink options at most restaurants. Ask for lemon or lime for your glass of ice water or order unsweetened hot or cold tea, coffee, sparkling water, club soda, or diet soda. The bad news is that alcohol can be a diet disaster when you’re on vacation. Many of us tend to drink more while on vacation — perhaps frozen margaritas by day and a few glasses of wine by night. Each alcoholic drink can tack on about 150 to 450 calories.
  • Part of being on vacation is enjoying life, and part of enjoying life is ordering dessert when you really want to. If your meal has left you satisfied, you can take your dessert with you and enjoy it later when you are hungry again. You can also share your dessert with one or more dining partners, either at the table or later on. Often it’s the first few bites that we most enjoy anyway. So aim for satisfying your dessert craving with a handful of bites that you take the time to savor.

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