Traveling Light

How to Stay Fit and Healthy While on Vacation

Vacations are about getting away from it all, but if you completely abandon your commitment to health and fitness during your time away, you’ll need a vacation from your vacation when you return. With a little forethought and mental fortitude, you can enjoy an incredible getaway without sabotaging all the hard work you put into diet and exercise the other 51 weeks of the year. Here are 10 ways to ensure you return with lasting memories rather than extra pounds.

Bring Your Own Snacks

Vacations begin at the airport or in the car, where it can be tempting to grab chips and candy bars from newsstands or gas stations to satisfy cravings. Instead, bring snacks from home, like cut veggies and hummus, individually-wrapped cheese sticks, or packets of nut butter and pretzels. As you look ahead to your vacation, think more about snacks you can tuck into your suitcase that don’t need to be refrigerated, like protein bars, almonds and cashews, beef jerky, tuna pouches, non-perishable smoothie squeeze packs or even protein powder that can be added to smoothies, oatmeal or yogurt.

Step Away from the Mini Bar

The mini bar in your hotel room is loaded with salty, sugary snacks that can derail your diet. But, since you’ve brought your own snacks, you won’t need them, right? If not, hit a local grocery store or farmers market and stock up on fresh fruit, pre-cut veggies and yogurt cups that you can stash in your hotel fridge.

Eat Breakfast

Take advantage of the breakfast or brunch buffet at your hotel to fill yourself up with protein and fiber so you won’t bonk during your afternoon activities and go scavenging for snacks. Bypass the chocolate chip pancakes and waffle with whipped cream and think lean protein like eggs, fruit, and whole grains such as whole wheat toast or oatmeal. Follow the same rules if you go out for breakfast and your energy levels will stay up until the afternoon.

Indulge Once a Day

Yes, it is a vacation, so you should enjoy some special treats. It’s especially nice if you partake in local cuisine and sample items you can’t get at home. Think fresh croissants in Paris, or deep dish Chicago pizza in Chicago. Just try to limit your indulgences to one each day so you’re not overloading your body with calories it won’t be able to burn at every meal. Mind your portion size, eat slowly and savor every delicious bite.

Eat Local

Instead of eating calorie-dense meals at fast-food joints and chain restaurants you recognize, seek out local restaurants that serve fresh, regional products for traditionally prepared foods with fewer processed ingredients. You’ll discover the specialties of the area while also getting healthier meals that include fresh fruits and vegetables.

Walk Everywhere

Checking out a new city or beach or mountain town on foot is a great way to explore while also burning off those extra treats. So is walking through Museums, gardens and downtown shops. If your destination is less than a mile away, walk, especially if it’s for meals; the walk after you eat is also a great way to facilitate digestion and make room for your next meal. Just remember to bring comfortable shoes!

Stay Hydrated

Dehydration is very common when traveling, especially if you’re flying to your destination. Bring a refillable water bottle to the airport and fill it once you clear security, and take advantage of those yummy, fruit-infused waters provided in many hotel lobbies. Pay special attention to hydration if your vacation is an active one and you’re sweating in the heat. Remember, as a rule of thumb, experts recommend dividing your bodyweight in pounds in half to get your recommended number of ounces of water per day; that is, a 180-pound man should drink 90 ounces, while a 140-pound woman should drink 70.

Mind Your Beverages

While you may be tempted to order piña coladas and mai tais while on vacation, cocktails with fewer calories and less sugar can be just as enjoyable. Try light beer, or mix your alcohol with just seltzer water, a splash of fruit juice and a squeeze of lemon or lime. Steer the kids away from virgin daiquiris and sodas and toward seltzer with fruit juice as well. And remember, drinking from dawn until dusk – and beyond – is going to exponentially increase your caloric intake. Try keeping cocktail hour to an actual hour. 

Stay Active

While many vacation plans understandably revolve around food, try planning one activity a day that does not. Play beach volleyball. Take a bike or snorkel tour. Try surfing, kayaking or paddle boarding. Go for a hike. Play a round of golf. Walk through a local art exhibit. Anything that gets you moving and creates a clear break between times of eating will do your body good.

Exercise Early

If you plan on maintaining an exercise routine on your vacation, get it in first thing in the morning. Once the day fills up with activities with your spouse, kids or friends, or once you’re parked poolside, you’re unlikely to shift gears back into workout mode. If the hotel doesn’t have a gym, try an online yoga class or a tabata workout of pushups and air squats in your hotel room.