Mindy Crockett, a registered dietitian at Utah Valley Hospital, says, "Sometimes we use vacations as a way to take a break or excuse poor nutrition choices. But good nutrition can be practiced wherever you are if you know what to look for and how to prepare."
Following these simple healthy eating vacation tips from Mindy can help you have an enjoyable vacation while sticking to your healthy eating goals.
Healthy Snacks to Bring on a Road Trip
While a caffeinated soda and a bag of candy may be tempting, the sugar/caffeine rush only provides temporary energy. It can later lead to an energy lull and driving tired is not a good situation. To avoid this unhealthy cycle, pre-pack some nutritious, easy-to-eat, easy-to-prepare foods like:
- Apple or orange slices
- Dried frui
- Pre-portioned trail mix
- Raisin boxes
- Low-fat popcorn
- And water
Drinking plenty of water will help you stay hydrated, be more alert, and less prone to excessive snacking. A small cooler is easy to store in the car and can help you keep healthy foods cool and accessible.
What If I'm Already on the Road?
Sometimes the urge for a spontaneous road trip hits and you’re on the open road without a second thought about what to eat. When the hunger bug hits, what will you eat? Don’t let the ease of convenience stores pull you away from your healthy eating goals. If there aren’t any healthy options available at the gas station, it may be worth driving a few extra minutes into a nearby town to find a grocery store.
If you’re in a remote area, and a convenience store is your best option, try to find a variety of snacks that tap into the five food groups: vegetables, fruits, protein, grain, and dairy. Many convenience stores have started carrying low-fat cheese sticks, peanuts in the shell, and single serving pouches of trail mix, which are good snack options.
RELATED: Smart Snacking While Traveling: Four Tips to Make Your Vacation Traveling as Tasty (and Healthy) as Possible
What Should I Eat at a Theme Park?
Riding roller coasters and walking between attractions can build up an appetite, but many theme parks pack high-calorie foods with low nutritional value. You don’t have to go cold turkey on theme park food. Instead, share these high-calorie items with others, which means you eat less while still enjoying the experience. The best option for eating healthy at theme parks is to pack meals and snacks and bring them with you. If this isn’t possible, take a break. Return to the hotel to prepare food, or find a local restaurant that has healthier (and probably more affordable) options.
One very important thing to remember at theme parks is to stay hydrated. Hot summer temperatures in very open theme parks can take a lot out of you and it’s easy to get dehydrated without noticing. Bring a water bottle and drink frequently.
What Should I Eat When on an All-Day Outdoor Adventure?
Outdoor adventures involve a lot of physical activity, which means you’ll need plenty of energy at the beginning, middle and end of the activity. Just as important as planning your outdoor route is planning your food. Perishable foods need to be kept cold with small coolers or ice packs. Because you’ll be on the go, you’ll want foods that pack energy and nutrients without weighing you down. Some good options include:
- Whole-grain cereal
- Dried fruits/veggies
- Pre-portioned trail mix
What About Staying at a Hotel for an Extended Period of Time?
Without access to kitchens in most hotels, it can be difficult to get out of the fast food rut. However, there are a few things you can do to improve your nutrition:
- Try to find a hotel with a kitchenette (a good option for families) and aim to prepare at least one of the meals per day at the hotel. If you're vacationing at a theme park, perhaps take a lunch break and go back to your hotel to prepare lunch. Then you're rested for more fun.
- Split large portions when eating out at a restaurant. It's OK to share an order! Plus, it's often difficult to store and reheat leftovers when staying at a hotel.
- Set specific meal times to avoid grazing on snack food throughout the day.
How Do I Eat Healthy When Staying with Friends and Family?
Friends and family are great, but sometimes they can pressure you to eat differently than you’d like. This can be particularly challenging when staying with them while vacationing. One of the best things you can do is be up front about your food goals and preferences. Family, in particular, may use food as a way of sharing experiences and love. Encourage them to find other ways to express love, such as spending more active time together.;
Eating on vacation can be a headache, or it can be a valuable part of the experience. And often it comes to planning ahead, knowing your options, and sticking to goals.