I just got back from Europe! It was my second time and I loved it more than the first. On this trip, I was in Belgium, Spain, France, and the Netherlands for 2 weeks. Now that I’m back I’ve been reflecting on the trip and wanted to share some strategies I used to enjoy the culture and food without guilt or deprivation.

Step 1. Identify your nutrition goals on vacation

Do you want to continue losing weight or are you okay with maintaining?

How closely do you want to stick to your current way of eating when away?

*Note: make sure when you’re answering these questions that you aren’t saying “I should.”

When I was planning this trip I decided ahead of time that I wanted to try as many different foods and dishes as possible. I was okay with not always having my typical meal of veggies, protein, and carbs.

My intention wasn’t to overindulge but to really enjoy the food and appreciate it. Identifying my goals beforehand freed me from any judgment or feeling deprived. The mistake I see people make is not having a plan on vacation so at every meal they’re debating whether or not they should have the “unhealthy option”. Most fall into the last chance eating mindset and end up overeating, not feeling good, and frustrated about the weight they gained.

I really paid attention to my hunger cues and took advantage of being off my normal eating pattern to listen to my body. Most of the time I ate when I was hungry and stopped when I was satisfied. By doing this I was able to eat the amount my body needed for fuel and avoided gaining weight even though some of the meals were more indulgent.

If weight loss or maintenance is a goal during your next vacation plan ahead which meals you want to enjoy, for most of us it’s dinner. Make breakfast a healthy choice most days, along with lunch since they are usually foods we can get anywhere. Like I mentioned above, use this time to really pay attention to your hunger cues and become more of an intuitive eater. And lastly, when you do have a fun food or meal taste every bite and truly enjoy it.

Step 2. Plan in exercise or some kind of physical activity

How often do you want to do something active?

What type of physical activity can you do on this vacation?

For exercise, I decided ahead of time that I would try to get some movement in 3-4x each week even though my usual is 6x. I looked into walking and running tours because what better way to explore a new place than with running shoes? I knew it would be cold and rainy where I was going so I found an exercise app called Aaptiv that has a ton of workouts you can do at home (or in an Airbnb) using just your body weight.  

By staying active I had so much more energy and mental clarity. There were plenty of times I didn’t feel like doing anything but just 20-30 minutes of getting my heart up got rid of that sluggish feeling.

Since you’re on vacation it’s okay to take a break from your typical gym or running routine but look into new ways to be active while exploring your surroundings.

Step 3. Make room in your bag for healthy snacks

Will you be close to a grocery store?

Will you have access to a kitchen?

My go to travel snacks when I’m flying or on the road:

Trader Joes individually bagged trail mix

Zing bars

Peanut butter individual packets

Sage Harvest jerky

Whole grain or seed crackers

Apples

Having these snacks saved me multiple times from becoming too hungry which can quickly ruin a trip for me and whoever I’m with. There was only one time I forgot to stash some trail mix in my bag before sightseeing in Paris. I was in the Louvre when hunger hit, I did my best to appreciate the Mona Lisa, but the hangry was getting the best of me and I left earlier than planned.

Having healthy snacks on hand when your out will help manage your hunger and portion sizes once you can get a meal. Decide ahead if you need to bring most of your snacks or if you’ll head to a grocery store when you arrive. Just be prepared that it may not to have your go to snacks.  

Step 4. There are no wrong decisions

Okay, this isn’t food related and you’re probably thinking umm yes there are, but stay with me.  

In the past when I traveled I would second guess whether or not I made the right choice going to one city over the other or if I picked the best activity. I would waste so much time searching online and while at the destination distracted by the thought I should be somewhere else. I could never fully enjoy my vacation because I wasn’t present enough to appreciate where I was.

On this trip, I did not allow myself to second guess anything. The moment I made a decision I was all in, it was a perfect decision because I said it was. Surprise, surprise I loved every place I visited and everything I did. Without all the indecision and doubt I was able to be fully present where I was and appreciate what it had to offer.

If you don’t do this already I highly recommend it, you can you use it in most areas of your life.

So let me know, do you see vacation as a time to indulge and let go or stick to your healthy habits?