Nutrition Vacation Tips

Hybrid Performance Method
September 2, 2019

Reading time: ~10 minutes

Key points

  • Vacations don’t have to derail nutrition progress
  • Using some common sense strategies, you can vacation like a nutrition professional
  • some tips for general tips that apply to all vacations, some tips for day trips, and some
    tips for extended travel by plane.

By Danielle Couture

Vacation season is already here and with that comes some unique nutrition challenges! If you have a trip or vacation planned it’s going to be important for you to have a conversation with yourself about what you’ll need or want to do to stay in line with your nutrition goals!

1.Decide whether you’ll stick to your healthy habits or take a break.

This is the first and most important decision you need to make. This will determine how you approach the trip in terms of your nutrition. The decision is yours to make and I’m not going to “make” you choose one way or the other. I always encourage my clients to enjoy their trip or vacation, especially if it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity (a trip that you don’t often have the luxury of taking that may expose you to different cultures and experiences). How depressing would it be to take a trip to Italy and not experience fresh, authentic pasta because you’re watching your macros to the same degree you do at home? As long as you don’t have a strict deadline for your goals (like making weight for a competition) there’s no reason why you shouldn’t take a more flexible approach when you’re going on a special trip

2. Aim for “better” instead of “perfect”

I often tell my clients that going into a vacation with the mentality that you’re going to do your best and not having the expectation that you’re going to be able to track and be as good as you normally would at home is going to help you stay aligned with your goals in a more positive way. Too often I hear people say “I’m going on a trip but I know I can still track and hit my macros” only to have them come back the next week and say “I messed up, one thing happened that threw me off and I completely went off the rails”. The “better instead of perfect” mentality can help you avoid the “screw it” mentality that can stem from the desire to be perfect. We think all is ruined because on thing threw us off and we use that as an excuse to throw in the towel and go wild with food. By allowing ourselves a little more flexibility and understanding that a vacation is usually not a time for spot-on nutrition, we can make good decisions, enjoy ourselves and not fall into the “screw it” trap.

3. Hunger is not an emergency.

It’s okay to be hungry for a little while. If you don’t like your food options and you feel you could make a better choice, wait it out. Go somewhere else. It isn’t the end of the world. 

4. What are your “minimums”? 

It’s good to go into your vacation with a set of “minimums”. Have a few servings of veggies a day. Have a protein source with each meal. Having a good source of fiber in your breakfast. Keeping your step count up. Drink enough water each day. Having a set of minimums can greatly increase your chances of practicing good decision making.

No matter what happens, you can always fall back on the simple stuff. 

Eat slowly and mindfully until satisfied, 80% full 

It’s important that you let me know of your travel plans so that we can come up with an approach that best suits your goals. We can discuss specific strategies that you can use and make sure that you’re feeling comfortable and confident with the plan!  

Day Trips

Day trips are fun to do in the summer months and with a bit of planning, they don’t have to set

you back with your nutrition goals! Use the following strategies to help you make the best of your day trip!

1. Eat a good meal before you leave the house!
If you’re going to be out of the house for the majority of the day, make sure you have a good breakfast planned before you go! Starting your day off right can help you with making better decisions during the day. Aim to have something high in protein and fiber to help keep you feeling full and satiated!

2. Plan in advance.
If you’re going to be eating meals out, do your best to plan and account for them. Lookup nutritional info if you know where you’ll be going and make a point to plan your day around it. Keep in mind that you may have to make some less than “fun” choices in order to stay aligned with your goals. This may mean that you order a salad or have a small ice cone instead of a triple scoop! You have goals and sometimes you’ll have to put those goals above short term gratification.

3. Pack snacks and/or meals.
There’s nothing wrong with bringing some of your own food to help you stay on track! Bring a cooler or lunch bag and bring some easy to eat foods like fruit, veggies, sandwiches, pre- cooked meats like chicken breast or tuna in a can/pouch, beef jerky, protein powder or bars, nuts, and seeds. Don’t forget to bring some water, utensils, and napkins!

4. Have a back-up!
It can be helpful to have a backup plan if things go sideways. If things don’t go the way you had planned (you forget your food at home, the plans for the day change, you go to a different restaurant, etc). This is when you can rely on things like eating slowly, listening to hunger cues and eating until 80% full. 

