Whether it’s time to relax and rejuvenate, explore a new place and culture or connect with loved ones, vacation is something we all look forward to. Vacations also mean that we have to loosen the reigns on our typical eating plans and try new foods and drinks, which can be daunting.
For that reason, we asked the experts in healthy eating — dietitians — what they eat on vacation. It turns out, they eat like a lot of us. It’s not surprising that they focus on protein and veggies at most meals, and they don’t gorge at every meal or drink all day long. But they do allow themselves dessert and a cocktail or two — and they get back to their routine as soon as the vacation ends.
“It’s up to you to choose what you want to eat, when and why. Staying mindful to your appetite and honoring your preferences allows you to pass on foods that you just don’t want it,” explains Rebecca Scritchfield, RDN, author of “Body Kindness.” “Treat your body like you would treat a friend. Let food be a pleasurable part of your vacation without it being central to your thoughts all day long.”
With that in mind, here’s what three dietitians eat when they’re on vacation.
Keri Gans, RDN, certified yoga teacher and author of “The Small Change Diet,” eats oatmeal at home and when traveling. “Because it isn’t usually made with milk or available with natural peanut butter, I order scrambled eggs on the side,” she says. “If I don’t have protein with breakfast, I am starved way too soon before lunch.”
SMOKED SALMON CIGARS
Sliced, smoked Alaskan salmon rolled with cucumber, avocado, tomato and onion and a cup of rooibos tea is how Valerie Goldstein, RD kicks off her vacation days. “The tea helps reduce inflammation and supports the gut, which is especially good if you are not eating as well as you usually do and are drinking alcohol,” she explains. “And the smoked salmon cigars are filled with vitamins, minerals, fiber, healthy fat, carbs and protein.”
EGGS AND FRUIT
Simple — and typically easy to find on a menu — eggs and fruit are Scritchfield’s go-to. “This is my favorite because it tastes delicious and it’s filling for lasting energy,” she says. “While I’m open to any local and seasonal fruit, I especially love kiwifruit or fresh berries.”
Sticking again with what she loves, Gans seeks out sandwiches midday. “Since a lot of my vacations are warm weather ones, I typically have some type of local grilled fish or vegetarian sandwich and always ask for whole-grain bread. I also admit to typically enjoying a margarita or glass of wine at lunch,” she says.
Goldstein says that vacation should be a time without an agenda. “I’m sleeping in late, so my eating is typically different. I eat breakfast later but because it might be a bigger meal than usual, lunch might be squeezed out for a fueling snack,” she explains. So she will have something like a small bowl of full-fat cottage cheese with almonds or sliced turkey and cucumber. Protein is always key.
Scritchfield prefers a cold lunch, such as tuna fish served over greens and veggies drizzled with red wine vinaigrette. “Depending on my craving, I might have a side of chips or something sweet like a cookie,” she adds. This trick allows her to have a treat that’s also portion-controlled.
SALAD AND LOCAL CUISINE
Dinner is when Gans ventures out. “I typically order the local fare to indulge in the local food culture,” she explains. “It might be a meal consisting of beef, fish or pasta, but no matter what I usually still start my meal with a salad to get a serving of veggies in. And more than likely you can find me sticking to my favorite cocktail — a martini.”
“I have whatever I want,” Goldstein says. “I deserve it from eating well the rest of the day.” For example, she might have a glass of wine, steak and lobster, and sauteed spinach and mushroom, then skip the potato in favor of having dessert. “Potato sits heavy in your stomach, so if you want dessert, substitute one heavy food for another so it’s not too much,” she says.
Like Gans, Scritchfield spends dinner trying something unique to where she’s traveling. “I look for a local dish. I like new experiences and to get a taste of a culture and cuisine that I can’t get anywhere else,” she says. She often vacations in the Caribbean, where she loves to eat the fresh fish seasoned with local spices.
MARTINI, NOT CAKE
Most times Gans is satisfied with a cocktail rather than dessert. “If I have dessert, which is rare, it might be a shared piece of chocolate cake, but I’d much rather have cocktails than dessert,” she says.
CRÈME BRÛLÉE TO SHARE
“I eat well during the day, so for dessert, like dinner, I have whatever I want,” Goldstein says. “But I may try to split it, especially if I have a glass of wine or two.” Crème brûlée and tiramisu are two of her favorites.
“I usually want something sweet every day, but I’m also looking to get satisfied,” says Scritchfield. She’ll have the ice cream if it’s locally made.
Vacation is meant to be relaxing, so don’t stress out about what you eat while you’re away. Then, when you get home, focus on getting back into your typical eating routine.
“What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas,” Gans says. “No matter what happens while you are away, resume your healthy eating routine as soon as you return.” This way your week of more-flexible eating doesn’t snowball into a month (or months) of drinks every night, preventing you from reaching your weight goals.