Fitness
The Key to Nutritionally Navigating Your Vacation

The Key to Nutritionally Navigating Your Vacation

The Key to Nutritionally Navigating Your Vacation

The pre-vacation fitness freakout

Woohoo! Vacay!  Let’s have some fun!

Oh, but wait…vacay…more eating on the road, more dining out, more alcohol, more indulging. Hm. What about my gains?  What about my macros?  What if I gain it all back? I don’t wanna lose my progress!

Oh no! Vacay! Let’s have some stress!

I applaud you for whatever fitness or weight loss effort and progress you’ve made, but honey, this is not what a “fitness” mindset should sound like.

I’ve been doing this fitness journey things for a few years now and I’ve learned a thing or two about balance, consistency, and perseverance. Don’t let something like a vacation stress you out and get you down.

To YOLO or not to YOLO?

I’m not gonna blow smoke and tell you that I never worry about weight gain or missed workouts, vacation or no vacation.  I very much enjoy feeling lean, strong, and comfortable, and the thought of being bloated, tired, and uncomfortable is just ick. But it happens. Because I also very much enjoy enjoying myself on vacation.  I like to try the new-to-me brewery beers and sample the never-been-to-before restaurant food.  I like to “splurge” on snacks I don’t normally eat, and “treat” myself to dessert.

Usually this translates to feeling a bit puffy and uncomfortable.  Not always, but moderation is hard when hey! I’m on vacation! But look, “splurges” and “treats” are really just food. And you are more than allowed to freaking eat, my friend.

That being said, sometimes I find myself overindulging often and/or snacking uncontrollably when I travel.  This doesn’t make me, or you for that matter, a bad person. We’re human. And food is delicious.  But man, the discomfort that comes along with too much of it can be a bitch.

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The aftermath

The bloat and weight gain repercussions, though temporary, are annoying to deal with and manage after all the vacation fun is over. Not gonna lie. I’m still coming down from my camping season, summertime, Memorial Day through 4th of July weight gain. It’s currently the last day of July and I’m writing this from the travel trailer dinette on our first day of a weeklong family summer vacation camping trip.  Distracting myself from the animal crackers, marshmallows, and kettle corn calling to me from the cabinets.

The conundrum

How on earth are we supposed to navigate eating while on vacation when we’re torn between YOLO and FOMO? Unfortunately it’s not a clear cut answer. There’s no “fix” to keep us from overeating 100% of the time, and abstinence is certainly not a “solution.” Because abstinence is restriction. And restriction leads to overeating.  It’s a vicious cycle of one unhealthy relationship with food to another.

Keep reading to learn the KEY to Nutritionally Navigating Your Vacation and feeling like a total boss next time you jet-set, road-trip, or stay-cay.

I’ll tell you how

The key to nutritionally navigating your vacation.  This is it, folks.  Everything else will fall into place after you master and adapt this one, seemingly simple mindset. Here it comes…You must lose the “forget it, I’m already screwed” attitude.

Because you’re not. Your day is not shot or ruined, no matter what you might think. Food should be enjoyed without guilt, and saying “eff it” and eating everything in sight because you had a spongy, delicious cupcake or some salty, perfectly crispy yet fluffy fries? That’s punishment, yo.

You heard me right

Yes, punishment. Typically people think the punishment for indulging or overindulging is to withhold food, but eating yourself sick is just as cruel!  Don’t try out either end of the spectrum because you think you screwed up. You didn’t. You ate food. Period. To starve yourself or to binge are not your only options moving forward.

This is where the almighty, magical, almost mythical, idea of balance waltzes in. You make the next choice. You are in control. What you say goes. So make yourself proud. At the end of the day, you want to feel happy, comfortable, free, satisfied, and content.  You have the power to create that feeling for yourself, regardless of what you’ve already eaten.

You’re reading The Key to Nutritionally Navigating Your Vacation. Read on to learn HOW to live your best life on vacation AND keep to your fitness and weight loss goals while doing it!

Balance can be lopsided

Even if something you ate isn’t all-the-way “salveable,” meaning you can’t balance out the indulgence entirely throughout the rest of the day, just remember – every little bit counts.  Every effort and choice matters. Maybe instead of potato chips on the side of your sandwich you choose veggies.  Perhaps instead of 3 beers with dinner you have 2. It doesn’t have to be anything drastic, and I promise you your fun time won’t be ruined. In fact, you’ll be more present with your family and friends without being distracted by your level of discomfort.

