How to Eat Well & Enjoy Your Vacation

Summer time and the livin’ is easy – so naturally it’s time to take a few precious days off and kick up your feet.

Even if your schedule is crammed with BBQ’s, kids’ camp carpool, and a multitude of other events, life moves slower in the summer and most of us save and save and save up our carefully coordinated vacation time for a few glorious days out of town. Whether it be just a weekend getaway or a “bucket list” worthy adventure, summer is universally a time for traveling. But despite being in the thick of bathing suit season, the inevitable war-cry of “screw it! I’m on vacation!” could wreak havoc on your eating habits long after the suitcases are un-packed.

But sticking around town in the sticky weather isn’t the only way to cure a case of the vacation inspired “eff its”. The key? Always be prepared. 

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

If your traveling is taking you far, far away from here, that’s when your routine really can easily go out the window. While you’re in uncharted territory, it’s easy to write off bad choices as “survival”, swearing to yourself there can’t possibly be any other options. And quite honestly – it’s okay to give in to some of your temptations. Seriously! Vacation should not be stress - it's vacation after all! Starting off with the attitude that it’s okay to indulge will actually help because you will be less inclined to defiantly say “to hell with this” twenty minutes into your trip.

Start by planning out the first twenty-four hours. Keep your routine for as long as you can, have a great breakfast (try your hardest not to leave it up to airport food chance), and even try to pin down the first place you’ll dine in advance and have some concept of the menu, just like you would locally.

From there on out, the best attitude to have is one of freedom without having a free-for-all. If you’re in Boston and just HAVE to try to the chowder, try the chowder. Just try and stick to a cup instead of a heaping bread bowl. In this case, I consider alcohol to be “free” so you don’t have to factor that into your day.

Try to start every day off with a good breakfast. Even if you hit the breakfast buffet every day, there’s bound to be a good egg option, some whole wheat toast and fresh fruit. You’re at your most motivated in the morning and can control your choices more easily. You might be surprised that vacations don’t have to be the daunting beasts they seem – with all the activities and plans, you’re probably not snacking out of boredom or mindlessly munching and you're likely moving more than on a typical day.

Most importantly, when the party is over and you’re back home don’t let “real life” be your undoing. Don’t beat yourself up to get back on track immediately but slowly work your way back to your normal routine. Also be prepared for your first night back. Instead of ordering greasy Chinese takeout the minute you unlock your door, grab a controlled frozen meal from your pre-stocked freezer. 

Beach Bummin’

Spending your valuable vacation time at a beach house might seem safer than skipping town entirely – you stock the food, you can cook your own meals – but that doesn’t absolve you from the same “I’m on vacation” mentality. Plus, you are open to the mindless munching and snack attacks that might get overlooked on an overbooked trip.

Stock your summer spot with good-for-you goodies, but be realistic – if you’re only equipped with fat-free goods and dietary delights, it’s almost a sure thing that you’ll be high tailing it to the local ice creamery once that “it’s vacation” mentality sneaks in. Plus, if your traveling companions are active, svelte kiddos, the snacks will be an unavoidable factor as well. Burger cookouts and visits to the local crab shack don’t have to be your undoing. Let yourself have the number one thing you’re craving and you’ll be more likely to reel it in from there.

It’s a lot easier to stick to a healthy breakfast when you stock the house yourself, and you can even masquerade a little exercise as a shell-collecting excursion.

Beach day munchings can be easily maintained because you can pack up your cooler in advance. Again, make great choices but be realistic – salads will suffer on the sand dunes so wrap your fixin’s in any healthy wrap (La Tortilla, Siete, and Maria & Ricardos make great options).

Just because you’re at the same spot you spent every childhood summer, doesn’t mean there’s no adventures to be had. Plan a few day trips instead of spending every day flopped on a beach towel. Even if it’s just a visit to the next town over’s flea market, it can make the annual vacation seem new and exciting every year. Plus, then you’ll spend the days you do plan on just taking it easy, actually taking it easy.

Happy trails!

Heather Bauer

Heather Bauer is a nationally recognized nutrition expert, author, and entrepreneur.

She brings her fresh and inspiring approach to diet to prime time spots on Good Morning America, CNN, CBS, The Talk, Access Hollywood Live and The Tyra Banks Show. And she's featured in the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and People Magazine. 

Heather is the author of two best-selling nutrition and diet books, The Wall Street Diet and Bread is the Devil, and has regular columns on The Huffington Post and USNews where she writes about the latest trends.

She is the founder of Bestowed, the leading product discovery platform for health-conscious consumers, and has an active nutrition counseling practice in NYC, which she founded in 2001.

Heather is a Registered Dietitian (RD) and a New York State Certified Dietitian-Nutritionist (CDN). She graduated from The University of Wisconsin with honors and is a member of the American Dietetic Association (ADA) and the New York State Dietetic Association (NYSDA).