You can also do a quick google search of restaurants or grocery stores nearest you and choose some simple things to help you meet your goals! Don’t panic if things don’t go as planned. When we panic, things can get even more out of hand. Remember that one day isn’t going to make or break anything! Do your best and get back to the plan the next day! Below is a list of foods that can usually be found at gas stations so if you’re ever in a pinch, hit up the nearest gas station and look for these!

If you need protein:
– Greek yogurt
– Hard-boiled eggs
– Edamame
– Protein powder
– String cheese
– Protein bars
– Pre-made protein drinks
– Beef jerky

If you need carbs:
– Fresh fruit
– Fruit salad
– Dried fruit
– Whole grain bread, bagels, English muffins
– Pretzels
– Crackers
– Granola/cereal bars

If you need fat:
– Hummus
– Mixed nuts
– Nut butter
– Sunflower seeds
– Guacamole
– Trail mix
– Dark chocolate

Extended Trips and Traveling by Plane
Lots of the tips previously discussed can be applied to longer trips but here are a few more that you can keep in mind to help you stay aligned with your goals while having a great time!

1. Bring food with you if you have a long flight.
Bringing snacks and meals with you if you have a longer flight can help set you up for success and keep you from having to rely on airport/flight food.

Foods that you CAN bring through airport security:

– Sandwiches

– Whole/ cut-up fruits and veggies

– Firm cheeses

– Cooked meat

– Nuts, seeds any dry foods (rice cakes, protein bars, etc.)

Foods that you CANNOT bring through airport security:

– Soups

– Sauces

– Yogurt

– Anything liquid or gel-like (You can take ice packs so long as they’re completely frozen when you go through security)

A lot of people get a little intimidated by what food items you can/can’t bring on a flight. The worst thing that can happen is they take your food away and in that case, you’re no worse off then if you had decided not to take food at all.
If you decide to not bring food for the flight or can’t bring food for any reason do your best to find better options (aim for “better” not “perfect”). If you order food on the flight, order a la carte if possible, opt for “snack packs” if possible as they usually include things like nuts/olives/cheese/meat that you can pick through.

2. Choose accommodations with some kitchen amenities when possible.
This can be extremely helpful as you won’t have to rely on eating out for all of your meals when you’re away. If you’re staying in a hotel, call ahead and ask if your room will have a mini-fridge and/or microwave. If it doesn’t, ask if they can be provided for you. In most cases, hotels will try and be as accommodating as possible (that’s their goal!) so don’t be afraid to ask! If you have a mini-fridge and a microwave there will be tons of ways for you to not only make some good nutrition choices but also save some money by eating out less! Staying in an AirBNB is also a great option. Usually, you can find one with a full kitchen!

3. Head to the nearest grocery store ASAP.
Once you’ve booked your hotel or AirBNB, google search nearest grocery stores as well as restaurants to see what will be available to you during your stay. If possible, as soon as you arrive and check-in at your accommodations, head to the nearest grocery store and stock up on things like premade salads, cut up veggies and dip, deli/pre-cooked meats, fruit, bread for sandwiches, Greek yogurt, instant oatmeal, etc. Things that can be easily stored in your hotel mini-fridge or don’t need to be refrigerated at all and can be easily cooked in a microwave. BY having all these foods readily available you’re much more likely to make smart choices! Looking up restaurants that are close by and taking the time to look at the menus in advance will allow you to have a good idea of what you can get that will best suit your goals while on vacation. Just like when you’re at home, taking the time to plan and knowing your options can allow you to make better choices, stress less about food and therefore enjoying your trip more!

4. Bring food and equipment with you.
Certain foods like protein bars, protein powders, beef jerky or anything that doesn’t need to be refrigerated and doesn’t take up a ton of space in your suitcase can be helpful! If you bring equipment like a shaker bottle, utensils like a spoon, fork and knife, a few plastic containers and a small cooler/lunch bag, you can bring food with you when you’re out for the day.

5. Set your minimums
As discussed previously, it’s always a good idea to have a set of “minimums” that you’ll do each day to help you make the most out of your vacation and keep you aligned with your goals. These minimums can vary from person to person and will be dependent on your goals. Things like hitting your protein goal each day, staying within a certain calorie range, getting a few high fiber meals in each day, drinking enough water, getting a certain amount of steps are all great “minimums” to consider and can provide you with a little more flexibility. Remember that things may not always go according to plan and that’s okay! Aim for “better” not “perfection” and enjoy your vacation!


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