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Vacation Doesn't Need To Derail Your Goals — Here's How To Eat Healthy When Traveling
by Kim Perez for Kettlebell Kitchen

It’s one thing to eat healthy in the comfort of your own home, but it’s another thing altogether to stick to your healthy eating goals when you’re traveling.

There are so many more temptations, and it’s unrealistic to think that you’ll avoid all of them. Instead, it’s important to strike a balance between eating a foundation of nourishing foods, but also enjoying yourself. 

In other words, eating while on vacation doesn’t need to be all or nothing — you don’t have to choose between indulging or staying on track. You can do both!
Here are 6 tips that will help you maintain your healthy habits but not deprive yourself during your travels.

Do your homework ahead of time.
Where are you going and for how long? What’s the food culture there like? Are there specific foods you want to experience? Are you staying in a city with lots of food options or a more remote area with less access to restaurants and grocery stores? Have you visited this location before or do you know someone who has?

When figuring out your eating strategy for an upcoming trip, the above questions are all helpful to consider. Once you have clarity on some of the specifics, you can more easily make decisions around nutrition.

For example, if you’re staying in a location with lots of different food options, you can scope out local grocery stores, health food stores, restaurants, and cafes beforehand. Look at menus and make sure there are options that fit within your goals. If there are new and exciting foods unique to this area, consider which you’ll want to indulge in and which you don’t mind missing out on. Rely on friends who have been before for recommendations, or do some of your own research by looking at travel blogs or sites like Yelp and Open Table. If you find that there are a limited number of healthy options, you can work around it — read on!

Pack nourishing food or stock up when you arrive.
Bringing healthy food means you’ll be much more likely to eat it, rather than grabbing something quick and easy — like a bag of chips — when hunger strikes. This can also save you some money. Depending on where you’re going and how you’re getting there, you can buy food ahead of time to bring with you, or you can stop by a local grocery store when you arrive.

Here are some ideas of non-perishable foods to pack or buy when you arrive:  
  • Beef jerky (or a meat-based bar like Epic Meat Bar)
  • Dried fruit (the KBK nutrition team loves dried mango)
  • Dry-roasted or raw nuts and/or seeds (almonds, walnuts, pistachios, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, etc.)
  • Individually-wrapped nut butter packets from brands like RxBar or Justin’s
  • Protein bars with quality ingredients (Like Epic Performance Bar, Orgain, or RxBar)
  • Low sugar granola (we like Purely Elizabeth and Autumn’s Gold)
  • Plain instant oats (ask for hot water on a plane or train) or a pre-mixed to-go oatmeal like Purely Elizabeth (we love their Collagen Protein Oats)
  • Grass-fed whey or beef or plant-based protein powder with quality ingredients (like Equip Foods, SFH,  (you can mix this into plain oats and top with nuts and/or dried fruit)
  • Bone broth (liquid in a carton you can reheat like Kettle and Fire or an instant mix like Bare Bones)

If your trip involves a plane ride, these snacks are especially useful to have on hand. That way, you won’t have to rely on the often processed snacks provided by the airline. If you’re flying long distance and have food allergies or specific restrictions, be sure to ask about special meals ahead of time.

Choose accommodations that allow you to store or even prepare some of your own healthy meals.
Non-perishable foods are generally easy to store no matter where you’re staying, but booking accommodations with a refrigerator and even a kitchen is always helpful. 

If you’re planning to stay in a hotel, check if the rooms have refrigerators. If not, call and ask if you can request one to be brought to your room for the duration of your stay. This way, you’ll have a place to keep the healthy food you bring with you or buy (plus, this will expand the options of which foods you can bring with). 

If non-hotel accommodations are an option where you’re going, look to stay in an apartment, condo, or house that includes a kitchen or kitchenette. These are very easy to find when booking through a site like AirBnb or HomeAway . That way, if you’d prefer not to eat out every day of your trip, you can cook some of your own meals. 

You may even choose to get KBK meals delivered to where you’re staying, if it’s in the continental US and you have somewhere to store the food.

Aim to keep some of your healthy eating habits in tact, but accept the fact that you won’t eat perfectly.
Start your vacation by accepting the fact that you’re simply not going to eat perfectly while traveling (or really, any other time). This will help you to shift your mindset and concentrate on what you can control versus what you cannot.
To set yourself up for success when traveling, aim to consume healthy, nutrient-dense food at least most of the time. Then, when you do indulge or eat foods outside of your usual routine, it won’t be that big of a deal. 

For example, try to balance the majority of your meals with protein, fat, and complex carbs, set a goal to eat at least three servings of veggies each day, and aim to drink half your body weight in ounces of water each day. Doing these simple things (or any others you prioritize) will help you feel confident that you’re supporting your health and leaving wiggle room to enjoy yourself while traveling — which brings us to our next important tip...

Enjoy yourself, and don’t agonize over your food choices. 
Travel is special — it doesn’t happen every day. Whether you’re on vacation or traveling for business, you’ll inevitably end up outside of your usual routine, and that requires some adjusting. Being overly strict with your diet may hinder your experience and limit how much you can actually enjoy yourself (yes, even work travel doesn’t need to be miserable!). Food is part of the experience. Sampling the local cuisine is one way to get the most out of your trip and make memories. 

Unless you travel on a routine basis, in the grand scheme of things, travel is probably only a small portion of your overall life. This doesn’t mean that “what happens on vacation, stays on vacation,” but it’s also perfectly okay (and healthy) to let the reigns go a little bit when you’re traveling.
Aim to be present, make conscious choices about what to eat and how much, and choose what’s worth it to you. Then, savor it, and move on.

Don’t go on a strict diet to prepare for, or deprive yourself after, travel. 
Just because you’re going to treat yourself on vacation doesn’t mean you need restrict in preparation for the trip. It also doesn’t mean you need to diet when you get back. These thought patterns and yo-yo habits can negatively impact you in the long run. Under-eating in preparation can cause you to overeat and overindulge when traveling. Forcing yourself to go on a strict diet when you return can make you feel guilty for enjoying yourself while traveling and even make you feel anxious about future travel.

It’s fairly common for the scale to show a small increase post-travel, especially if you’ve travelled through time zones or different climates. Plus, you may be holding onto some water weight or inflammation from being out of your usual routine. And if you actually did gain a few pounds, it’s not the end of the world! In the vast majority of cases, your body will return to its prior weight simply by you getting back to your usual, pre-travel routine and being patient.

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