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Vacation Eating
by Jessica Setnick, MS, RD/LD

With summer fast approaching, many of us have plans to go on at least one trip to another city.  Whether it’s to visit family or friends, or just relax, it’s likely that there are taste treats on our travels that we can’t always get at home.  This makes it tempting to “splurge” or overeat in the excitement of the moment.  But that’s what contributes to vacation weight gain and the stress of trying to compensate when we get home.

Ideally, vacation eating and “regular” eating are not that different – our goal should be that whether we vacation in Hawaii, Paris, or the Australian outback ( I wish!), our nutrition needs remain very similar, so our eating should remain approximately the same.  The exception is if you are normally sedentary and you are going on an outdoorsy or active vacation, like camping, hiking, skiing or Disney World, plan to drink more water and eat more than usual, especially if the climate is hot and/or humid. 

When you encounter those foods that you can’t get at home, whether it’s chocolate croissants, authentic gelato, or Aunt Sarah’s apple pie, feel free to indulge if and when you’re hungry… and refrain when you have already eaten enough.  It’s hard to resist the pull of fresh baked bread, warm chocolate chip cookies, or homemade pizza, but it’s important to revel in the associated good feelings rather than instinctively eat excess food.

I think the key to appropriate vacation eating is to “treat” yourself all year round, so that your cravings don’t ever swell to unmanageable proportions.  Eating foods you enjoy no matter what the season means that vacations don’t force you to indulge because it’s your only opportunity.

Vacations are called vacations for a reason… they are not supposed to be the same as staying at home.  Vacations are a time to travel and enjoy the sights and events in another location, and a time to rest up and recuperate from the stresses of daily life.  But if we can import some of the vacation feel into our home lives, we may ultimately be able to enjoy our vacations more, since we arrive calm and rested instead of frazzled and strung out.  The same concept applies to vacation vs. home eating.  So does that mean we should all be eating like we’re on vacation every day?  No, not exactly.  We should eat every day to fulfill our bodies’ needs to be nourished, as well as our spirit of adventure and our need for satisfaction with the small things in life… these needs apply to vacation days AND home life.  If we can let vacations be more regular, and regular days be more like vacation, then no matter where you go, your weight and health stay the same.

If the idea of eating normally on vacation takes some of the wind out of your sails, you may want to reconsider your goal in taking a vacation.  If the main reason you choose, say, a cruise, over a resort is the round-the-clock buffet, that says a lot about how restricted you feel at home.  Take the cruise, but then take the cruise mentality home with you – having the foods you like available at home and taking time for meals with family and friends.

Restricting at home and overdoing on vacation – whether in eating, drinking, sleeping, or fun – is a lot like bingeing and purging.  Since most of us can’t indulge in vacations all year round, it makes sense to improve both sides of the equation for a healthier and happy life.

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