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7 Tips for Eating Healthy Meals on Vacation

I recently hosted an “Ask Me Anything” tele-seminar about planning a road trip. One of the most-requested topics was eating healthy meals on the road.

Eating in restaurants, amusement parks, and on-the-go from gas stations can easily derail healthy eating habits. The good news is that you have more choices now than ever before—and the mobile web will help you find them.

#1. Shop at farmers markets and grocery stores

Farmers market in Kirkwood, MO
Farmers market in Kirkwood, MO

Restaurants and drive-throughs aren’t the only option while on a vacation. Takeout from a local farmers market  gives you the ultimate flexibility on what to eat.

Many farmers markets offer prepared foods too…regional dishes you won’t find at home.

Use your smart phone to find your nearest farmers market or even a farm stand on the farm property, and get step-by-step directions to plan your visit using Google Maps.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Local Food Directories is a fine place to start. It’s just as easy to do a simple web search using the terms “farmers market” and the state or city.

Don’t forget the grocery store! You’ll be delighted to see what’s offered, from soup and salad bars to heartier fare like roasted chicken.

At the grocery, everyone in your family can choose their meal, from sushi to grilled veggie sandwiches.

Bonus: whether your food comes from a farmers market or grocery store, you can select a scenic overview or park to eat your meal in leisure and avoid the barrage of TV screens that distract from meaningful conversation in most restaurants.

Side note: Speaking of apps, I generally prefer single-purpose apps. The more functions developers add the more easily I’m frustrated trying to learn how to use them.

#2. Don’t eat the hotel breakfast just because it’s included in your stay

Ask what’s on the menu before checking in and changing into your pajamas. If healthy fare isn’t on the buffet, make a trip to the grocery store before turning in for the night.

If your hotel offers an exclusive lineup of cereal, pancakes/waffles, muffins and bagels, you’ll be sorry you did the carb load. Get some fresh fruits and veggies and protein to replace or go with that. It doesn’t take a colorectal specialist to predict bloating and constipation if you eat all brown and white foods on the road.

Yes, I did say “colorectal specialist, bloating and constipation” in this blog post! Keeping it real.

#3. Carry snacks and a water bottle

Don’t justify eating poorly because you’re on vacation. Carry your own healthy snacks like nuts, carrots and fresh fruit.

Drink plenty of water from your own water bottle, which can be refilled in your room before leaving in the morning and at drinking fountains throughout the day. If you eat at a restaurant, ask for citrus (lemon, lime, orange) to squeeze into your water bottle and top it off before you leave.

Staying hydrated will stave off headaches and give you a full feeling that prevents “emergency eating.”

Me and Matt at Yellowstone
You can’t see it well, but I’m wearing my CamelBak at Yellowstone

I travel with a CamelBak, which makes hydration on a trail hike super easy. During the hottest months I’ll fill it mostly with ice and let it melt over the course of a few hours as I sip. That has the benefit of keeping me cool as it melts and the water cool as I’m drinking it.

Side note: if you sip water throughout the hour you won’t guzzle it when you realize you’re thirsty. Sipping makes it easy for your body to assimilate the water but if you guzzle, you’ll be looking for the bathroom in 30 minutes.

Another “keeping it real tip” from yours truly.

#4. Eat in your lodgings at least once a day

Even if you’re not staying in a hotel suite with a kitchen, you can eat a healthy meal in your room with what you buy at a grocery store or farmers market.

If your hotel has a breakfast bar that includes boiled eggs, grab a couple of those for a snack or combine them with an apple for lunch. I’ve done this plenty of times in my travels.

#5. Grill your meal

Nothing could be easier than a grilled romaine salad. Easy to prepare even on a road trip. Find a city or state park and look for the grill
Nothing could be easier than a grilled romaine salad.

Cooking out at a park can be a fun and healthy option to restaurant meals. You can grill proteins and vegetables (even lettuce! Charred Romaine is yummy) while controlling portion size and leaving out the chemicals in processed foods.

Remember, most restaurant food is processed. They bring it in on trucks from commercial kitchens a few states away.

#6. Ask for veggies

Many restaurant menu items for adults and kids don’t include a side of fresh vegetables or fruits, but these sides are often available. Ask your server for the restaurant’s healthy side options. I’ve found restaurant servers to be gracious and understanding of these requests.

Require your kids to eat their veggies—just like at home! And if that’s all there is to eat in the car, healthy choices just got easier for everyone.

#7. Remind yourself that healthy eating is part of a fun vacation

Meals are great opportunities to connect with your traveling companions and make new acquaintances. Be adventurous and try new local foods with plenty of  vegetable ingredients.

Instead of eating at a restaurant chain, experience local diners and talk to the local patrons and servers about the area that you’re visiting.

Don’t give up on your goal for healthy eating if you fall off the wagon once in a while. The next bite you take is a fresh start.

I promise, it’s easier than you think to stay on a healthy eating plan while on vacation. If I can do it traveling on a motorcycle, you can do it while traveling in a car.

If you have a tip for eating healthy meals on vacation or a question for me, please leave it in the comments below.

About Tamela Rich

Author Tamela has extensively traveled the U.S. and Canada, delivering her message to Pack Light | Travel Slow | Connect Deep. Her keynotes and workshops include life lessons she has learned through chance encounters on the road.

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