The No. 1 Diet Mistake You Make on Vacation

All that time you spend getting “bikini ready” for a beach vacation can be undone with this one very common thing. With each bite, each sip, you can undo your very hard work and make it that much harder to resume normal life at home.

What you’re eating (or for that matter, not eating) is the biggest diet mistake you make on vacation. Fortunately, it’s one of the easiest to address and still have as much fun as you banked on!

I’ve been in vacation mode for two months; my family packed up everything we own in storage and we’ve been on a cross country road trip since May. It’s been incredible to say the least, but it’s very evident for us and our daughter where the biggest problem lies—our diets. It’s hard not to want to enjoy all the local flavors and fare. That’s one thing when you’re in green-minded Colorado; but since we hit New Orleans, Disney World, and Savannah, well, we could have used a refresher course.

Like us, it’s all too easy to give in to every single temptation. Can you say microbrew beer in Denver? Beignets in New Orleans? Fried chicken and biscuits in Savannah? It takes a toll on your mood, energy, and how well that bikini fits. Here’s how to enjoy the right foods while on vacation.

Enjoy one big splurge meal

Every town has that one thing they’re famous for. Be it the aforementioned deep-fried menu, pizza in New York, or BBQ in Texas, you should let yourself indulge but do so in moderation like you would anything else. Choose one meal or one day when you’re really going to let yourself taste all of the local fare, then be a conscious eater the rest of the time. You can still have shrimp on the coast, but don’t fry it. You can still have chowder in Boston, but grab a cup instead of a bowl.

Eat at Your Vacation Home

Book a rental house (or extended-stay hotel) where you have access to a fully stocked kitchen instead of a standard hotel room, then grocery shop for essentials. This saves a ton of money on your travel food bill and gives you the most control over what you’re eating. Sources like AirBnB can often turn out to be cheaper than a hotel stay, plus you get all the creature comforts of home, like a blender for fresh smoothies, a full-sized fridge for fresh fruits and sandwich makings, and a grill for light dinners at home with local, fresh-caught seafood.

Visit the Farmers’ Market

No matter where you’re staying, this is consistently my favorite “tourist” spot in any city we visit. It’s a front row seat to really take in the local people and culture as well as sample some of the best fresh food in the area. Pick up snacks for the day or the week, like fresh berries and other fruit, fresh veggies for packing a picnic, homemade tortillas for wraps, local honey for your coffee or tea, and any other number of jams, soups, and the like. Plus this is the spot to take home a souvenir from a local artist.

Pack Brown Bags

If you know you’ve got a long day ahead trekking through museums, relaxing at the beach, or taking a hike, do not depend on whatever food options may or may not be available. Be prepared by packing brown bags or a small cooler. Picnics not only make for cozy vacation memories, but you can rest assured that you’re not stuck eating corn dogs from a beach cart or fried catfish at the trail head.

Don’t Forget Your Snacks

Be sure to keep a few protein bars, fresh pieces of fruit, or even something like a GoPicnic snack kit in your purse, backpack, or fanny pack (if that’s your style!). When hunger strikes, you’re not left to do that mad dash to a convenience store to grab the first heat-lamp hot dog and potato chips you can find.

As for fitness, the little stuff adds up. It’s like the WYCWYC, What You Can, When You Can, campaign created by Roni Noone and Carla Birnberg. Swimming in the hotel pool or in the ocean, chasing kids across the beach, walking through museums and local tours, carrying heavy shopping bags, pacing the airport during a delayed flight—it all adds up. Most of us stay much more active on vacation than we think we do!

Fix your food, and you’ll feel better during and after your escape from reality!