Staying Active and Eating Well on Vacation. Warning: this is a long post.
This time last week, I was in the heart of my vacation in Bar Harbor, Maine. It was amazing. Everything about the vacation fit me and my boyfriend, Chris, so well — the food, the atmosphere, the views, the activities. Ah, the food… one of the biggest stressors pre and post any vacation is usually food or the aftermath of the food. So how do we enjoy our vacations, eat right for our bodies and enjoy the food of the vacation all at the same time? Easy in theory but more difficult in practice — plan, plan, plan. And have self-control. If you plan right and have some willpower, you can stay in control and have a deliciously balanced vacation. Other than securing our ferry and motel, the one and only thing I planned for was eating. More on that in a bit. First, you have to plan and make time for exercise.
Depending on your vacation, you may not even need to carve out time for this, but if your vacation is going to include a lot of beach or poolside lounging, wake up a little earlier and fit in a workout. I don’t care if it’s for 20-30 minutes. Do it. You can do a HIIT workout consisting of a mixture of your favorite exercises or follow the 10 minute total body workout I put together. Warm up by doing some light low-impact moves like easy side shuffles with a punch, light jumping jacks, light squats or going for a 10 minute walk. Then do a 10-15 minute HIIT session and cool down by walking around for another few minutes and stretching. After 30 minutes, you’re done and can go have breakfast with your family. Wherever you are staying, have bananas or some other kind of fruit with you so that upon rising you can have 1/2 a banana or a few pieces of another fruit, drink a cup of water and get to your workout. Always warm up for 5-10 minutes before your workout. If your hotel as a gym, then get down there and do something you like for 30 minutes. Once you’re up, you’ll realize how happy you are that you are making the time to do this and you’ll be more likely to make good decisions for the rest of the day. I strongly believe that laziness fuels weakness and excuses. Those 30 minutes are worth so much more than the 1 minute of dread it takes for you to turn your alarm off and actually pull yourself up out of bed. Trust me. If you have an active trip ahead of you, like I did, you won’t even need to carve out time for a workout.
We didn’t plan much ahead of time regarding activities and sites, which we were both really happy about by the end of the trip. Everything worked out so organically, it served as our relaxation on the trip. Other than that, we were pretty exhausted. We hiked every day for at least 2-3 hours and were typically out and about from 10:30 am-5:00 pm; on our last day we were hiking by 7:45 am and returned back for showers before dinner at 6:00 pm. Our active days made us feel strong and good. We both felt like we got our workout in, so we didn’t feel the need to set aside time for that. This helped us out a lot because we got to workout while having fun, being adventurous and taking in some incredible views. Just look at this:
Hiking for 2 hours while looking at scenery like this? No problem. In case you’re interested, I took these images in Acadia National Park while hiking. The first image is from hiking the cliffside off of Sand Beach, and the second image is on the Carriage Road after we hiked 4.7 miles on the road and around Witch Pond. On the loop back, we came to a stone bridge and found a little path off to the side that led to the stream below. This was the view of the bridge from below:
Our oceanside trail off of Sand beach was somewhere between 2-3 miles and by far our favorite trek. The cliffside was breathtaking. If you want info on Bar Harbor and Acadia, e-mail me and I can give you tips for spots to hit in the park and restaurants to eat in town! Speaking of restaurants and eating, let’s get to the food planning. Remember, we’ve already established that you are getting in some exercise on your vacation, whether it be established workouts or other activity like hiking. Now, how to plan your meals.
First, you have to be prepared for your trip. Chris and I had a 9 hour trek to Bar Harbor from Long Island. This was the distance we covered:
So naturally, I prepared by food shopping before we left. I bought food for us to have in the car and in the room during our stay in Bar Harbor. Our motel had a complimentary continental breakfast, which we all know can be hard to navigate, so I thought about how to deal with that when I saw what was there. I figured there are had to be something we could eat there, so I didn’t stress too much about it. But I made sure I had bananas and granola with us so we could have cereal with banana slices just incase. This is what I bought for our trip:
Step 1: Food Shopping — bring healthy options with you for the car, the room and snacks for your active days.
- Organic Celery
- Pure Coconut Water
- Organic Yogurt Tubes (2 boxes of 8)
- A Brita water bottle with a filter
- Enjoy Life Chocolate Chunks
- Organic Raisins
- Organic Grapes
I probably should have gotten 2 bottles of the coconut water, we drank that fast. And some melon would have been good too, but we did well. I also bought organic carrots but they ended up going bad, so I ditched them. We also had a box of Quest bars, chocolate peanut butter flavor (no sucralose), that were great for after our hikes. We always ate a meal before we got in the car. Don’t start your trip off hungry. In the car, I made a trail mix with the pistachios, chocolate and almonds that tasted amazing and was great for filling us up. Chris left this trip with a new found love for Zico coconut water and Enjoy Life chocolate. He declared that the ice-cold coconut water was the best thing he’s ever had, haha. Dramatic, maybe, but it is pretty great. In the car, each of us also had a banana, a yogurt or two, some grapes, celery and a Quest bar (1 full one on the way there, half on the ride home). These things were great to pick on because they were satisfying and refreshing. We didn’t feel gross after being in the car munching on junk.
