What kind of getaway are you dreaming of this year? Reading a page-turner by the shore? Hiking a national park? Exploring historical sites in a foreign city? No matter your vacation style, we know it can be difficult to keep up your healthy lifestyle when you’re away. Between the jam-packed schedule and food temptations at every turn, it’s all too easy to get off-track.
But vacationing doesn’t have to mean giving up your hard-won nutrition and exercise habits. We sat down with Aramark Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) Ethan Mattingly, who works at the University of Louisville, to unpack ways to make your next trip a healthier one. Whether you’re hitting the road or jet-setting abroad, you’ll want to take notes.
PACK FOR SUCCESS
Do you swear by packing lists? Nothing’s worse than the nagging feeling you forgot something back at home. While many of us must overcome the urge to overpack, Ethan makes the case for bringing items that will support your wellness mission. “Packing tends to be stressful, so make a list in advance and cross things off as you go,” he suggests.
- Score some healthy snacks.
With your own nibbles in reach, you won’t find yourself stuck with only
less-healthy options. Plus, Ethan points out, eating small amounts of food
throughout the day supports your metabolism and keeps
your blood sugar steady so you stay energized for all that
sight-seeing. His go-to snacks include:
- Lean and low-sodium turkey or beef jerky
- Hummus with carrot sticks, broccoli, celery, or bell peppers
- Tuna or chicken lunch kits
- Roasted chickpeas
- Low-fat cheese, yogurt, cottage cheese
- Go for H20. If we know one thing, it’s the value of staying hydrated. “Drinking lots of water will help you avoid jetlag, stay cool in the sun and heat, and keep hunger away between meals,” Ethan says. Pack a reusable water bottle for each member of your family.
- Make your move. Vacation is not the time to backtrack on your fitness goals, so choose at least one form of physical activity per day. Many of Ethan’s favorites make great family affairs: Hiking, swimming, paddleboarding, cycling, and playing beach volleyball. A 30-minute stint in the hotel gym also totally counts, as does walking to a destination instead of taking public transportation. So pack those sneakers. No one wants to hoof it in heels!
BUILD YOUR ITINERARY
Planning ahead is a surefire way to bring your #vacationgoals to life. Tending to your health is no different. “Research the areas you’re traveling to and map out a routine, so you won’t have to stress about this stuff when you get there,” says Ethan.
- Plan your food tour. With each accommodation, locate the nearest grocery store or farmers’ market, then make it one of your first stops. “Pick up a variety of fruits, veggies, and lean protein to snack on,” Ethan suggests. If you have access to a kitchen, consider carving out time to cook a few meals. It’s one way to be healthier—and you’ll save a few bucks, too.
- Pick a number. Decide how many times you’ll eat each day. It could be three meals and one snack, or two meals and two snacks. You decide. No matter your magic number, sticking to it will keep you from overindulging.
- Be smart on-the-go. Inevitably, you’ll need to grab a quick bite or two at some point. If you find yourself dining at an airport terminal or off some random highway exit, Ethan can point you in the right direction. Better-for-you choices include a filling salad featuring lean protein and dressing with healthy oil (like olive or canola oil), or a sandwich with whole-grain bread and extra veggies.
- Practice the art of compromise. Who are we to keep you from sampling Philly’s famous cheesesteaks or authentic Italian pies? How about this: Aim to have a healthy breakfast and lunch, with the promise that you will try something fun and new for dinner. Even as you stretch your culinary comfort zone, let your plate be your guide. “If possible, let half of your plate be fruits and vegetables, one-quarter lean protein, and one-quarter whole grains,” Ethan recommends.
OFFICIALLY OUT OF OFFICE
You’ve made it to your destination! Now it’s time to kick back, see the sights, connect with old friends, and follow through on your good intentions.
- Keep yourself honest. Sure, vacation life might be much more active than your daily life (especially with all that exercise you put on the itinerary). But don’t overestimate your steps and use that as an excuse to treat yourself at every meal. “It’s all too easy to eat more than you actually burned,” Ethan cautions.
- Practice mindful eating. Whether you cross one time zone or five, traveling throws off your regular schedule. Ethan’s advice: “Don’t watch the clock. Instead, listen to your body when it tells you it’s time to eat.” Remember: Mindful eating is a journey, not a destination!
- Get your z’s. Time changes and new environments can make it tough to catch quality sleep. A few days before your trip, start adjusting to the new time zone by heading to bed earlier or later. Unwinding before bedtime will also help. “Vacations come with so much excitement,” Ethan admits. “Once you’ve settled in for the night, relax with a warm bath or a book.”
Vacation is a time to enjoy life and people, and to make memories in a new place. So if you get caught in the moment and slip up here or there, forgive yourself.
“It’s not all-or-nothing. Each day is a new day,” Ethan reminds us. “No matter what happened yesterday, recommit to following the healthy lifestyle you’ve worked so hard to establish.”
So go forth, follow your wanderlust, and enjoy your well-deserved time away from it all.
We can’t wait to see the pictures!
Note: Since everyone’s health history and nutritional needs are so different, please make sure that you talk with your doctor and a registered dietitian to get advice about the diet and exercise plan that‘s right for you.