Bottom line: do your best

Leave the past where it belongs and move forward the best way you know how. That’s it. Do your best. Ultimately you want to make yourself feel good mentally and physically. If eating ice cream is good for your soul, do it. Then eat something that’s better for your body from a nutritional standpoint at your next meal or snack.  It sounds so simple, doesn’t it?  Well, it’s not. But you can do it. Because you can do hard things.  In this case, the hard thing you need to do is believe in yourself, and show yourself kindness, grace, and respect. Heavy shit.

It’s not as bad as you think

I am a die hard macro tracker. I love it. For some stupid reason it brings me calm. When I am on vacation, I usually plug my food into myfitnesspal throughout the day, or all at once at the end of the day.  Sometimes this can be tricky when I don’t have a food scale, or I have restaurant food or drink that doesn’t have clear cut nutrition information available. In these cases I just estimate. I use random, comparable myfitnesspal entries, or enter in the individual ingredients as best I can. Close enough is close enough. Don’t get me wrong, some days I go overboard or just don’t care enough to piece my day together. I’ll quit logging for the day and decide to just start fresh tomorrow.

RELATED POST: Calorie Cycling: Why I Cycle My Calories and Why it Might Be Right For You, Too

I bring this up because this next nugget of information is important for the macro/calorie tracker and non-food logger, alike.  Get this: When I log my “over the top” food intake, I almost always find it wasn’t as bad as I thought.  Whether I have access to accurate nutrition panel information, or simply choose and estimate similar meals within the myfitnesspal app, it doesn’t matter. I plug in my food and the numbers that pop up usually don’t make me cringe.  Sure, sometimes they can be WAY higher than my typical day, but they’re never as ridiculously exaggerated as they are in my head.

You can always turn it around

My mind is just playing tricks on me. Seeing that what I ate isn’t actually capable of bulldozing my progress, so long as I nip it in the bud, helps me do just that. Whether from one day to the next, or one meal to the next, you always have an opportunity to change the trajectory.  You can either keep punishing yourself for enjoying food by making yourself sick with it, or you can allow yourself to truly enjoy the food and carry on, fully in control of your next choice.

The real challenge

But Rachelle, you say, what if I want to overindulge multiple times per day?!  It’s doable.  I mean, duh, overindulging is easy, so of course it’s doable. What I mean to say is it’s doable to overindulge multiple times in a day AND still feel good at the end of the day.  How?  By having a plan.  For instance, if a gigantic brunch complete with mimosas and Bloody Marys is what you really want (and who doesn’t?!), go have brunch!  Pizza for dinner later that same day? Oh my, yes! Get your pie on.

RELATED POST: Why a “Bad” Diet Day is Actually a Good Thing

Nobody cares. Bon Appétit! 

Who cares if you’re over your calorie goal now and then!? No one but you, and going back to the whole “cut yourself some slack” thing, let yourself live your best damn life during the what? 1-3x per year that you ever really get a true vacation? This is an exception, not the rule. Living the 80/20 lifestyle, you can indulge and eat crappier for over 2 months of the year! And still be considered consistent and still see progress.

RELATED POST: Why Your Fitness and Nutrition Routines Should be Totally Average

By allowing yourself to be over calories guilt free, you can focus on fully enjoying your brunch and pizza, the experience, and the people you’re with. Now for my tricks & tips to feeling good at the end of a day. Even after getting some pizza down your pie hole and having your pancakes and eating them, too! Because how you feel, physically and mentally, has a huge impact on how you are able to enjoy yourself, your family and friends, and your vacation.

Nutrition on Vacation is tough to navigate sometimes.
I ALWAYS gain a few pounds over the summer and camping season! S’mores, burgers, chips, and beer! And you know what, I’m cool with it. As long as I don’t feel like absolute garbage, I consider it a win.

Now you know the key to nutritionally navigating your vacation is ditching the “welp, today is already shot” mentality. Focusing on nutrition on vacation can be a challenge. Accept that being nutritionally perfect is an unreasonable goal. Shift your priorities from hitting your numbers or eating clean to feeling healthy, happy, and strong. Here are my four biggest tips for living your best life in control, and staying on track during your next vacation!

1. Enjoy less healthy foods in moderation.

Whether you weigh and log food or not, you probably have some clue that fries are full of fat and oil. And things like strawberries and carrots are nutrient rich and low in calories. Whether we like to admit that or not, deep down we all know it’s true.

