By Shannon Gierl
I just got back from an extended weekend trip to Hilton Head Island with my fiancé Anthony. If you have never been to Hilton Head, South Carolina, it is a beautiful place to spend a few days or a week, but let me tell you, the "South" part of South Carolina is a formidable opponent to any diet or healthy lifestyle. What am I talking about? Try fried gator, fried green tomatoes, fried EVERYTHING on, like, every menu. Oh, and heap on top of that biscuits and gravy, and shrimp and grits (Anthony and I actually made a game of finding THE most expensive dish of shrimp and grits since they were literally at every restaurant). We even went to a "healthy" restaurant where they served us fried cauliflower drenched in sweet and sour sauce. EW. I mean, really, really, yummy, but EW.
Ahh what's a girl to do?! It seemed like the entire food industry down there was conspiring against me. But, I actually (no joke) lost about a pound while I was there. That is completely counter-intuitive, I know. While on vacation, most of us go out to eat for every meal, tend to imbibe a bit more, and maybe have that extra dessert. For lunch. I mean, that's the definition of "vacation", right? A departure from your everyday lists, tasks, and routine.
But I have some sneaky, waist-whittling tips to share with you that I have used to vacation healthily for over 8 years. Before I divulge my secrets, let me share with you my one major healthy traveling mentality that gets me through every vacation without checking through security on the way back with 10 extra pounds...on me not my luggage: you can't simply leave your bad choices at your vacation destination and return home.
If you binge on vacation, trust me, when you come back to reality and your favorite jeans are a little snug, that is not the memory you want of the fun times you had on vacation. Unfortunately, in terms of what enters your mouth, whatever happens in Vegas does NOT stay in Vegas...it stays on your belly. And maybe your hips. And that, my friends, is the ugly truth that helps me make good choices throughout my travels...and don't worry, I still manage to have loads of fun.
Here is how:
1. Plan Ahead
Road trip? Pack snacks (even light meals) for the car. Because you know Cracker Barrel will call your name after 300-400 miles in a cramped car. Even if you’re flying, if you have room, pack healthy go-to’s for when you’re out and about all day on the beach or sight-seeing. My favorites are: Lara Bars, trail mix (find at Whole Foods b/c there is some WEIRD/chemically stuff in some of non-organic mixes), apples, and fair trade dark chocolate (you never know when a chocolate craving will hit!).
2. Stay somewhere with a fridge. Or better, a kitchen.
It’s hard to eat healthy when you have to eat every meal out, but if you have a kitchen, you can actually eat some meals in. I go to the grocery store the first day of my stay, stock up on some breakfast and lunch staples, and know I have healthy options for at least 2/3 of my meals. I frequently book my accommodations with airbnb.com or vrbo.com. These are both sites that coordinate vacation rentals of people’s homes and apartments, and I am always so glad when I use them to book a vacay!
3. Get App-Savvy
Technology is your friend when it comes to traveling healthy. With the ability to google anything, and connect to the world wide wonderful web on our phones, you are never far away from healthy eating resources. My favorite is "Happy Cow" (happycow.net), a website and app that allows you to select your locale, and find vegan and vegetarian friendly restaurants in the area. Tip: the ones that truly are vegan or vegetarian by nature or name are much more likely to be healthy. The others you might have to filter through, but it is a GREAT condensed starting point. This is how we found Sunspot in Knoxville, TN on our trip down (and we stopped there again for dinner on the way back!).
Another option is to go to Yelp and play with the filters and keywords. "Organic", "gluten-free", and "farm-to-table" are great ones to narrow your search to restaurants that offer healthy options. This is how we found delishee Yo (pic below) on Hilton Head Island!
4. Salads, your way
Even if you're in a health-food desert or are out-voted by your travel companions, you can eat 'light' at most restaurants. My go-to amidst a sea of fried fish (pun intended) this trip was salads. Watch outs: dressings and croutons (you know this!). Always pick a vinaigrette, and ask for it on the side. And skip the croutons.
Don't see a salad you fancy? Most restaurants have vegetables, if only for purposes of frying them. Pay attention to the ingredients in the menu items, and ask your server for a plate of steamed, grilled, or sautéed veggies. Or for a bed of spinach with x, y, and z veggies on top. Most places will accommodate you, especially if you say you have a gluten allergy (I know this from experience :)). Oh, and if you get a salad, you can sneak a few sweet potato fries from your guy or kid without feeling guilty. Not that I did this. At all.
5. Work it out and change it up
I know, I know, vacation is a time for lounging like a beached whale by the water all day, only raising your bum to go to the cooler for another Corona. Right? WRONG! Vacations are maybe the only time you actually don't have the excuse "I'm too busy to work-out". And you are in a new place worth exploring. So use that as your motivation. In a city? Sight-see by foot. You can easily walk 10 miles in a day exploring a city. By the beach? Run on the beach in the morning, or before dinner. It will center you, and allow you to enjoy the day or night with an extra bit of energy and feel-good vibes. Bad weather? Google is your best friend. I found a strengthening group fitness class at a gym on Hilton Head Island for Anthony and I our first day there. Or try a yoga class: yoga studios are a great place to immerse yourself in the local community and maybe get a great restaurant tip from a local.
So that's it! Those are my best tips for staying healthy on vacation. The best part? If you're walking 10 miles a day and eating a light breakfast and lunch you made yourself, then that extra glass of wine at dinner or marg on the beach is totally justified. :)
I want to hear from you! Leave a comment below and let me know what your best methods and tricks are to stay healthy while vacationing. Like this post? Share it with your family and friends via the social sharing links below. Thanks as always for your support and for taking the time to stop by the Radiant By Nature blog today!