End-of-summer vacations are here and it’s time to unwind, relax and enjoy the sunshine. I love traveling so I know first-hand that trips can be a real challenge when it comes to eating healthy.
For me and many of my patients, travel means more dining out and different foods. Restaurant meals are almost always higher in calories, fat and salt than meals prepared at home, making it easy to gain weight when dining out multiple times per day. Since obesity is one of the primary factors contributing to increased cancer risk, maintaining a healthy weight is one of the best ways to prevent cancer and other chronic diseases.
Here are my top tips to stay healthy and avoid weight gain on vacation:
1. Pack snacks.
Even with great intentions, if it’s been more than 5 hours since your last meal and you’re really hungry, you’re more likely to impulsively eat something unhealthy like those cookies at the rest stop. And it’s just so easy to eat too much, too quickly. Avoid this by having a small snack between meals that are many hours apart so you can make smart choices later. I always bring multiple pre-portioned snack bags in my purse or suitcase when traveling.
My favorite travel snacks:
- Mixed nuts. Pre-portion it in snack-sized Ziploc bags. You can also add Cheerios, dried banana chips and raisins to make a trail mix.
- Fruit. You can easily travel with certain firmer fruits, like apples or Asian pears, because they are less likely to get bruised.
- Oatmeal. Bring individual packets with less than 6 grams of sugar per serving. All you need is hot water to make a quick and healthy breakfast or snack.
- Granola bars. Look for the ones where you can see whole ingredients like nuts, fruit or whole oats. Also choose those with less than 6 grams of sugar per bar. Avoid ones that look like a candy bar. I like Kashi or KIND bars.
- Roasted beans. Dry roasted chickpeas or edamame are great because they can satisfy a salty/crunchy craving, while being good sources of protein and fiber which will help keep you full for longer.
2. Scope out menus ahead of time.
Before going to a restaurant, review the menu. Look for items that are grilled or baked and avoid mixed dishes like pasta, burritos or stews. These items tend to be packed with more high-calorie foods like butter, oil and cheese. Swap the starch in your dish for an extra vegetable. If you order a salad, ask for oil and vinegar on the side and use mostly vinegar as the dressing. You can also share meals to stick with a healthy portion size, avoid wasting food and save money.
For more restaurant dining tips, click here.
3. Stay active.
Trips are a great opportunity to be active. Stay in a location where you can easily walk to sites and plan activities that will keep you moving. Try a walking tour in a city (most cities offer free ones!), go canoeing or kayaking, plan a hike or get in the water and go snorkeling. If you are staying in a hotel, choose one with free access to a gym or pool.
4. Be realistic.
You should enjoy yourself – it’s vacation! Allow some treats, but be selective. Pick just a couple favorite items to “splurge on” and eat slowly and mindfully so you savor every bite. If you indulge in a waffle cone of ice cream, aim to eat light the rest of the day and stay active.
How do you stay healthy while traveling?
Packing snacks and keeping active – I like those ideas in particular.