Maintaining a healthy lifestyle while traveling is possible. If you want to stay in shape and avoid weight gain on vacation (possibly even lose weight), this is the post for you!
The dreaded vacation weight gain. One of those "I'll deal with that when I get home" subjects.
I feel like it's become the assumed "norm" that a few extra pounds will always make their way home with you.
Guess what? It doesn't have to be to norm for you!
Staying fit and healthy while traveling is something I have always focused on. Coming back from an incredible trip and feeling tired and lethargic is the last thing I want to deal with.
Balancing a life where I'm often away from home has taught me how to enjoy travel without sacrificing my health. It's entirely possible to indulge in travel experiences while still maintaining a healthy lifestyle and avoiding vacation weight gain.
In fact, I often come home a few pounds lighter when adhering to the 10 tips in this post.
If you want to stay in shape and avoid weight gain on vacation (possibly even lose weight), this is the post for you. Some of these tips may seem small or insignificant, but trust me, they add up!
Staying fit and healthy while traveling - take the active route
Before we get into eating habits, meals, fasting, supplements, etc., let's first discuss little ways you can get in a few more steps, stairs, and calories burned.
1. Take the stairs
With tourism on the rise, many cities have made sights more accessible (elevators, escalators, funiculars, etc.). Whether it's one flight of stairs to reach a viewpoint or 500 to reach the rooftop of St. Paul's Cathedral, always opt for the stairs.
While a flight of stairs here and there might not seem significant, it adds up by the end of the day.
Use that fitness-focused mentality at your hotel. I try to book my rooms on the third or fourth floor so I can take the stairs instead of the elevator. Staying healthy while traveling is a breeze when you're taking the stairs to your room multiple times a day. It honestly ends up being a mini-workout.
2. Walk and bike
Walking and biking around town is a fun way to not only explore the city you're visiting, but a sure way of torching extra calories and avoiding vacation weight gain.
I know it may seem obvious, but this seems to be the first practice tourists throw out the window in favor of Uber, taxis, and metros. Especially if you chose fashion over comfort and didn’t bring the right shoes.
Many of us come from cities where we drive our cars everywhere. It's fast, easy, and safe. Sadly, many cities in the US just aren't safe to walk long distances. I don't feel comfortable walking all over Dallas, but feel perfectly safe doing so in most European cities.
So next time you have the option between a 20-minute walk or a 10-minute Uber or metro, consider walking. Walking often doesn't take that much extra time when you're in the city center because of traffic, pedestrianized zones, etc.
I won't think twice when I see a 30-minute walk on Google Maps. It just motivates me to pick up the pace, get that heart rate going, and shave that walk down to 22 minutes.
What’s great about many tourist cities is that you'll get great views, people watching, etc. when you walk. Look on the map and see if you can walk along the river or down a popular promenade to get to your destination.
You can burn between 100 and 200 calories by walking at a brisk pace for 30 minutes.
If your destination offers a bike share program or your hotel includes bikes, take advantage! I've often found it's quicker to bike than to take public transportation or Uber.
If you aren't comfortable biking around a city, book a bike tour. These tours cater to all levels of bikers and typically choose bike-friendly routes. A great way to get your feet wet and ready to start biking all over town.
A 20-minute bike ride at a moderate pace will burn around 150 calories.
Chances are you will be at your destination before you know it with all the things to look at along the way. Besides staying fit and healthy while traveling, another benefit to walking and biking is you'll get a much better sense of the city layout vs. being underground on the metro and zipping around in a taxi.
3. Get your morning workout in
We all have the best intentions of squeezing in a workout later in the day to stay fit while traveling. Let’s be honest and admit that rarely happens while on vacation. Wake up a little earlier and work out first thing in the morning.
Morning jogs are actually one of my favorite things to do while traveling. I often snap some of my best photos during my morning runs as there are minimal crowds and the lighting is ideal.
I put my workout days on my itinerary and plan where I’m going to jog or what my workout will be. This healthy travel habit helps me commit to my routine by seeing it on paper before I even leave for the trip.
Tips for How to Eat Healthy While Traveling
Now that we've discussed ways to torch extra calories and stay fit while traveling, let's discuss meals, supplements, fasting, and more!
4. Replace a few meals with a green juice or fast
One of my easiest healthy travel tips is to pack powdered greens. I replace a few afternoon meals with a green juice and give my body a break from digesting heavy meals.
If you're in a city that has a juice spot, even better. Choosing a juice over a meal not only is healthier and will leave you feeling lighter but can also be enjoyed on the run while dashing to the next sight or attraction.
Another option is to skip the juice/shake and fast instead.
