Eating on Vacation: How to Stay Nourished, Hydrated & Satisfied

By Amber Charles, MSPH, RDN

March 15, 2021


As the world continues to adjust to living with the #newnormal, you may consider venturing out and taking a (much-needed) vacation.


You may have a lot of anxiety around eating during a vacation – especially during a pandemic.


What should you eat? How can you stay on top of your nutrition AND enjoy the (foodie) experiences?


What if you go “off course”? Should you be saving your calories to splurge at dinner? Will this vacation stunt your weight loss goals?


If you have spent any time worrying about these or became frustrated: Do. Not. Fear.


This blog has got you covered.


In this blog:

  • Vacation type

  • How to eat healthy on vacation

  • Eating on vacation with diabetes

  • Must-haves

  • Takeaway

Picture courtesy Amber Charles/Tobago vacation 2021


Vacation type

Staycation, domestic or international vacation?


Are all meals included, or just breakfast? Do you plan on trying local favorites, eating out or staying in?


Do you need to purchase your own groceries for the duration of your stay? Do your tours include meals?


Answering these questions will help to put your food environment into perspective and may ease your anxiety by forming the foundation of your #foodie plan.


If all or some meals are provided, feel free to browse the online menu or contact the hotel/resort for additional information.


If you are purchasing foods to prepare your meals or are eating out, scout ahead to determine your food access – what groceries are in the area, restaurants, street foods and meal delivery services?


Maybe you’d have breakfast at the hotel and lunch out on the town. You decide what works best for you and what you’re comfortable with.


This is a key step for the meticulous and stressed planner that is informative, helps you to retain some sense of control and ease anxiety surrounding your upcoming trip.


How to eat healthy on vacation


First thing’s first: eat consistently throughout the day – do not save your calories for later.


Despite your health goals, you do not want to become obsessed with food to the point that you are unable to enjoy your vacation.


The foods you restrict, you’re more likely to binge eat.


Thinking back on vacations, or ahead for new ones, you should feel excited for the overall experiences and not on whether you logged that meal exactly, or that if you went off course from your “diet”.


Understandably, this is easier said than done and you may be struggling with detoxing from #dietculture and trusting your body to guide you.


Here are some practical tips to keep you on track AND allow you the flexibility to have an awesome #foodie experience:


1. Combine your food groups

When possible, combine your food groups for nutritional balance and fullness.


A plate with carbohydrate foods (yes, don’t avoid these), protein foods and vegetables are a simple place to get started, whether you’re eating out or cooking. This may look like grilled fish, mashed potato and steamed vegetables… or a beef burger with sliced tomato or a side of salad!


Balanced eating is diverse and surely is not black or white.


2. Snack with confidence

Whoever said that snacking was bad for you didn’t know what they’re talking about.


Snacking is a great opportunity to fill nutrient gaps, eat for pleasure and avoid getting too hungry between meals.

Especially during a vacation, snacks come in handy while you are on tours that keep you occupied for several hours, or due to new COVID-19 policies that prevent food service in some areas.


Snacks to pack for your trip:

  • Dried fruits

  • Fruit cocktail

  • Chocolate (dark/milk)

  • Trail mix

  • Protein or granola bars

  • Starkist packets of fish or chicken

  • Crackers

  • Utensil packets + napkins

3. Hydrate

With the excitement of your itinerary – and limited availability of drinking water on most trips – it’s easy to become dehydrated.


Keep a reusable bottle of water handy and top up throughout the day. This may be plain water, fruit infused water, or flavored water.


Enjoy other drinks in moderation – juices, alcohol, milkshakes etc.


Eating on vacation with diabetes

For someone with diabetes, eating is not going to be much different from the aforementioned information.


Keep high carb snacks handy to guard against hypoglycemia.


Building a plate that is ½ vegetables, ¼ protein and ¼ carbohydrate foods is the foundation for a balanced meal.


However, make it your own by combining foods that you enjoy within these portions.


If you have type 1 diabetes, pack sufficient insulin for 2 days beyond the expected end date of your vacation as a safety net in the event your trip back home is delayed (given that we are in the middle of a pandemic, things are unpredictable).


If you have type 2 diabetes and are on medication, likewise, pack extra medication to ensure that you do not run out in the event of unforeseen delays.


Keeping up with your walks or other exercise during vacation will support good blood sugar control.


The best way for someone with diabetes to eat on vacation is based on the individualized recommendations made to you by your medical team and/or Registered Dietitian – you may want to schedule a consultation ahead of your trip.


Must-haves

Traveling during a pandemic requires additional attention to detail (check out how to pack for quarantine here).


Some destinations require a PCR test taken within 72 hours prior to arrival, others accept the rapid COVID-19 test. Research which you need and plan your schedule accordingly.


Though not food related, remember to pack your:

  • Disinfectant wipes (wipe your tables prior to eating)

  • Hand sanitizer (pocket size to take around with you)

  • Sufficient disposable face masks and/or shields


Takeaway

Follow these tips for an anxiety-free vacation planning and foodie experience!


Take the pressure off, aim for consistency not perfection and leave room for flexible experiences.


It is possible to nourish your body appropriately and enjoy the foods you eat, without food obsession clouding your well-deserved vacation.



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