Step 2: Meal Planning — choose 1 meal a day to have what you want and have dessert half of the time.
This was a system that also happened organically. I did not plan for this, it just happened as I tried to be systematic and smart with my food choices. The night we got to Maine, it was 9:30 pm and we had been traveling all day. I had a healthy breakfast and lunch, with those healthy snacks along the way. We hadn’t eaten a real meal in roughly 10 hours. So I decided, “Tonight, I am eating whatever I want.” Before leaving for our trip, I had worked out for 10 days straight and ate very clean. I felt zero guilt about diving into whatever I wanted that first night. I was starving and my body was in good shape. This wasn’t going to kill me.
*Important: DO NOT STRESS. Stress will do more harm than good. If it’s going to stress you out, that is your que to skip it.
That first night we shared mussels and tortilla chips with guacamole. Not too bad if you ask me. We didn’t go for anything deep fried or huge. For our meals, we both had lobster rolls. I was not leaving Maine without eating a lobster roll. End of story. So I ordered a lobster roll that came with a side of sweet potato fries and a pickle. I also had a margarita with several glasses of water. For dessert, Chris got an ice cream cone and I got gelato. Mine was seriously an amount for a 6 year old. It was a single scoop of chocolate-hazelnut alongside a single scoop of coconut. Naturally, I had some of Chris”s ice cream cone because it was huge. Counting that first night, we were traveling and vacationing for 6 days. I decided that I was going to have dessert for the first 3 nights and skip it the last 2 nights and the day we traveled back home. I did this because we had a very active trip and I wanted to return feeling the best I could — I could hike off that dessert throughout the trip, right? Yeah.
So you’re only having dessert half the time. A 6 day vacation = 3 nights of dessert. How to have dessert without going overboard:
- Choose something you REALLY want. That first night, I gasped a little bit seeing the gelato. I love ice cream, but I LOVE gelato. So I got gelato. It was a small amount, so a few licks of Chris’s ice cream didn’t freak me out.
- Don’t be afraid to share. Our second night, Chris and I shared desserts. We ordered a blueberry apple crisp (something that also wasn’t big at all) and a chocolate mousse. We shared both, giving each of us a reasonable portion of dessert while getting twice the flavor.
- Make it count. This is really just emphasizing the importance of getting what you want. Getting what you absolutely love and want one night will be so much more satisfying than eating dessert for 5 nights. More satisfaction and less guilt. My 3rd and final night for dessert, I got a medium sized vanilla soft-serve ice cream in a cone dipped in dark chocolate. This is my simple dessert dream come true. I was so delighted and satisfied with this, opting out of dessert for the next 3 days didn’t phase me at all. Seriously.
Your dessert tactic is under control. Now let’s focus on those meals.
If you can, stick to 3 square meals as best as you can. Chris and I always had breakfast and dinner. We had 4 full days in Maine. We went out for lunch twice and had a make-shift lunch out of the foods I brought with us twice. The two days we had a make-shift lunch, we also had a small snack between lunch and dinner. Remember, we were also hiking for hours and out all day. With this system, I chose 1 meal a day to eat whatever I wanted that would typically be not 100% healthy. That doesn’t mean I lost all control and ate some deep fried battered meal. No. I just didn’t think about it as much once a day.
This is how it generally worked:
1. Breakfast: continental breakfast of hard-boiled eggs, 2 bananas and granola cereal. Continental #1 = 4 hard-boiled eggs and 2 bananas; Continental #2 and #3 = 1 hard-boiled egg, 1 banana, and granola cereal with 1 chopped banana. Out to breakfast 1 and 2 = Vegan Oatmeal Apple Spice Pancakes:
This was 2 vegan oatmeal pancakes topped with fresh applesauce and chopped walnuts. No butter and no syrup. I never put either on my pancakes when I’m at a restaurant because it’s not the kind I would have at home. I opt for grass-fed butter and 100% pure maple syrup. I don’t trust the butter or syrup at restaurants, so I skip it. Plus, I didn’t need it with these pancakes thanks to the applesauce.
2. Lunch: we went out to lunch twice. Lunch out #1 = salad and a crab wrap (after continental breakfast #1). I got a salad as an appetizer a lot. I wanted to have some crab while I was in Maine but didn’t want another buttery roll, so I went with a wrap. It was a wrap consisting of lettuce and a light crab salad with a side of potato salad. I actually gave some to Chris. It also came with a kale leaf and lemon, so I drizzled some lemon on the kale and put a scoop of the potato salad inside to make another mini wrap. Delicious. Lunch out #2 = grilled halibut with vegetables and lobster mashed potatoes (after an extremely early morning, hiking, pancakes, mini golf, walking and preparing for a second hike).