Eating a handful or two of French fries likely won’t make you feel like your gut is full of lard and a 5-lb sack of potatoes. You can go about your day, sight-seeing and relaxing comfortably.

On the other hand, eating a ginormous plate of fries way past the point of fullness might make you sluggish, tired, and regretful. You’ll be distracted by your discomfort, or the need to find a restroom, and unable to be present and content.

Tips for practicing moderation:

  1. Box up half. Ask for a box as soon as your meal is brought to the table. Put ½ your meal into the box right away, and close the lid. Outta sight, outta mind. Chances are the ½ portion is plenty to satisfy your belly and your cravings.
  2. Split meals. Rather than getting your own dish, order 1 meal and split it down the middle with another person. Again, ½ the plate will be more than enough. Restaurants serve ridonkulous portions.
  3. Load up on healthy sides. Dish out a modest yet satisfying portion of the less healthy food, and fill the rest of your plate with the good stuff. Lettuce and veggie salads with low calorie dressing, fruit cups, raw or steamed veggies, etc. Not only will you get what you came for, but you’ll fill more full and your body will benefit from the vitamins and minerals in the healthier sides.

RELATED POST: 10 Tips For Healthier Snacking

2. Keep non-splurge meals and snacks light.

Bonus points if they’re high protein, too. We’re not trying to balance out your indulgent meals calorie for calorie here. We’re just fueling your body with less calorie dense foods that aren’t going to weigh you down between big splurges. And after all, you wanna feel hungry when the time comes to overeat again, amiright?

Throughout the rest of your day, reach for fruits, veggies, light or fat free cheese, cottage cheese and Greek yogurt, protein bars that are worth a damn, and lean meat. Rice cakes, light popcorn, and low fat pretzels are also nice options when you want something kinda healthy, but also kinda unhealthy. IYKYK. And water. Lots and lots of water. Don’t drink your calories unless it’s a protein shake, 0-10 calorie sparkling or flavored water, or alcohol that’s 100% worth it to you.

YOLOing all day every day is fun in theory and all, however, in reality it ultimately makes you feel like shit. So do yourself a favor and ease up when you can. Treat your body right when you have the chance, and treat yo’self when you really want to. You have plenty of opportunities to do both over the course of your vacation.

This is a crucial piece of the puzzle to realizing The Key to Nutritionally Navigating Your Vacation. It’ll help you stay the course rather than doom yourself to misery. Don’t tell yourself the whole day is shot because of a couple big meals or treats! You still have the choice, and you’re still in control.

RELATED POST: 10 Tips For Healthier Snacking

3. Cut where you can.

This does NOT mean to restrict foods that will truly make the meal for you, or cutting calories at all costs. It means prioritizing what you reeeeally want in favor of things that just sorta come with it.

If you’re craving a cheeseburger, by all means get the cheese on your burger. But, if you’re not craving the cheeseburger specifically, get a hamburger without cheese. If all you’re really craving is the juicy burger meat, get it and the accompanying veggies on a bed of lettuce or in a lettuce “bun.”

If you’re really just here for the tacos, get them ala cart and leave the Mexican rice and beans off your plate and in the kitchen. Outta sight, outta mind. Do order the food that absolutely makes the meal for you, and leave everything else behind.

RELATED POST: Fast Food Orders Under 500 calories

The premise is to cut out what you couldn’t care less about in favor of what’s really important to you. Nothing is worse than a disappointing meal, so order to suit your tastes and make it totally worth it! You know what you like and what you can live without.

Tips to cut calories where you can, when you want to:

  1. Thin crust instead of pan/tossed
  2. No cheese/mayo/ranch
  3. Corn instead of flour tortillas
  4. Order your sandwich/burger as a salad or on a lettuce “bun”
  5. Grilled/baked instead of fried
  6. Side salad (light dressing) or fruit/veggies instead of fries/tots/hash browns/etc
  7. Turkey/chicken instead of pork/beef
  8. Hollow out your burger/sandwich bun, or remove half
  9. Order all dressings, spreads, butter, and syrup on the side. This way you control how much is used. Lightly dip your fork in dressing before stabbing your next bite, or put just a thin layer of spread on your sandwich.
  10. Don’t get the loaf of bread or basket of chips for the table, or at least don’t refill them once they’re gone. Outta sight, outta mind.

