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A Dietitian's Guide: How to Stick to Your Nutrition Goals While Traveling

girl eating healthy on vacation

With Memorial Day getaways and summer vacations around the corner, many of us may wonder, "Is it possible to stick to my nutrition goals while traveling?"

In short, yes! With some strategic planning beforehand and by actively using our tips & tricks while away, you’ll be able to make progress on your goals, feel good in your body, and enjoy your (much deserved) vacation.

When visiting new destinations, it's natural to want to immerse ourselves in the local cuisine, replacing our regular eating routines with food on the go or delicious restaurant dishes. Food is an essential part of experiencing a new place and should be enjoyed! However, after a few days of indulging in unfamiliar dishes and eating out, it's common to experience discomfort like bloating, constipation, or overall tiredness.

Instead of restricting or feeling guilty, approach food mindfully and with balance. With some preparation, you can enjoy your trip while maintaining your nutrition goals.

Keep reading for our dietitian-designed guide that will help you enjoy your destination while staying mindful of your nutrition goals.

Pack Smart Snacks: Whether you’re road tripping or flying to your destination, don't leave home without plenty of healthy, portable snacks. Having nutrient-dense bites on hand prevents you from getting overly hungry and resorting to less nutritious options like gas station snacks or unpredictable food at the airport (not to mention the airport prices!).

Great travel snacks include fresh fruit, raw veggies, individual nut packs, whole grain crackers, jerky, energy bars, and single-serve packets of nut butter.

Stay Hydrated: Proper hydration is key for regulating appetite, boosting energy levels, and keeping digestion on track – all things that help you make better food choices.

If you're driving or flying, travel with a reusable water bottle and fill it up as you go. Having a water bottle on hand makes it easier to remember to hydrate, especially in hot destinations.

A large part of vacation is often alcohol; limiting the sugars in alcoholic drinks and opting for a liquor + soda water + lime instead is a healthier choice (and helps you avoid a dreaded hangover). Alcohol dehydrates the body, so be sure to pair one drink with 1-2 glasses of water while drinking, and have a large glass before bed, too.

Choose Smart Breakfasts: Starting your day with a filling, balanced breakfast sets the tone for the remainder of your day. Being sure to nourish your body properly early on in the day can help you make smarter choices when out and about, decreasing the need for snack foods later.

If breakfast is happening at the hotel, choose options like Greek yogurt, fresh fruit, eggs, and oatmeal. If dining out, look for dishes with lean protein, whole grains, fruits, and veggies to provide staying power and give you energy to enjoy your day.

Incorporate Movement: Exercise is great for giving us energy, pumping nutrients throughout the body, and for boosting metabolism; But, it’s likely that movement will look different when you’re away from home!

Incorporating some form of movement into your daily routine can not only help you feel more energized but also provide a welcome break from the demands of sightseeing and navigating unfamiliar places. Seek out opportunities to stretch your legs and engage your body in enjoyable ways. This could involve taking leisurely strolls through charming neighborhoods, participating in local fitness activities like yoga classes or outdoor excursions, or simply exploring the hotel's amenities, if available.

Dining Out Tips

Before Going Out: Instead of arriving at the restaurant overly hungry, have a small snack focused on fiber + protein. This strategy will help you feel fuller without totally sabotaging your appetite. As a result, you’ll eat to a point of happy satisfaction, instead of overeating.

Research Before You Go: Being prepared is foundational for any nutrition habit, and, since travel often leads to an increase in eating out, the best way to come prepared is to research the menu in advance. Get a good idea of what foods will be available to you so you know that there will be something you’re excited about ordering and something you know you’ll feel good about eating!

Have Veggies First: Our body still needs all the essential nutrients from whole foods, and the best way to make sure we’re getting enough is to start with veggies or a salad first. You’ll feel good knowing you included these nutrient-dense foods, and you’ll be able to enjoy *just* the right amount of the bread basket, too.

Control Your Portions: Dining out can be accompanied by a pressure to finish everything on your plate. But, getting leftovers is better than overeating at the table! Ask for ½ of the meal to be portioned to-go, before the food comes to the table. Or, choose an appetizer or lunch option with veggies or a salad on the side. You’ll get to enjoy the food without feeling miserably full.

Treat Yourself, Intentionally: There’s room for a sweet treat in every diet, and vacation is no exception. If anything, trying the desserts around the world is a must! But, this doesn’t mean we have to have one at every meal. A great dessert can actually become the highlight of a trip by mindfully choosing to enjoy it. Instead of feeling bloated and on a blood sugar rollercoaster, the dessert can be the perfect ending to a wonderful meal or the perfect end to a great trip.

With these tips, you'll stay energized, satisfied and feeling your best throughout your travel. Enjoy your trip while still honoring your nutrition needs!

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