Sunshine. Beach. Flipflops. Long days.
And for most of us:
2 years ago I went on a gorgeous vacation, a weeklong Mediterranean cruise to Spain, France and Italy. Last year I went to visit family in Israel for a whole month. And this year I am taking the summer off with very light work load, frequent trips to the beach, long days in my back yard and local day trips – you know, a staycation.
So whether you vacation is local or far, short or long, solo or with family and anything in between, you can decide to make it a healthy vacation with a few easy adjustments.
1. Focusing on health is focusing on pleasure.
The first adjustment is to your mindset. The attitude that you can either be healthy or have fun on vacation is simply not true, you can have both! In fact, feeling ill because of many unhealthy choices will decrease your enjoyment of your vacation. On my Mediterranean trip I decided to focus on health and have it be the main theme of my vacation, I shared healthy tips and meals with my tribe on Facebook and it was so much fun! I felt vibrant, alive, energetic and excited to figure out how to make the healthiest choices I could find. You will find that making healthy choices will infuse your vacation with a sense of joy!
2. Cruise into health.
Cruises are a popular way to experience world travel, they are fun, more affordable and allow you to sample many places in a short period of time. Many women fear the ‘all you can eat’ buffets at cruises that result in big weight gains.
But cruises can be treasures of health:
~ Long decks for morning and evening walks and watching the sunrise and sunset
~ Fully equipped gyms and classes
~ Dance parties every night
~ Sit down restaurants with world cuisines, reasonable portions and many healthy choices
~ Staff that is eager to cater to every special need and request
Here is how I made my time on the ship healthy:
~ I started each morning with yoga and a walk around the deck.
~ I asked the waiter to make me a green smoothie every breakfast and every dinner and it became the talk of the table!
~ My husband, son and I went to every dance party! FUN!
~ I ordered my dinner with extra vegetables.
~ Every night we ordered a plate of fresh fruit from room service for a night snack.
~ And I pretty much stayed away from the all-day-all-you-can-eat buffet.
During excursions I took the walking trip option or explored on my own and was pretty much walking all day long. I stopped at wonderful places for wonderful lunches and people watching.
In Nice I had Salad Niçoise and socca, a local chickpea bread.
In Florence I had a delicious salad with smoked salmon followed by the most amazing chocolate-hazelnut gelato on the planet!
In Rome I had a gluten free pasta with a side of escarole greens. It was the best tasting pasta I ever had, cooked perfectly al dente with a light creamy tomato sauce.
In Sorrento I had gluten free pasta with salad.
In Barcelona I had grilled fish with vegetables.
Everything was made to local perfection.
3. Local fairs and festivals.
Living in New York, summer is prime time for street fairs and street foods. One of my favorites is the San-Gennaro Festival in Little Italy at the end of every summer. There’s a stage with live music, amusement park delights like a giant wheel and spinning tea cups, lots of street food and a dozens of Italian restaurants with enclosed curb-side, garden-like sitting.
~ Street food is a wonderful way to sample local and ethnic cuisines. Look for dishes that are loaded with veggies, many stands will serve up grilled vegetables and stir fried.
~ Festivals have many opportunities to be active by walking, dancing and playing games, so participate and have fun.
~ Enjoy people watching, the decorations, the activities and the ambiance. Remember that food is just one aspect of the event so don’t focus just on that.
4. Hotel Stays
When you visit location that are far from home hotels are a popular and convenient option. But that also means no kitchen and all meals are eaten out. You can still be the happy-healthy tourist by incorporating the following:
~ Call ahead and ask the hotel to have an EMPTY fridge in your room, that way you will avoid the empty calorie and overpriced selection and you can fill up the fridge with produce and healthy picks from local markets.
~ Ask the hotel if there is a fitness room or if they have a connection to a fitness center, it can be a nice way to stay active if you like gym workouts.
~ Google vegetarian, vegan and organic restaurants in the city you are visiting. You don’t have to be vegan to enjoy a plant based healthy meal.
~ Sign up for walking tours, they are a great way to connect with people, sight-see and get loads of activity while having fun. My most enjoyable touring experiences have been going on themed walking tours and experiencing places I would not have seen otherwise.
~ Visit local farmers markets. You can find delicious and fresh produce and local delicacies to take back to your hotel room, to snack on or to enjoy in a picnic.
~ Enjoy the food! Don’t deprive yourself of local specialties, eat and enjoy! When I travel I will usually have one luxurious meal in a restaurant every day and the rest will be healthy snacks, cafe-salads, takeouts, and lots of fruits and vegetables.
5. Visiting Family
For me this is the most challenging and I need to plan in advance to make sure my family visits are healthy and happy. Here is what I do when I visit my family, you will need to adjust it to your situation and location.
~ I go to Israel often to visit my family and usually stay with my parents.
~ I call my mom ahead of time to tell her I will do the food shopping while there.
~ On the way to their place from the airport I stop by a big health-food supermarket and do a big shop, everything we will need for the week. On longer stays I will go shopping again.
~ I ask my mom to do little switches to healthier oil, healthier salt, etc.
~ My mom cooks some of the meals and I cook some of the meals.
~ I start my day with yoga on the terrace before everyone wakes up or go to the local health club for a morning class (usually yoga or pilates).
~ Once my family is up and about, which includes my brothers, sister-in-law and nieces and nephews, I make sure to be fully available to them and enjoy my time with them.
~ I schedule trips and activities with the children.
~ On my last trip we had a couple of meals at a local health-food restaurant that served amazing organic food. It was a hidden gem my family did not know about which I found on an internet search. I will definitely go back to it in future visits.
~ I don’t do all those things at every single trip and depending on the situation I will compromise and find a happy middle.
~ The most important thing for me when visiting my family is to be warmly connected to everyone and to share my healthy life-style in a friendly, non-intimidating way.
~ I enjoy other family members cooking even if it’s not the healthiest and I am always pleasantly surprised when they tell me they have adjusted their recipes and made them healthier because of me.
~ Through the years it has been wonderful to see the healthy changes that have trickled into my family’s food choices.
I would love to hear from you. How do you stay healthy while vacationing? Please share in the comments below.
Happy Summer and Healthy Travels!