Getting away from it all sounds wonderful, letting go of schedules and routines to enjoy a new destination or a favorite spot. Lounging, cruising, relaxing and soaking in the culture, flavor and fun. But how do you enjoy and indulge without having your waistline take a vacation, too?

“So much about travel screams indulgence,” says Kathryn Scoblick, author and the owner of Health Inspires in Austin, where she works as a certified health and wellness coach. “Rethink the way you think about food and vacation. Many times, we ‘diet’ before vacation, so that we can ‘enjoy’ our vacation, as in, ‘eat whatever we want’ while on vacation.”

But Scoblick has a different take. “Think of vacation as a great time to break less healthy habits. Notice that you may snack less on vacation and have the opportunity for healthy and satisfying meals, while enjoying the luxury of time, somebody else shopping, cooking and cleaning up for you!”

All of that is a benefit of getting away. So is the opportunity to explore and sample food “new to you” when you’re in a different region or country. Scoblick agrees. “’When in Rome’ applies, and enjoy the foods the area you are traveling is known for whether it is chocolate, or bread, or seafood. You can enjoy a piece or two of chocolate. All things in moderation, even on vacation.”

Scoblick recently published her first book on wellness, Health Inspires: Your Way to Sustainable Weight Loss, and knows that travel options, like buffets or all-inclusive resorts with meal plans that include an array of breakfast, lunch and dinner options can be a challenge for anyone who doesn’t want to bring home a higher number on the scale as a vacation memory. “Studies show that we eat more when our plates our bigger, when there is more to choose from, and if the servings are large. Food is pleasurable, and its function is to fuel and nourish our bodies. Make sure you are choosing the right fuel for your travels,” she explains.

“Have a plan before you go to the buffet to avoid temptations. Whether you prefer saving room for dessert or trying foods you might not otherwise make at home, your portions and servings matter more than anything else. Avoid sugary pastries and too much saturated fat, especially at breakfast. Start with lean proteins and fresh fruit. Think eggs, whole wheat toast, oatmeal, fresh fruit and easy on the breakfast meats. Sometimes a bowl of cereal with berries is enough to get you moving,” she explains.
“The same rules apply for the extravagant lunch or dinner buffets. Have a plan and keep your portions and servings in check. Avoid heavy sauces and cream sauces. Choose from lean proteins, mostly vegetables and whole grains, and avoid fried foods and refined grains.”

Outside of buffets and making smart choices on meal plans, other eating travel tips include booking hotels that offer a mini-fridge in your room so you can keep healthy snacks like fruit or cheese on hand, as well as water. Amy Trudeau, CTC, a certified travel counselor who works with both personal and business travelers, suggests that travelers think ahead. “In addition to booking hotels that offer refrigerator option, pack nonperishable items like granola bars, almond butter and powdered drink singles like lemonade. It’s better than grabbing a vending machine soda and helps keep you hydrated for sight-seeing.

“And depending on the trip, try to stay in hotels that are close to a grocery store, or even a farmers market area so fresh food options are readily available.”

Trudeau also recommends turning to technology to help keep your travel healthy. “If you’re traveling abroad, the FDA has tips and tricks on staying healthy by avoiding certain foods, where water consumption wouldn’t be recommended, illnesses to be aware of in underdeveloped countries you might travel to,” she explains. “The CDC offers an app called Travwell that allows you to input the country you’re visiting and it will be more specific on things to avoid, diseases to watch out for and more.”

Other apps she recommends include Fitness Pal, which provides nutritional information and includes foods from many different countries. Food Tripping is a free app that provides information on things like local farmer markets, healthy eateries and juice bars, while the app Happy Cow features options for vegetarian and vegan eaters.

Scoblick agrees with Trudeau’s advice on hotel amenities. “Stay in a hotel that offers an onsite gym and in-room fridge. Make a stop at the local grocery store for healthy snacks to include fruit, maybe milk for cereal and coffee. Use your fridge to keep fruit and water cold, and maybe even beer and wine! It can save you money, unwanted calories and makes healthy choices available when you are hungry.”
And of course, pack well. “Always pack your sneakers and the right exercise attire for the climate. The obvious part of vacation is rest and relaxation, and part of that plan should include time for your physical health. A brisk walk or run each morning just might be the best way to start your day, and those sneakers make it doable,” says Scoblick.

Another option for a healthy vacation: a destination with built-in activity. If a dedicated mountain hiking or scuba diving trip isn’t for you, you can still plan an active getaway. Scoblick offers, “Part of the beauty of vacation is getting out of our regular routine. Whether you plan a hiking or diving vacation or not, you can choose cities such as San Francisco or New York, where you can walk and subway/trolley your way to most every place you want to go. If it is time for a beach vacation to catch up on those books you want to read, book breaks can mean taking a long walk along the beach and enjoying the sound of the waves, the beautiful views and the smell of the ocean.”

By Dawn Robinette