Let's face it. Despite the mental, and sometimes physical, relaxation that comes from vacation, there's often a feeling of needing to recover from vacation when you get home. This can come from a lot of things: different sleep schedule, more or less physical activity than usual, eating differently, being more social than usual, etc. All in all, life looks a little different on vacation, and it's normal to crave getting back to your regular routine.
A lot of the blame for this feeling often falls on the food. I mean, who doesn't indulge in all the fun local foods on vacation? However, when you blame the food you eat on not feeling like yourself, it can create a feeling of guilt around your food choices. As a soon to be dietitian, I'm here to tell you that a week of eating differently will not have any major impact on your health. In fact, enjoying those foods when they feel special (local to the area, celebratory, etc.) is healthier than stressing about them and feeling guilty for having them.
As a firm advocate of an all foods fit approach to nutrition, I believe this applies to vacation as well! The balance of nutritious food vs special occasion food may just look a little different. By tuning in and listening to your body, you can decide when you want to order that special food versus when you may be craving something more nutritious. Below are a few tips on how to avoid the guilt of vacation eating.
Avoiding the Guilt
Start your vacation with a trip to the local grocery store
This may sound crazy, as you are on vacation to avoid regular chores, but hear me out. Picking up a few snacks and easy breakfast foods is a great way to make sure you have some more nutritious options on your trip. If you can make your own breakfast even just a few days of your vacation, you can be certain to get some nutrients in for the day no matter where the food scene calls you later on. It can also be super helpful to have some of your favorite snacks on hand. Whether you're hiking, spending the day at the beach, or taking walking tours around a city, these snacks can help keep your stomach happy while still being able to enjoy the local food at meal time.
travel breakfast ideas: yogurt parfait (yogurt, berries and granola), instant oatmeal cups/packets
travel snack ideas: trail mix, protein bars, fruit, crackers, apple sauce
Having one less meal or snack from a restaurant each day can make a big impact on feeling a bit better physically. It will reduce the tummy troubles that sometimes come with eating new food and give you a chance to add some nutrients without missing out on any of the more fun food. I also love checking out grocery stores to learn a bit more about where I am and look for local finds!
Ditch the all or nothing mentality
Vacation is a time you can and should be enjoying new foods! But sometimes our bodies don't like having these new or rich foods all the time. If your stomach starts giving you the signal that it's had enough, it may be time to order something on the menu with more fiber, or that is more plain/simple. But that doesn't mean you can't go back to the fun foods the next meal!
In other words, having salad and ice cream on the same day doesn't negate the nutritious benefits from the salad. You can enjoy the vacation food and nourish your body with what it craves when it craves it. Here's an example:
Day 1: eggs benedict with side fruit salad for breakfast, grilled fish tacos with fries for lunch, afternoon ice cream, chicken and pineapple rice bowl for dinner
Day 2: yogurt with berries for breakfast, burger and fries for lunch, seafood pasta for dinner, key lime pie for dessert
Can you tell I'm dreaming of somewhere tropical? The key takeaway here is that both days have both nutritious, and less nutritious foods, sometimes in different ratios. At the end of the day, it's all about listening to your body. Allow yourself to eat with your eyes when you crave the exciting local food, and add some gentle nutrition when your body is more in the mood for it.
Re-establish your routine when you get home
No matter what you do or eat on vacation, it's almost inevitable that you will be craving some normalcy by the time you get home. Instead of jumping to a restriction, detox or diet, think about what you can add to your day or week that makes you feel good! A few examples are getting back into a normal sleep schedule, prioritizing hydration, adding fiber and whole foods to regulate your digestion or adding movement or exercise when it feels good.
Remember, vacation is meant to be fun! If stress about food is taking away from the joy of the vacation, it may be time to re-evaluate and figure out why it's causing so much stress. It is absolutely ok to eat differently on vacation and enjoy the new foods, and it is also totally ok to crave and eat nutritious foods on vacation too!
This blog is the launch of my new series on food recommendations in various travel destinations. I want to create a space where we can normalize the dichotomy of wanting nutritious food while also enjoying all the tasty, special occasion food you may find on vacation. Craving nutritious foods doesn't have to equate to diet culture, and wanting local foods doesn't have to mean it's "unhealthy" or "bad for you". Remember, food does not have moral value!! Stay tuned for my top recommendations on my favorite cities I've been to!