By Ali Lopez
MRG Contributor

Spring Break is here for many of us and whether that means a vacation or a staycation, I’ve got some tips to help get you through it feeling good and having fun.

I constantly hear people say, “It’s vacation! I want to enjoy it! I’ll get back on track when I get home.” But guess what … you don’t enjoy vacation when you’re bloated, tired and uncomfortable, because you “enjoyed it.”

Enjoying a vacation doesn’t mean that you have to eat everything in sight. Vacation is a time to spend time with your family or travel partner (or meet new people if you are traveling solo), explore a new city or culture or nature, and go on an adventure. For some, it is simply a time to relax.

Too many times we treat vacation like a vacation from our healthy habits! I am definitely not saying you should only eat salads and grilled chicken while traveling. In fact, one of my favorite parts of traveling is trying new foods or the local specialties. Just don’t go crazy. You want to enjoy the whole experience of your vacation, not just the food part of it. And if you’re over-eating or eating junk, you’re not going to feel great or enjoy your time.

And now, some tips:

Pack snacks: This is pretty much always a rule in my life. You will almost never find me without some fruit, nuts, an energy bar or homemade treat. But this is especially important when you are traveling. Airports provide so many tempting, unhealthy and expensive options. And if you are on the road, rest stops are also not the best choice. Lots of fast food options and processed foods. It’s also a good idea to pack snacks just in case you have travel delays to avoid the dreaded “hangry.”

Ali’s Cherry Bomb Energy Bites

Some of my favorites are homemade trail mix, energy bars (Larabars and Kind are favorites if I have to buy them), individual yogurts (my favorite is Siggis, low sugar and high protein), squeeze nut butter packets and crackers, fresh fruit, dried fruit, carrots and hummus, popcorn. For homemade snacks, give my Tart Cherry Energy Bomb or copycat Lara Bars a try.

Eat a good breakfast (and make your own whenever possible): Yes, of course, sometimes on vacation breakfast can be a real treat. Just not everyday. If you have access to a kitchen, stock it up with some of your favorite breakfast foods and make your own meals. Even if all you have is a fridge and hot water, you can still make some pretty good choices. My overnight oats are perfect for vacation. Quick, easy and portable! If you have to eat the hotel breakfast look for the lower sugar, high fiber, higher protein options. And as a bonus, you will also save money!

Stay hydrated: Vacations can sometimes mean a few more cocktails than usual, so make sure you keep it balanced and drink water. Also, the plane ride can be dehydrating, so remember to drink up.

Salads and vegetables at least once a day: I find it so helpful if I eat at least one salad or a big plate of vegetables at least once a day. Focus on the good things you are feeding your body and that way you can still have the ice cream or tacos. It’s all about balance.

Allow yourself one treat a day: You are on vacation so you will want to try new foods or eat some favorites that you don’t usually eat at home, and you should. But if every meal becomes and indulgence then you probably won’t feel so great. If you want the pancakes, bacon and eggs, go for it. Just make sure the rest of the day you are a little more thoughtful with your choices.

Stay active: As runners we love to explore new places by running! So do it. But it is also your vacation so think of all the ways you can stay active: long walks on the beach, exploring a new city on foot, hiking, swimming, biking. By staying active, the treats taste that much sweeter! But also remember to stay active during your travels. Take walk and stretch breaks if you have a long car ride. If you have time to wait at the airport don’t sit at the gate waiting for your flight. You will have plenty of time to sit when you are on the plane. Go for a walk, even if it is just for 15 minutes.

Relax: And by this I don’t just mean on the beach with a good book (although that is definitely okay!) It is a vacation after all, so give yourself a break from your everyday life. If you have the pancakes for breakfast and really want an ice cream cone in the afternoon and a beer with dinner, go for it. And enjoy it! Vacations are no time for guilt and strict rules. Everything isn’t black or white, good or bad. It’s all about balance. Stay mindful. And remember to enjoy where you are and who you are with. That’s what vacations are all about anyway, right?

Have a fueling question for Ali? Post it below in the comments section or email MRG with your healthy-eating questions at heather [at] michiganrunnergirl [dot] com 

Ali will answer your questions in upcoming columns here on MRG. You can read her post about the Power of Smoothies, here »  She’s also written about superfoods and shares a great recipe for kale salad here »


Ali Lopez is a northern Michigan runner, chef and health coach. You can learn more about her at her web site Healthy Chef Ali. She’s also on Facebook here »

You can listen to a conversation about running and eating between Ali and Heather on a recent MRG podcast episode here »

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