Eating different foods on vacation

Summer is a wonderful time of year. It’s a great time to go on vacation and get out of town for a while. While you are planning on where to go and what to do, don’t forget to plan to stay healthy as you travel.

As I’m getting ready for my own vacations, I take the time to think about the things I’ll be doing and, of course, the new foods I’ll be getting to eat. So, how does a dietitian plan to eat healthy away from home? Read on!

My first thought is about all of the different kinds of food that will be available when I get away. It’s not easy to think about decadent meals and health at the same time, especially when you’ve been looking forward to something new and exciting. This is the time to start planning the where and when of your meals. It’s a control thing. If you know that tomorrow you’ll be eating at a new restaurant you’ve heard is sensational, plan exactly what time you’ll be eating, and you can arrange the rest of your day accordingly.

One of the biggest mistakes people make is eating very little up until the meal to which they’re looking forward. Excessive hunger and the knowledge that you’ve consumed very few calories is a dangerous combination that leads to overstuffing yourself. Don’t skip meals and plan snacks in-between if you’re not going to be able to eat again for several hours.

Since watching calories and portions is really no fun on vacation, think about how you can support your extra food consumption from the other side. Working some physical activity into your plans is a great way to burn the extra calories before you eat them. Even if you just add in extra walking by parking further away or stopping to hike a roadside trail, it all can add up. I always recommend using a pedometer or fitness bracelets keep track of your steps. The more steps you take, the more food you’ve earned.

Even when you’ve earned extra calories, you still want to be completely aware of what you’re eating. Give yourself plenty of time to look over the menu to make a decision. Asking questions about how the food is prepared or the size of the portions can be very helpful. Don’t be afraid to ask about changing the order. Requesting gravy or dressing on the side or even reduced portions can still be quite satisfying and save you a few extra calories. (Leaving more for dessert!) And, of course, splitting your meal with someone else or immediately saving half for later is never a bad choice.

On your next vacation try to think more like a dietitian and plan your meals and snacks along with your vacation spots. This will not only help your health, but it can make your entire vacation more satisfying and memorable.

Mary Koch is a clinical dietitian at Banner Churchill Community Hospital and consultant for Pershing General Hospital. Questions may be sent to


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