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Happy Trails Can Be Healthy Trails: How to Make Smart Choices While Traveling

By Florida Department of Health, Office of Communications

June 20, 2013

No matter your level of pre-vacation excitement, we can all agree on one thing—traveling is exhausting. But just because an 8-hour flight or seemingly endless drive may make you feel like you just ran a marathon, it's important to remember that you didn't. It's no secret that vacation is a dietary and exercise wasteland, where healthy routines fall by the wayside and indulgence becomes the rule, not the exception. Cruise buffets, long layovers, and afternoons by the pool sipping calorie-laden cocktails are the recipe for a dietary disaster, and after a draining family reunion or eventful exotic adventure, the last thing you want is to rejoin the real world tasked with working extra hard to shed those extra vacation pounds. The solution? The Florida Department of Health (DOH) reminds you that a little planning and a few healthy choices can go a long way to making your vacation healthy without taking away any of the fun.

Sometimes It's About the Journey, Not the Destination
When we think of over-eating on vacation, we think of hitting the aforementioned cruise buffet for thirds or indulging in dessert after every meal. Remember, you needn't only watch what you eat at your vacation destination, but also mind your food choices as you journey there. A long layover or road trip pit stop will, more often than not, land you in fast-food mecca. Swap by-the-slice pizza stands and sinfully sweet coffee shop bakeries for homemade snacks. Add baked apple chips, trail mix, crackers and other healthy favorites to your packing list so you can skip the fast food and munch on healthy options instead.

Take Advantage
Find yourself at a hotel with a fitness center or swimming pool? Take advantage. Regardless of pace, walking a mile burns about 100 calories. Get on the treadmill and cover some ground before you hit the hay, or go for a swim if running isn't your thing. According to the Mayo Clinic, a person weighing 160 pounds who swims for an hour burns about 423 calories, an amount that can go a long way in canceling out extra calories consumed throughout the day. Staying at a relative's for a couple of days? Offer to walk their dog or lend a hand with calorie-burning housework, such as gardening. If you fall victim to a canceled or delayed flight, strap on your backpack and stroll the airport to reap some health benefits from an otherwise unfortunate situation.

Sit Less, Move More
Fitness-friendly vacations are in, and DOH invites you to join the trend and change it up this summer. Have a beach trip planned? Go snorkeling, take lengthy walks, or challenge your kids to a swimming contest. Going camping? Make time for a hike or get a bike rack so you can hit the trails on wheels. Is sightseeing in your future? Explore the city on a bike tour or on foot. If you've got kids in tow, get them moving too! Visit Nemour's Kids Health online for help planning a kid-friendly, activity-filled vacation that will make staying fit a family affair.

Drink Up
Before digging into that shrimp cocktail, make sure to pour yourself a tall glass of H20. Drinking water is a dieter's best friend, and a helpful tool to keep from over-indulging on vacation. A study released by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that adults who drank a large glass of water before meals ate an average of 75 fewer calories in that meal. That amount of calories may not sound like a lot in the grand scheme of caloric intake, but the same study revealed that cutting out those extra calories at lunch and dinner can lead to a 14 pound loss in a year.

Soak It All In, Write It All Down
Ever look back and wish you'd recorded great memories with family and friends? A travel journal will not only keep good times alive, but can help you remain conscious of your choices too. Jot down funny moments and descriptions of beautiful scenery, as well as the day's meals and activities. Logging food and exercise each day will help you make smarter decisions tomorrow. If you decide to keep up this habit after vacation has come and gone, check out some advice from the Cleveland Clinic on how to keep a food journal that will make a true difference in helping you reach your health goals.

Sleep, Sleep, Sleep
The equation for a healthy weight is a combination of diet, exercise and…sleep? That's right. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, a good night's rest on vacation will do more than keep you relaxed. Catching a few extra zzz's can control your hunger, deter unhealthy late-night snacking, and repress cravings for high-carb, high-calorie options. Waking up rested may eliminate the need for creamer-filled coffee or a sugary energy drink, and can give you the energy you need to squeeze in a vacation workout.

Eat Out, Just Eat Smart
We all know that restaurants are a dieter's greatest downfall. Reserving a condo with a kitchenette is a great way to save money and calories on vacation, but if you do eat out, just remember to eat smart. Check out restaurant menus online and decide what to order before arriving so you aren't influenced by another's choice. If you get a hefty portion, ask for a box early into your meal so you can save half for later. Mix and match: if you're getting dessert, get a light entrée, or indulge in that pasta dish and skip the cheesecake. Vacation is, after all, about having a good time. Sample local cuisine in moderation and give yourself a cheat day, take naps and lounge by the pool, but be smart about food and activity so you take a vacation from the daily grind, not from a healthy routine.