Vacationing: The Healthy (er) Approach, Nutrition Edition

Figuring out exactly how I was going to write this blog was quite the challenge, to say the least. The day before I left for my epic Philly / NYC vacation (which was absolutely fantastic, by the way), I had made up my mind that I was going to log my food intake and show you guys a realistic approach to eating healthy on vacation . But that didn’t happen … for many reasons:

  1. I forgot (lol)
  2. I really don’t feel like sharing how much New York pizza I consumed (worth it)
  3. It’s vacation! I’m not going to log my food intake!

Wait, what?!? You didn’t stress over your diet for a WHOLE WEEK ?! And you call yourself a dietitian in training ?! You bet I do. As I said in my previous blog , vacations are all about doing fun and adventurous things that you wouldn’t normally do. They are about soaking up the experience, living like a local would in whatever area you choose to go. So you best believe your girl thoroughly enjoyed a Philly cheesesteak, cannolis from a famous Italian bakery, and some out-of-this-world New York pizza!

So, the goal of this blog remains the same: I want to show you guys a REALISTIC approach to eating healthy on vacation.

1) Travel Lite-ly

When on vacation, I want to indulge in real, authentic, and delicious food. I don’t waste my time on crap, and neither should you. When do we usually eat the most crap on vacation? If you guessed the car, you’re right. (Hello box of Cheez-its.) The good news is, this pitfall is very easy to avoid. Just stock your car with healthy alternatives… and nothing else. Out of sight, out of mind.

For example, the day before hitting the road, my mom and I prepped some healthy and filling snacks to eat on the long car ride ahead of us. Bringing nutritious snacks for the road (or the sky if we are flying) not only limits my family’s stops and cravings for dollar-value cheeseburgers, but also keeps us from biting each other’s heads off. My family doesn’t do well without food.

My mom, sister, and I riding the subway in NYC.

Here’s what my family brought:

  • A box of Clif Builder’s Bars
  • A big ol ’container (34.5 oz to be exact) of dry roasted peanuts
  • Homemade fruit salad
  • Bananas
  • Roasted chickpeas (check out the recipe HERE)
  • We usually pack sandwiches in a cooler as well, but, for this trip, we treated ourselves to Grilled Chicken Cool Wraps from Chick-Fil-A (:

2) Ensure At Least ONE Nutrient-Dense Meal a Day

Just a small preview of our incredible VRBO in Queens

Just ONE nutritious meal. Anyone can do that!

Heading off to explore the great cities of Philadelphia and NYC, I knew that lunch and dinner were going to be eaten out. So, ensuring that those meals would be nutrient-dense was essentially impossible, as my family and I usually pick a restaurant on the fly. However, I ALSO knew that, to save money, my family always eats breakfast at our VRBO (great website… definitely recommend.) Therefore, I always purchase specific breakfast items at the grocery store to ensure my breakfast is packed with wholesome and healthy nutrients.

For this vacation, my breakfast was as follows:

  • 2 cups of 1% milk (following my morning run / workout)… for quick and easy carbs and protein

About 30-60 minutes later:

  • 2-3 scrambled eggs with a slice of cheese (cooked in ~ 1 teaspoon butter)… for filling fats and protein
  • ⅓ cup of dry oats cooked with ⅔ cup of milk… for healthy carbohydrates and fiber

In all honesty, I would actually recommend that everyone’s ensured-healthy meal on vacation be breakfast, because we all know how starting the day off with nutritious fuel to fill our tanks can be so critical, especially when walking 7+ miles a day in the city (also worth it.)

As an added bonus, I would definitely keep a stash of healthy snacks (see the section above) with you at all time. No one wants to be hangry on vacation, am I right ?!

3) Live a Little

Back when I was dealing with my eating disorder, I used to pack all my breakfasts, snacks, and lunches with me any time I went on vacation. For dinner, I would usually order a boring salad or some sort of pathetic chicken dish with absolutely no flavor or pizzaz. Dessert was out of question. No exceptions, even if it was my birthday.

I like NY pizza, okay ?!

As I embarked on my road to recovery, I asked myself one day: “ If I pack all my food, never explore what a region has to offer, stress out about eating “healthy”, and micromanage every eating situation, is it even vacation ?! ” The answer is no; it was absolutely NOT vacation when I did these things. I believe this applies to everybody.

So live a little. I mean really, how often do we hard-working people get a chance to go on vacation? Once, maybe twice, a year ?! So enjoy yourself; that’s what vacationing is all about. If you’re in Philly, get yourself a dang Philly cheesesteak! If you walk by a 100+ year-old famous Italian bakery, march in there and buy yourself a cannoli! One week of eating some meals here and there out of pure enjoyment is not going to kill you, I promise!

4) Eat Mindfully

While I fully support treating yourself to some great food on vacation, I want to make it clear that this is not a free pass to overeat. You can get some heavenly New York pizza, but that doesn’t mean you should force yourself to eat 15 slices of it.

“The Lamb Sampler” from an authentic Greek restaurant

At Elite Nutrition and Performance, we advise our clients to eat mindfully. To explain, we tell clients to imagine a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 being you are so starving you could eat your own leg and 10 being you are beyond the realms of Thanksgiving full.

On vacation, I eat to a level 7, what I call “comfortably full.” I find that “7” is the level that will leave me satisfied and full for 3-4 hours, but it also won’t leave me feeling like crap. The best way to be aware of your level is to eat at a reasonable pace . I know the food is amazing but, like your mom said, if you eat too fast, you will get a tummy ache. Scientifically speaking, eating fast doesn’t give your brain and your stomach time to register that you’re full until it’s too late. Plus, when you have a great plate of food, you’ll want to savor it anyway (:

5) Avoid Guilt

The real-deal biscotti xoxo

A few months ago, I read an article about the worst thing you can ever eat. When I clicked on the article, I was expecting to read something about trans fats or high fructose corn syrup. But it turns out, according to the article, the worst thing you can ever eat is guilt. This really hit home for me. All food is fuel, even the food that society perceives as “unhealthy.”

When on vacation, and all the time for that matter, allow yourself to really enjoy what you are eating. If you veer away from your nutrition plan during a typical week day, learn from it. But don’t ever feel guilty. If you put your nutrition plan on the back burner for the few days you are on vacation, enjoy it guilt-free. You work hard the other 358 days of the year. Allow yourself to loosen up for the other 7. Everyone needs a recharge. It’s healthy for you.

So no guilt on vacation, okay?!?


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