Jul 2, 2014

10 Tips on Staying Lean While You Travel

Nobody wants to diet on vacation and we all know that food and travel can be difficult. With the 4th of July holiday around the corner, many of us are heading out- including myself.  (PS, you should never ‘diet’ because that is temporary but when referring to the term ‘diet’, it should mean your regular daily eating routine.) I have heard so many people say “I’m on vacation” or “I’m going on vacation” in reference to eating properly or working out. This means “I am going to eat whatever I want the whole time and gain weight then be upset when I return”. I know nobody really wants to gain weight but we kinda expect it to happen when traveling because food and travel choices are limited or we want to enjoy our time by experiencing the cuisine.

The truth is we can still enjoy ourselves even though food choices are limited while traveling. We can at least minimize the amount of weight that is gained while on a trip…. If you gain any at all

Tip #1. Stay somewhere that has a kitchen so that you can cook your own food part of (or all of) the time. We were at an out of state conference and had breakfast and dinner at the condo. There wsa no way possible to have lunch there because the conference was all day but we were able to save the extra calories AND money during breakfast and dinner. Who doesn't love saving money?!

The condo was slightly more than the cheapest room we found and for the extra $20 per day we spent on the condo, we saved at least $10.00 per meal, per person AND we are saving approximately 300-1,000 calories per meal… depending on what you like or order. That is 600-2,000 calories in just one day!!! Many of you know that one pound gained or lost is the equivalents of 3,500 calories so this could, potentially, save almost a pound per day just between those 2 meals. (Not to mention if you like to drink, that increases it waaay more- we will not get into that today). So, depending on how long you are traveling, this could be a HUGE DEAL.

Tip # 2. Stay active! Go for a walk, find a gym or even rent some beach cruisers to go everywhere. I have created some mini videos for some easy, no-gym workouts. Click here to check out a simple workout you can do right in your room. 

Tip #3. Plan to share your meals when you eat out. Restaurants may cook with a lot of butter or sauces that we cannot even see so when you are eating a meal that appears to be ‘healthy’ it may be loaded with unexpected calories. Unless you eat from a menu that tells you the calorie count on each item, you can safely assume that each meal has approximately 600-2500 calories and this is including small appetizers. Check out Chili’s PDF that lists their menu items: http://tinyurl.com/lhqdrgc. Plus, look at the front page of the website: http://www.chilis.com/EN/Pages/menu.aspx?&imm_sess=tlch5ii1rgti8kk5b09c1ooc36&AspxAutoDetectCookieSupport=1 - it is very enticing! I am not picking on Chili’s and it is not the worst option possible; I just chose it because it is a very popular and common place to go. Primarily, it is just for informational purposes but the point is there are many hidden calories in foods we eat. The point is food and travel limits our options.

Tip #4. When choosing your meal to share, choose one without cheeses, sauces (including dressings), extra toppings such as bacon or guacamole, and avoid anything that says ‘loaded’. It is also good to steer clear of pastas, pizzas and things that are made with crusts and tortillas such as pot pies, calzones and quesadillas or burritos. French fries, mac n cheese, mashed potatoes, beans or rice are also high calorie food options. Fried foods are loaded with breading and oil so you guessed it, these are extremely high calories. Creamy or loaded soups are high calorie. Wings with dips are loaded too because these are fried and the dips (also known as sauces) are highly caloric too. Be wise with avocado because a serving is 1/5 of a medium avocado (which is about 3 thin slices) but usually these foods come with only a couple slices at restaurants so as long as that is all there is, then you should be good.

You are probably reading this and thinking I have listed everything on the menu! This is exactly why people gain weight on vacation… because everything has something that makes it a poor choice for maintaining or losing weight. So what the hell can you have on vacation? Food and travel can be a tough combo but since life goes in, we have to work around it.

Tip #5. Choose foods with veggies…. Lots of them. Just because there are veggies involved does not mean it is going to be plain or bland. Matter of fact, they are probably also loaded with butter or oils but they are going to be a MUCH better choice than the items in tip #4 because veggies alone contain much less fat/calories than other food. Fajitas are an example of good choices because they always have a lot of vegetables with the meat and salsa or pico de gallo. Leave out the sour cream and limit the guacamole because more than a serving really packs on the calories.

Tip #6. Drink at least one full glass of water with lemon before your meal comes. This allows the brain enough time to tell the stomach it is full before it is too full. Lemon is a natural appetite suppressant so it can help reduce the amount of food consumed. Additionally, be sure to drink plenty of water throughout your trip. We have a tendency to leave this key essential out anyway and then vaca amplifies that.

Tip #7. Order a house salad which is just veggies– steer away from Cesar, Cobb or other salads with tons of stuff like bacon, eggs, cheese, etc.  A lean meat such as chicken or lean sirloin would be a good pick.  The pictured salad has cheese AND an egg as well as croutons.  It is a simple salad without a lot of extra toppings.  Also, it only has one egg which is good but I would suggest leaving out the croutons.  More egg and/or additional items such as bacon, seeds, etc. can rack up the calories.  When ordering a salad, request the dressing on the side and have light dressings or preferably a light vinaigrette. A friend of mine used to work at a restaurant and she said that dressing is always poured generously on salads. She said they usually use way more than what you get in the ramekins so this is a great way to cut some fat.

Tip #8. Travel with fresh fruits and veggies. I like mine pre-cut but that is just me. I also like bananas and pre-packaged trail mix for protein. This prevents buying high calorie garbage at gas stations, airports or anywhere else along the way. Pre-packaged is a smart way to avoid over-consumption of trail mix. Keeping food and travel in check really helps progress and maintenance.

Tip #9. Be sure to have a cheat!! It is so important to have a cheat meal during a regular week anyway. While on vaca, you should still have a cheat. Be sure to plan it the way you normally would. Meaning, know when, where and what it will be. This way there is less likeliness of having multiple cheats…. Which is super easy to do. Since many food and travel choices are higher in calories than the at-home version, it is wise to keep the other meals low in calories and fat so cheat meals don’t hurt as much.

Tip #10. Last but not least, desserts are on the naughty list but you probably already knew that. Limit yourself to one dessert- and no I do not mean one dessert per day, it should be one dessert for the trip- and sharing is the best thing you can do for yourself.  If you are at your favorite aunt’s house and she makes a fantastic dessert every day, know your limits. If you are absolutely, positively going to have dessert every day, make it a bite (meaning one bite for taste) and leave it at that.  Your dessert can and should be your cheat - refer to #9.


Food and travel can really be a chore but if you know how to plan around it you can make the best of it and avoid packing on any unwanted pounds!

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  1. Great list!

    We're going away in 15 days... So, I will commit these tips to memory!

    1. I hope you have a great trip & good luck :)