Summer is here and with it comes all the family road trips and vacations. For most of us who are trying to lose weight and be more fit, it’s a time full of either anxiety or wild abandon, followed by crushing regret upon our return home. We love going on vacation but we never know what to do when it comes to food. Exercise usually isn’t a problem, because even if we are booked somewhere that doesn’t have a gym, there’s usually a lot of walking that comes with a vacation. It’s the food that is almost always the elephant in the room!
Road Trips: For probably more than half of our vacations, there is some kind of road trip involved, anything from a few hours to a few days. I’ve been seeing a lot of posts from my fitness friends in MFP (My Fitness Pal): “help! we’re driving to XYZ!” Road trips are a common excuse for poor food choices: we’re stuck in a car and most of the time when we stop to get something to eat, choices tend to be pretty limited. If we are with family, especially kids, then most of the time our food options are limited to whatever is quick, easy and we know the kids will eat without too much fuss. A lot of times, it’s also whatever we can eat in the car as we’re driving. Those options are usually pretty limited: burgers and fries immediately pop to mind!
But your weight loss goals aren’t doomed, even if you are on a road trip! Yes, it’s a little tougher, but there are some options. The easiest is to take some healthy food with you. I was listening to an audio book yesterday where the author suggested the same thing, but frankly, I was a little appalled at his idea- seriously, it involved an entire suitcase full of food, including a cardboard tube full of avocados! Definitely not a good idea! Depending on what your goals are, you may need to bring a small cooler or a lunchbag, but probably not more than that unless you are packing food for the whole family, which may not be a bad idea. The last time I took a road trip (it was an 8 hour drive followed by a three day weekend at a hotel without a gym and an 8 hour return drive), I brought bags of nuts, sunflower seeds, some dried fruit, some beef jerky, and some water. None of these needed a cooler and, other than the bottles of water (a 6 pack) they weren’t too bulky. These could also be picked up at most gas stations along the way.
Most major highways also have travel centers such as Love’s, Pilot, and Travel America. These are bigger better versions of the old-fashioned ‘truck stop,’ offering gas, food and other amenities (such as showers and laundry) for people who literally live on the road. The nice thing about them is that they have more food options than just burgers and fries and most of them have a small market available with options like cheese snacks or fresh fruit. While the restaurants still tend to be quick and easy, one of the better options is Subway. While a sandwich may not be in keeping with your goals if you are eating low carb or keto, I think they have better salad and protein options than just a burger or a formerly frozen chicken breast. Even if the only food option is something like a burger or taco place, most of them still offer some kind of salad, and a lot of them do the ‘lettuce wrap’ sandwich option too. Some of my favorite fast food places are Subway and also Arby’s (they have good side salad and if you do opt for a sandwich, their classic roast beef isn’t drowned in sugary sauces).
Hotels & Resorts: If you are the one making the hotel accommodations, you have a few choices. Most hotels have a microwave and a small refrigerator in the rooms. Marriott Residence Inns actually have small kitchens which are a great idea, especially if you are going to be there for a while. If possible, opt for one of those, since you won’t be stuck with takeout/ delivery or eating out. While the rooms may or may not be more expensive, you can usually make up the difference by buying groceries and preparing them in the suite. Also, anything non-perishable can either be eaten on the way back or once you get home. These are especially good choices if you are eating a special diet or if someone in your family has a food allergy.
Even if you are stuck eating out or getting delivery, there are still some better options than pizza or Chinese, although most pizza places also deliver salads and if you get Chinese, you don’t have to eat the rice or noodles. There are a lot of services, like Grub Hub or Food To You, that will deliver food from a real restaurant for a fee. That means you can order something healthier and have it delivered if you opt not to go out. If you do opt to go out, then you’re making the same choices that you normally would make at a restaurant. If you don’t have a lot of experience eating out, check out the menu online if you can and don’t be afraid to ask the waiter or the chef about the food and how it’s prepared! You are the customer and you are paying for it! If it makes it easier for you, tell the waiter that you have an allergy or a medical condition- sometimes they are more forthcoming if you do!
Once you reach your destination, your hotel may or may not have a gym or a pool available. This is something you can check on prior to your arrival and if your vacation is not going to include a lot of exercise, then you can pack something light such as resistance bands or a jump rope. (One of the podcasters I listen to brings her kettlebell if she’s traveling by car so she can use it in her hotel room.) The last hotel I stayed at was actually the Queen Mary in Long Beach, California. The only gym on the premises was the replica of the gym available for passengers when the ship was in action, but I seriously think no gym was needed. Just walking around the ship was plenty of exercise (my Fitbit logged 12 miles in 2 days!)
If your vacation is actually a cruise, then you have the best and the worst of both worlds! Cruises usually have an enormous variety of buffets on board, almost 24 hour food! While it’s Temptation City, it’s also a huge variety of healthy choices also. You can pick and choose what you want to eat, so even though the dessert buffet can be pure agony, there’s usually a whole smorgasbord of better choices. Cruise ships, besides being huge and involving a lot of walking, also have excellent gyms, so you can work off those temptations too!
Vacation Rules: Ultimately, you are going to be making the same choices on vacation that you make when you’re at home. While your choices may be a little more limited, they aren’t all that different. When you go out to eat on a weekend, weekday or vacation, there are choices on the menu. The same goes when you are at a grocery store or running errands with the kids: the food is there and you have to make a choice. Most people dread vacation because they think they either have to give in to temptation and ‘be bad,’ or they have to deprive themselves and ‘ruin their vacation.’ You don’t have to do either- make the same choices you’d make while at home, whether it’s indulging in a little cheesecake or chocolate or saying no to them. Make the choices that make you feel good about yourself and when you get home, the only dirty laundry you’ll be unpacking won’t include any Food Guilt!