Here’s how to go on vacation and come back healthier, instead of heavier, than when you left.
Growing up, my family and I went on an annual trip to Disney World. It was a lot of all you can eat buffets, mid-day Mickey Mouse ice cream bars, and candy-filled carry-ons. Can you relate?
For some, vacation becomes a free pass to overindulge, but I think there is a better way, to taste and experience a place, without dreading getting on the scale after vacation.
I’m currently spending 3 weeks in Italy and France, to recharge and refresh. I started with 4 days in Rome, 10 days on the Amalfi Coast, and will finish with a week in the South of France. (I’m currently one week in, and you can follow along on Instagram).
How to Stay Healthy While Traveling: Desire vs. Deprivation
While in New York I eat an extremely healthy diet, during my trip, I’ve relaxed my standards a bit, in order to more fully experience the country and culture (and not offend anyone!).
What prevents me from going overboard is that I no longer desire things like pizza, pasta, bread, or dessert. I don’t want them, because I know I feel and look better without them, plus there are so many other more delicious things to eat, that also make me feel and look good. So for me, it doesn’t feel like deprivation to avoid them.
I’ve tried pizza and pasta. I’ve tried cakes, and pastries, and lemon sorbetto. Anything I wanted to try, I’ve tasted. But, I’ve also ensured that I’m still eating plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables (which are in ample supply here). My friend and I also typically split pizza or pasta dishes, and the half portion was more than adequate.
Beyond getting to a place where you know why you want to eat healthy, here are my top tips to stay healthy while traveling:
The best way to discover a city or new place is always by foot. In Rome, we sometimes walked for 8 hours + a day, admiring the magnificent streets, plazas, fountains, and buildings.
Drink Water All Day
Reserve your glass of wine or cocktail for the evening, not out by the pool. Aside from just saving the calories, alcohol is dehydrating. When you’re dehydrated, you may mistake it for hunger, and end up eating more.
Eat Your Vegetables & Fruit
Even in Italy, home of pizza, pasta, and bread, there was no shortage of vegetables or fruit (you do just have to ask for them!). I love that in Europe, many places offer fruit as dessert or a beach/pool bar snack.
Shop the Local Farmers Market
Besides being a fun outing where you get to meet locals, visiting a local farmers market will allow you to pick up fresh local fruit to keep in the room for snacks or breakfast. Plus, they’re usually a photographer’s dream.
Do Your Research
I did some research on where to eat beforehand, but seeing as I really had no concept of where things were or how to get around, once I got to Italy, I just made it a point to ask for recommendations from anyone I met. That’s how I discovered the first (and only) vegetarian restaurant in Rome, Il Margutta. (It’s been there for over 30 years!). Happycow.net is a good starting point for finding veggie centric restaurants, although yelp, foursquare, and google are also good. You can search for something like “healthiest restaurants in city” or “vegetarian restaurants in city”
Taste, Don’t Devour
At nearly every restaurant we went to, there was either a beautiful view or interesting people watching to focus on, which naturally slowed us down a bit. When I ordered the pizza or pasta, I savored them slowly, bite by bite, and didn’t feel compelled to finish if I didn’t want to (although sometimes I did!).
When I’m home or working I have to eat 3 square meals. I’m not someone who “forgets” to have lunch. Even if I’m busy, I figure out how to fit it in. But, on vacation, we were so wrapped up in what we were doing, that indeed, we did actually forget to eat. Walking the streets of Rome was like being transported back in time, and the awe and amazement at every corner enraptured us until the early evening, when we’d finally feel a little twinge of hunger. If you’re not hungry you don’t have to eat. Make your vacation about discovering a place, instead of planning it around meal reservations (as we used to do!).
You may also like this post: Healthiest Travel Snacks
Maria Marlowe is a holistic nutrition and wellness coach who uses real food to help her clients improve their health, weight, and skin. She offers a healthy eating meal plan that teaches you how to batch cook, as well as one to clear up acne. She has ongoing group workshops both in NYC and online, and writes healthy and delicious plant-based recipes for her popular blog. She is also the author of the #1 New Release on Amazon, The Real Food Grocery Guide, the most practical guide to selecting the healthiest foods, without going broke, which has been praised by Dr. Oz and InStyle magazines. You can find her on instagram @mariamarlowe.