Jake and I are big fans of intermittent fasting and fasting in general. It's not uncommon for us to skip dinner if we felt we had a big breakfast and lunch that day. Or to fast through breakfast, have a light coffee shop snack late in the afternoon, and not have our "real" meal until dinner.
5. Food markets and farmer's markets
How to eat healthy while traveling and NOT overeat...it's a legitimate question when there are so many things to try. In comes the food market.
It’s a perfect way to sample several dishes without committing to a full portion. It’s also a great stop to buy ingredients for a healthy picnic.
Most European cities will have a traditional market (more for buying groceries than trendy tapas and small plates). However, the trend is catching on to open atmospheric markets where locals and tourists can grab a meal.
See if your destination has a Time Out Market. They've been popping up around the globe and are always worth a visit.
You may be surprised at how lively and beautiful some of these food markets are.
6. Boost your immune system and healthy digestion
Two functions often stressed with travel are digestion and the immune system. There are several vitamins and supplements I take to combat this.
Shaklee is my brand of choice when it comes to supplements and has been for years.
A few of my go-to products to stay healthy while traveling are:
- NutriFeron® - naturally increases and supports the immune system when affected by stress, poor diet, pollution, and fatigue (i.e. travel).
- Defend & Resist Complex - a combination of echinacea, black elderberry, zinc, and larch tree to super-boost your immune system.
- Collagen-9™ - for added protein and collagen while traveling in single-serve packets.
- Optiflora® DI - probiotic to aid in digestion and immune health (doesn't need to be refrigerated).
- Good Gut & Go - probiotic and prebiotic fiber drink mix for gut health and regularity.
- Rest & Rewind - relaxing mint tea for restful sleep and anti-aging (melatonin-free).
7. Every other day rule
If you have food sensitivities you may be wondering how to eat healthy while traveling AND how to deal with your specialty diet. I have my homeopathic doctor to thank for this healthy travel tip.
Dealing with autoimmune, I am often on a restricted diet (gluten playing a large part).
When I first started taking gluten out of my diet I balked at the idea of visiting England and not eating scones or missing out on fresh pasta in Italy. When I brought this up to my doctor she gave me the “every other day rule” to follow.
If you follow a specific diet when at home whether that be limited gluten, no dairy, no alcohol, etc., don’t feel like you have to completely miss out when traveling. Craving fresh pasta in Italy? Just make sure you don’t have gluten the following day.
This way of thinking also helps to not waste your “cheat meals”.
I typically won’t gorge on the free bread at dinner because I know I’m planning to eat pasta the next day. You’ll think twice before drinking the free mimosa that comes with your hotel breakfast in anticipation of a high-quality wine with dinner. You get the drift…..everything in moderation.
*This is obviously not for people with severe food restrictions. You know your body. I know I can have gluten now and then and be fine...so the every-other-day rule works for me. It also works for people who eliminate food groups just to stay healthy and fit.
8. Strategize ordering, focus on small dishes, and skip big "mains"
This tip is not only a great way of staying healthy while traveling, but will also help your wallet.
Reign in your cravings and start ordering modestly. If you’re in Italy, make the primi (small first course) your meal. Order an appetizer or two and share a main dish if you’re with a friend. Or, skip the mains and make a meal of side dishes and appetizers.
I love mezze and tapas spots since you can try several small dishes without overeating.
There's also a reason I'm often at coffee shops. It's easy (and acceptable) to order a small snack for lunch vs. going all out at a restaurant.
9. Skip the airplane meals and eat light (or fast) on travel days
The food in airports, train stations, and on the plane doesn't hold a candle to what you're about to eat at your final destination. You're better off skipping these meals and saving your calories for later.
For long flights, I usually pack several tea bags (a detox herbal) to stay hydrated and that's it. No snacks.
Not only does this keep me from feeling bloated in-flight with the salt-laden airplane food, but takes the guilt factor out when my first stop in Italy is for a latte and pastry or churros con chocolat in Spain.
10. Eat clean before and after your trip
Before and after any long trip I will typically eat extremely clean. For me, that looks like lots of veggies, healthy fats, lean protein, and no alcohol. Sometimes I’ll even do a juice cleanse.
Eating this way before the trip gives me great energy levels. It also helps with adjusting to the time change (not sure how that works scientifically but I swear it makes a difference).
Doing a cleanse/eating clean after the trip helps reset my body, calm inflammation, and return to healthy habits.
Staying healthy while traveling and avoiding vacation weight gain is no problem when I practice these 10 habits. Keeping these tips in mind ensures I have great energy during my travels, assists in adjusting to time zone changes, takes the guilt out of travel eating, and helps me to continue a healthy lifestyle and feel my best even while abroad.
Try a few on your next trip and you might even lose weight while traveling...how amazing would that be?