You’re reading The Key to Nutritionally Navigating Your Vacation. Read on for the #1 trick to keeping to your weight loss and fitness goals while on vacation!

4. Prepare your own food.

This is probably one of the most overlooked, yet one of the most powerful tips I’ve got for you. When it comes to feeling good on vacation, and weight loss in general, making your own damn meals is key. I cannot stress this enough.

I glanced at the nutrition facts of a teeny tiny cup at the grocery store filled with a banana pudding parfait – 420 calories! A side of steamed white rice (not even fried!) from Panda Express is a whopping 380 cal all by itself! The cajun pasta with grilled chicken at Chili’s is, get this, 1180 calories! You guys, the shit other people do to food is bonkers. And the portion sizes they serve you are ridiculous.

Take control

By making your own food you have control over what goes into and on your meals. Where a tsp of light mayo does the trick, the deli squeezes on an unnecessary 2+ full fat tablespoons. A restaurant will soak a ⅓ lb pile of 73% or 80% lean ground beef in oil, grill it up, and slap it on a bun slathered with butter. You can grill up a 90, 93, or 96% lean beef burger at home, and serve it on a lower calorie bun and completely satisfy your need for a greasy burger. In fact, it will probably even taste better. Without the gut-bombing consequences. Win-win.

Now, I love dining out as much as the next mom who cooks and cleans what feels like all day long, day in and day out. But I still choose to take the time to make sandwiches, wraps, and homemade Lunchables when we’re gonna be on the go. I make a point to bring fruits and veggies for snacks and sides when we’re out and about.

Save money and your waistline

Fruits and veggies are hard to come by, or ridiculously overpriced at fast food restaurants and gas stations. I can check nutrition facts on dozens of pre-made sandwiches and wraps without finding a single one that doesn’t turn me off. Fast food restaurants often display caloric values for their menu items, and it’s just appalling how terrible the numbers typically are. I guess this is an example of “ignorance is bliss,” however, in this case ignorance is also detrimental.

Healthy, portable snacks are life savers when traveling. Make your first stop after you arrive at your destination a grocery store to stock your hotel fridge with healthier meal and snack options. You don’t need to go out to eat for every meal for it to be a vacation.

Have a plan for your stay. Eat a light yet filling breakfast in your hotel room before heading out for the day. A tub of nonfat vanilla Greek yogurt and one bunch of bananas could get you through the better part of a week’s worth of breakfasts! A simple protein bar (these are the best for taste, macros, and price! Use discount Code SQUATTO at checkout) and an apple will get you a great start in the morning. And, if your hotel has a microwave you have even more options.

RELATED POST: 5 Quick and Easy Macro-Friendly Weekday Breakfasts

You don’t have to dine out every meal for it to be a vacation

Just grabbing as little as a loaf of bread, some deli meat, and cheese will get you by between decadent meals out. Buy a lighter side selection of grocery store sushi and a bottle of wine to enjoy on your balcony one evening. You’ll save SO much time, money, and calories compared to waiting for tables and paying out the nose at a restaurant multiple times per day!

Spend that time relaxing or sight seeing. And spend that money on experiences that enrich your family, culture, and mind. Spend those calories at the times and places of your choosing, that you deem the most deserving.

Connect with me in the comments and on Instagram

I hope you enjoyed reading The Key to Nutritionally Navigating Your Vacation! What is your biggest life-saving tip for keeping to your goals when you travel or go on a vacation? Or at least not blowing your goals completely out of the water and feeling like hell the whole trip?!  Really, that’s what it’s all about.

I post my daily food diaries on my Instagram stories, including how I eat when I travel, dine out, or just spend the day at home, or at the park, pool, or zoo with my 2 littles.  Follow me for healthy meal and snack ideas, whether you’re on the go or not! Nutrition is key to any fitness journey, whatever your goals may be!

My fitness journey has had a lot of ups, downs, and everything in between! Staying at home and raising littles is hard work, mentally and physically. It’s necessary to prioritize myself so I don’t lose myself.

Thanks for reading The Key to Nutritionally Navigating Your Vacation.  Here are other posts you may enjoy:

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The 5 Pillars of Diet-and-Exercise Success

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Halloween Candy and Fitness Goals: You Can Have Both

10 Things I’ve Learned on my Fitness Journey that will Help You with Yours

Eat Dessert, Lose Weight: My Macro-Friendly Treats

8 Helpful Macro-Tracking Tips and Tricks

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