This was awesome. We started with steamed clams and a beautiful salad that was 1/2 an avocado filled with crab salad on a bed of greens. Then this was topped with almond butter, which was actually real butter with slivered almonds atop a grilled slice of pineapple. See how deliciously you can eat without feeling guilty? Planning rocks. Make-shift lunch consisted of a Quest bar, grapes and celery. We then would snack on the trail mix I made and have a yogurt. One day we actually went to an all-natural food shop and got green smoothies! That served as our snack instead of the trail mix that day.
3. Dinner: I had 4 dinners in Maine after our first night with the lobster rolls. Dinner #1 = Salmon, wild rice and asparagus.
This was so filling and nutritious. On top of the salmon is a kalamata olive salsa. Yum. Before this we started with mussels again. I love mussels, and I had to get them once or twice while in Maine. Dinner #2 = a grilled veggie and hummus whole wheat wrap with chicken. This meal was our cheap meal, so I didn’t get seafood. This was also our night to let loose a bit. We started with quinoa tabbouleh, very healthy, and nachos — not healthy. I got my wrap and my final dessert that night. Dinner #3 and #4 = LOBSTER. Were you waiting for this? Saying what is wrong with this girl not getting fresh lobster in Maine? I spent the last 2 nights eating a 2 lb. lobster. I hadn’t had a fresh lobster in 10 years. Crazy, I know. I didn’t get any special lobster dinner with 3 courses. I started with a salad and then got a simple lobster dinner consisting of a 2 lb. lobster, 1/2 an ear of corn and a leaf of kale. I also forgot to take a picture of my lobster. Both times.
I was just so excited to eat it, I completely forgot. Which I’m going to say is a good thing. I was having a nice dinner with my boyfriend, sitting outside by the water on our last night with my heart set on snapping a picture beforehand. Instead, I completely forgot. We looked at the water, talked and ate delicious food. I’m happy I forgot to take a picture. I think it means more that I forgot. Out of all the times we ate, I only remembered to take a picture 3 times. Meaning, I was having such a great time in the present that I completely forgot to snap a picture for this blog. And that makes me happy. Which brings me to my third and final point…
Be happy and relax.
Don’t stress. This will do more harm than good and may even make you more inclined to make unhealthy choices. I know this post was very long and not so much a step-by-step guide, but I wanted it to be integrative. I want you to see how I ate amazing food, ate what I wanted but also fit in healthy options while I was on vacation. I hope the way I laid it out makes sense so that you can use it as a guide for when you go on your own vacation. There really are only a few simple rules to follow:
- Make sure you exercise every day.
- Eat dessert only half the time and make it count, while not going overboard.
- Choose 1 meal a day to loosen the strains; best to choose either lunch or dinner.
- Aim to eat 3-4 times a day: 3 square meals or 2 larger meals (breakfast and dinner) with 2 smaller ones in between.
One last point… drinks!
Have you been wondering about cocktails and drinks? I am not a regular or heavy drinker, so this comes easier to me. I have 1 drink a day while on vacation. My last day I had 2 but they were far apart. I chose to have 1 margarita each night with my dinner. Actually, one night I had wine instead of a margarita and it made me so much more dehydrated, so I stuck to margaritas after feeling that. On my last day I had 1 margarita with lunch and 1 with dinner. I could have skipped the one at lunch because I didn’t feel so great at the beginning of our second hike with that in my system and the sun beating down on me. So ladies, that’s how I do it — 1 or 2 a day. If you want more, I would say swap a dessert for a drink one night. Therefore, typically go with 1 or 2 drinks or skip dessert and have a 3rd. If you are going with 3, I would say have 1 with your lunch and your other 2 with dinner. I wouldn’t suggest drinking more than that. But that’s me. It’s up to you. This system also worked with Chris. He typically had 2 beers with dinner, and he only drank twice at lunch. One day he had 1 and felt fine, the final day he had 3 at lunch and did not feel so good, haha. So remember, less is more. You will enjoy it without feeling like crap. You too, guys. For guys, I suggest 1 beer if you go out to lunch and then 2 at dinner, tops.
These guidelines should prevent you from overdoing it. To help yourself out even more, drink lots of cold filtered water and try to get some citrus or mint water if you can. Our continental breakfast had fresh citrus water with orange and lemon. I have a mint plant and should have brought some with us, but I’ve just been having it since I’ve been home. Mint is great for fighting cravings and feeling light and refreshed. Coconut water is great for when you’re outside a lot, too. Hydrate and replenish.
Tomorrow I will be posting “How to Recover from Vacation.” This will be a full guide on how to eat, drink and work your way back into your routine and normal size. If you come back from vacation weighing a little more than usual, it’s likely just water weight. In 2-3 days, you can be back to normal. Trust me. It’s best to avoid the scale immediately after vacation and traveling. Give your body 3 days to adjust and get back into the swing of things. The important thing is to enjoy your vacation. Be smart, well planned and you’ll have nothing to fear.
Good food. Good tips. Good moves. Good for you.
xo Kim, Running on Good