10 Ways to Eat Healthy While on Vacation

A vacation is a time to unwind, to celebrate, to rejuvenate, to see new
places and try new things. But it can also make you very uneasy about eating –
if, for example, you are trying to eat healthy and maintain or lose weight.
Here are 10 ways to stay on a healthy eating plan while on vacation and still
enjoy yourself!

1. Resist the Urge to Splurge

According to a study led by Linda H. Clemens EdD, RD, of the Consumer
Science and Education Department at the University of Memphis, women tend to
splurge when they eat out, then eat normal amounts during their other meals
that day. This means they end up with an abundance of calories and fat that day
— much more than the body needs!


Clemens believes we should no longer think of eating out as a special treat
and thus give ourselves carte blanche to overindulge.

“Most of us grew up thinking of eating out as an event that didn’t
happen too often,” she explains. But today, many of us eat out on a daily

What has happened to women nutritionally because of this trend? In a study
published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association in 1999, Clemens
and other researchers found that the more often women ate out, the higher the
total calories, grams of fat, and milligrams of sodium their diets

There are probably three main factors that contribute to this overabundance
of calories and fat coming from restaurant meals:

  • We tend to splurge by choosing higher-fat and higher-calorie menu
  • Restaurants are serving us large portions,
  • And we are eating it — all of it.

According to a recent survey by the American Institute for Cancer Research,
67% of Americans say they finish their entrees always or most of the time.
Sometimes, it isn’t what you are eating as much as how much you
eat that gets you into nutritional trouble.

Melanie Polk, RD, nutrition director at the American Institute for Cancer
Research, recommends exercising portion control even in restaurants.

“Some Americans are now ordering half-sized portions, sharing entrees,
taking home leftovers, and ordering appetizers as meals,” she says.


2. Have It Your Way

When it comes to table-service restaurants, customers are asking to have it
their way more and more, according to a recent National Restaurant Association
report. Some 80% of restaurants with meals averaging $25 or higher per person,
and 70% of restaurants with meals averaging under $25 per person, say customers
are more interested in customized menu items now than even two years ago.

What, in particular, are customers asking for? They often want menu items
prepared or dressed a different way than is listed on the menu. People also
like to have a range of portion sizes to choose from, and many diners are
asking to have part of their meal “doggy-bagged.”

3. Enjoy the Scenery and Enjoy the Food

You are on vacation, for heavens sake. It doesn’t make sense to deprive
yourself of an enjoyable food; the trick is carrying “moderation” in
your back pocket. Sample these delectable foods, instead of feasting on

4. Walking Is Your Secret Weapon

I personally never deny myself any foods I want when I travel, and I rarely
put on extra weight. I’m usually sightseeing, which means I’m walking all day,
every day, and this seems to offset any extra calories I might consume. So go
ahead and take that stroll after dinner, swim in that beautiful hotel pool,
take your kids up on that early morning hike!

5. A Treat a Day

How do you pass up strawberry crepes with cream if you are in Paris? How do
you manage to vacation in Hawaii without tasting pineapple cheesecake? How can
you resist stopping at Dairy Queen with the kids and having a chocolate-dipped

The answer is: you don’t. Just try to keep your treats to one a day. After
that, opt for a healthy choice instead.

6. Better Choices on the Menu

Make healthful choices that appeal to you at fast food and restaurants
whenever possible. Why is it important to order more healthful choices only if
they appeal to you? Because if they don’t, you’re going to feel like you are
depriving yourself and resent it.

Sometimes you can make a fast food or restaurant choice instantly better
just by ordering it with a different condiment or sauce (say, Dijon mustard
instead of mayonnaise, or marinara sauce instead of a white sauce).


7. Hide the Mini-Bar Key

You know that little refrigerator that comes with your hotel room that is
filled with all sorts of beverages and candy? Hide the key, it can only lead to
no good — physically and financially.

8. Water Is Your Friend

Keep all systems going by drinking your daily water requirement. Traveling
can dehydrate you, and so can being out in the sun more than your body is used
to. If you can, stock your car, backpack, or hotel room with ice-cold bottles
of water. Bring water everywhere you go.

9. Take “Five a Day” on Vacation with You

Now, more than ever, make an effort to get five servings of fruits and
vegetables a day. It will make meals seem more filling and satisfying. It will
provide enough fiber in your diet, and keep your intestines regular. And it
will keep your levels of antioxidants and important vitamins high so you are
less likely to get sick.

10. Eat When You’re Hungry and Stop When You’re Comfortable

It sounds simple, but many of us have gotten out of the habit of paying
attention to whether we’re truly, physically hungry. Eating opportunities and
celebrations are all around us when we are vacationing, and we’re in the
“I’m on VACATION!” mindset. That’s when we will be the most vulnerable
to eating even if we aren’t hungry and not stopping when we are


SOURCES: Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 1999, 99:442-444

© 2003 WebMD, Inc. All rights reserved.

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