Health Break | Published July 4, 2005 | Written by Erica Auker & Joeleen Davis

Take A Healthy Diet With You On Vacation

It’s that time of year again when we’re all in need of a break! The weather is heating up, it is bathing suit season, and final touches are being placed on family vacations. Although it can be very tempting to dismiss your healthy eating habits and exercise routines while sunbathing on the beach, it is possible to make healthy choices and keep those extra “I’m on vacation” pounds off. Besides, you just worked so hard to slip into that two-piece bikini, right?

The temptations start at the very beginning of vacation with traveling. Whether you go by car, plane, or train, there are ways to still eat healthy.

First, don’t leave home hungry. You’ll be more likely to make poor food choices if you’re ravenous. Start your trip with a balanced meal or snack before you leave. Also, pack a cooler and Ziploc bags with healthy food to eat on the way to avoid stopping at fast food restaurants. Some good choices include:

  • Sandwiches (turkey, ham, tuna, peanut butter and jelly)

  • Fresh or dried fruit

  • Bagels

  • Granola bars

  • Yogurt

  • String cheese

  • Crackers (with cheese or peanut butter)

  • Veggies – baby carrots, celery sticks, broccoli spears

  • Nuts – peanuts, almonds, cashews (keep the serving to a handful)

  • Trailmix

  • Popcorn

  • Bottled water

When you get to your destination, continue to make healthy food choices. Start by planning what meals you will eat in the house or hotel. Make a grocery shopping list, and stick to it. And do not go shopping hungry!

When eating out, select items with little fat and salt. Also, watch your portion sizes. If your meal is bigger than you head, take half home and enjoy it the next day.

Be active on your vacation. Go for a long walk everyday. If you go to the beach, go swimming and play games in the sand with your family and friends instead of sunbathing. Many hotels have a fitness center; take advantage of it.

No matter what type of vacation you prefer, there is a way to include physical activity. Below are some more ideas to burn those extra calories:
  • Stretch before bed for more energy and to reduce stress.

  • Vary your physical activity to fight boredom.

  • Take the stairs.

  • Park farther from destinations and walk.

  • Swim with your kids.

  • Wear a pedometer and track your 10,000 steps each day.

  • Break activity up into three 10-minute intervals each day.

Take small steps today. You don’t have to wait until vacation to start eating healthy and changing habits. Follow these healthy guidelines now to make those vacation temptations easier to avoid:
  • Use fat free milk.

  • Select lean meat and poultry.

  • Eat more fiber.

  • Select Calorie free beverages.

  • Use a smaller plate to reduce portion size.

  • Grill, steam or bake foods.

  • Use vegetable oils over solid fats.

  • Don't skip meals.

  • Choose fruit for dessert.

  • Eat and drink in moderation.

  • Don't skip breakfast.

  • Stop eating when you are full.

  • Snack on fruits and vegetables.

  • Top your favorite cereal with apples or bananas.

  • Include several servings of whole grain food daily.

  • Try a green salad instead of fries.

  • Drink lots of water.

  • Use nonfat or low-fat dressings and other condiments.

So, the only things you should leave vacation with are those souvenirs and beach T-shirts you just had to have, not with a few extra pounds to carry home.

Vacation is the time to break away from our daily routine and lifestyle, but it can be done in a heart-healthy way. By enjoying your favorite foods in moderation and including daily physical activity, you can have your cake and eat it too!

Erica Auker and Joeleen Davis are registered dietitians and clinical dietitians at Mount Nittany Medical Center.