road and bluffIt was the road trip that got me. We weren’t camping but staying at hotels, lodges and once, slept in a Tee Pee. The plan was to drive with our millennial kids who were moving across country while exploring as many National Parks as we could. The trip was blessed with great weather, an early peak season with manageable crowds, flowers and wildlife galore. My problem became apparent as the trip rolled into the second week. Eating out on vacation had pounds sneaking up on me.

Road trip food temptations, eating out

Road trip temptations.

Aside from driving an average of two to six hours daily, we stayed active. There were hiking trails aplenty and in the National Parks we walked, climbed and traversed for hours. I have the dusty boots and callouses to prove it! We lugged our minimal luggage in and out of the car most every night. Getting out the door early meant trading my 30 minute floor-Yoga routine for rest-stop stretches and Drivetime Yoga.

No smores in bear country. One night at Under Canvas, Yellowstone.

No s’mores in bear country. One night at Under Canvas, Yellowstone.

The eating out conundrum

Along with a regular exercise regime, I usually eat one full meal a day with lots of veggies, fruit, water and tea the rest of the time. Hiking, the great company and new cuisines led to a pattern slip. I ate more bread and shared 3 meals. By the end of the journey I was uncomfortable. Don’t let that happen to you!

Hard to resist! Smoke n' Man at BBQ, Union Creek Cabins outside Crater Lake.

Irresistible Smoke n’ Man and his BBQ wagon, Union Creek Cabins near Crater Lake.

“Eating out while on vacation can be tricky. You want to enjoy and ‘let loose,’ but you also don’t want those unwanted calories and pounds to sneak up on you,” says Kristi King, registered dietitian with Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital.

Redwood National Park.

A tree in a tree – Redwood National Park.

Here’s my and Kristi King’s tips for eating out on vacation:
  • When possible plan ahead. Check out restaurants near your destination to get an idea of the local cuisine and menus. We used Yelp reviews when we could and grabbed quick lunches in grocery store deli departments. Each of us could choose what they wanted.
  • Renting a house or condo? Does your hotel suite include a kitchen? Plan to have some meals at “home.” It saves calories and money.
  • Allow time to prepare meals. Too often we’d roll into a destination already starving and settled for the easiest and quickest meal. It was a recipe for weight-gain.
  • Eat your biggest meal at midday. Prices are better and you won’t go to sleep with a full tummy. That can make you restless and gain weight.
  • Leave time to meet the locals: Ask people or use Apps to find grocery shops or a local farmer’s market as soon as you get there.
  • Order half portions at meal times or, better yet, split the meal with the family. This works well unless you end up as we did – splitting entrees and sharing. I ended up with more on my plate than usual that too often included grains, potatoes and fried food.
  • Be seriously active: Get out of the car to sight-see, swim in the ocean or hotel pool, or find other fun activities such as hiking and biking that will get you moving and burning calories.
  • Cruising? It’s become much easier to be active on-board and burn off the sumptuous buffet calories. Take advantage of classes. Start counting steps with easy Apps. Take active shore excursions.
  • Limit alcohol. Have fun but it’s too easy to pour in calories by ordering fancy drinks and allowing yourself ‘just one more.’ Consider sharing a drink with your travel buddy!
  • Drink water, lots of it. I carry a refillable bottle and the National Parks have filling stations full of local, fresh, spring water. Stop using plastic bottles and when you don’t have another option, dispose of them responsibly.
  • Don’t deny yourself: A good rule of thumb is to limit local treats to one per day.
  • Relax: You’re on vacation! Don’t obsess about calories. Enjoy the local cuisine and allow yourself small amounts.

If only I’d followed my own advice! It’s live and learn. Now we’re home it’s back to the regular eating schedule and lots of exercise.

Enjoy this post? Here’s more about keeping your diet on track while vacationing.

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How do you keep from gaining weight when eating out on vacation?