“We can’t afford that. But we’re on vacation!” “I hate sand. But we’re on vacation!” “Ice cream isn’t breakfast. But we’re on vacation!” People, let’s get something straight. Vacation is not a free pass to do whatever you want. That whole “what happens in Vegas” mentality has consequences that WILL follow you out of Vegas, like a hangover. Or herpes. There is no reason that you NEED to come back from vacation deconditioned and 10 pounds heavier. I mean, sure that’s an option, but do you really want to feel like crap when you get home? You do need to return to normal life at some point. Wouldn’t you prefer to return relaxed, refreshed, and healthy? Me too. That is why I put together these tips for clean eating on the road. Also, be sure to check out these articles to learn some great travel workouts or how to drop in to a CrossFit box while traveling.
The road trip is the great American vacation, reminiscent of the pioneers with their covered wagons and dysentery. Some things never change. However, what needs to change is the way people eat on the road. For some reason, it is assumed that you are going to stop at some greasy fast food place. Allow me to enlighten you with one word. COOLER. A well-stocked and strategically placed cooler will keep you eating clean and help you make better time, which we all know is THE #1 priority while road-tripping. The cooler should be placed so that it is easily accessible by someone in the vehicle at all times. By “easily” I mean a person won’t have to dangle over the backseat while lifting everyone’s bags and simultaneously contorting an arm to slip a hand in just to blindly grab for the first available item. We all know that the only thing coming out of that cooler will be Mom’s Tab and that the car will come to a screeching halt as soon as said person is upside down with a hand in the cooler. Bring that cooler up close. It can work as a foot rest, card table, or a sibling separator.
While placement of the cooler is key, it is what you put inside the cooler that is most important. Meat and veggies are the way to go. Of course, you want your food to be easily eaten by the driver. Cold cuts and chicken breasts cut into strips are the best answer. Yes, cold chicken smells like fart, but the whole car will by the time you’re hungry, so what’s the difference? Celery and carrots are good snacking veggies that you can eat with hummus or some other dip. My favorite is to put together lettuce wraps. You can prep a whole mess of these before leaving or bring what you need and do it on the go. All you do is roll some cheese in a deli slice with mustard and place the roll in a leaf of lettuce. It is a crunchy, refreshing, driver-friendly delight.
No cooler? No room for a cooler? Finished everything in the cooler? Oh well. I guess you can just head to those golden arches. NOT! How about you go to the same place you normally go for food: the GROCERY STORE! Mind blown, right? You will save money and calories by opting for a store over a restaurant. You can restock your lettuce wrap materials, grab some fruit, maybe even a rotisserie chicken to shred. Not to mention just about every grocery store has a salad bar nowadays. Think you can handle a few dollars per POUND at the salad bar over $10 for a quarter pounder? Besides, you know you can just fill the salad container with meat, right?
“I’m flying, so I can’t take a cooler.” First off, yes you can. Those little thermal lunch boxes are great for bringing premade food on a flight. Just don’t put any gel-like condiments in there. You might end up chatting with TSA. Again, lettuce wraps and chicken are quick and easy meals. Keeping a bag of nuts and seeds handy is another way to make sure you have something to snack on when temptation strikes.
I realize you can end up on long flights with long layovers and your lettuce will wilt. There are still smart choices available, just like if you were eating out at any restaurant. There will be a place where you can get a halfway decent salad. You can always order a bunless burger and get the veggie side. Also, Asian restaurants usually have some sort of unbreaded meat available and a heaping helping of veggies, but you should be suspicious of their sauces. They are probably loaded with sugar.
Staying With Friends/Family
What if the folks you are vacationing with don’t really eat like you do? I’m so glad you asked! I have a (nearly) fool-proof solution that has worked for my family for a number of trips.
The first thing you need to do is set up a Facebook message or event that includes everyone going on the trip. Here is what the message should look like.
“Hey everyone! We’re super excited for this trip. We thought it would be a good idea to split up meals for the trip so that we each only need to cook once or twice and can party the rest of the time. So everyone needs to reply with 2 things. First, let us all know if there are any allergies we should know about. Second, let us all know what meal you will cover and what amazing food you are making! To start it off, our family has [X] allergy. We will plan to make dinner on Saturday. We are going to make our famous [insert awesomely delicious paleo meal]! We can’t wait to see everyone!”
Magical, right? But there is another crucial piece to this. When you reveal your awesomely delicious meal selection (that should have “paleo” in the title), you need to include a link to the recipe on a paleo recipe website, preferably with a picture included. What happens is amazing. This message just eliminated any chance of random, last-minute meals (like ordering pizza). You have also set the bar for food prep. Your meal is not only delicious-looking, it is also healthy. Now everyone wants to keep pace and outdo one another. You have now successfully influenced your friends and family to make delicious and nutritious meals without needing to convince them that it is healthy. Dale Carnegie would be proud.
There you have it. You now have no excuse to ditch your healthy lifestyle while on vacation. Just remember that you can take a vacation from home and you can take a vacation from work, but you can never take a vacation from your health. Your body doesn’t know that you are on vacation, it just thinks you are storing up for winter. If you aren’t prepping for hibernation, then stop acting like it! Act like a human being. Exercise. Eat well. Be happy. Be alive. Thrive.