Vacation is the time to cut loose—to spend time with the people you love most in a great new place, away from the stresses of work and home life. And if you’re like most people, it also means food—eaten on the beach, on the run and at many of your favorite types of restaurants, leaving you with questions about what to eat on vacation while leading a healthy lifestyle.
You can either indulge and stall your progress, or skip all the fun stuff and miss out on the fun of vacation. But those aren’t the only options! You can eat delicious foods, have your favorites, enjoy your vacation, and still stay on your weight loss plan.
Here are some simple guidelines so you know exactly what to eat on vacation at likely dining destinations:
Grabbing something quick to start your day of adventure? Awesome idea: A survey done by the National Weight Control registry found that almost 80 percent of people who had maintained a 30-pound weight loss for at least a year were daily breakfast eaters. Ninety percent of those keeping those 30 pounds off ate breakfast at least five times per week. But a coffee shop’s glass case of pastries and copious caloric liquid offerings may not be your path to success—in fact, it can be a weight loss minefield.
- One less pump in your coffee: If you’re a flavored-coffee lover, try your favorite treat with just a little less sweetness. Instead of a three- or four-pump drink, try it with just one or two pumps of flavor. This can reduce the calories in your drink by 20 to 60 calories per pump, and still give you the flavor you love.
- “Other” milks: Milk does a body good, but alternative “milks” like almond and oat milk may do your waistline better. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), a whole cup of unsweetened almond milk has just 30 calories, compared to 86 calories for skim milk. You’ll get all the creaminess in your coffee you crave, but with more room to build a delicious vacation Flex Meal later in the day.
- Muffins: If you’re wondering what to eat on vacation while at the coffee house, there are some sugar-filled indulgences that are breakfast no-nos. No doubt muffins are delicious. Nutrisystem’s Double Chocolate Muffin is one of our members’ all-time favorites (so stock up for your trip if you’re a muffin lover!). But coffee house muffins are often loaded with calories. Muffins at many national coffee chains could clock in at 500 calories or more.
- Letting the staff add your cream cheese: When the barista dresses your bagel (or better yet, your English muffin), they can get a little shmear-happy, potentially adding a few hundred calories to your smart choice for the morning. Instead, ask for the cream cheese on the side: One tablespoon of reduced fat or fat-free cream cheese is equal to one extra on Nutrisystem’s Grocery Guide—so stick to that safe serving, and enjoy the creaminess guilt-free.
- Bagels: Bagels are so delicious, but they often have more than double the calories of an English muffin, according to the USDA. No chance you’re giving up your morning bagel? No problem! We have a delicious Honey Wheat Bagel you can easily pack for your next trip!
One of the best parts of vacation is not rushing out the door in the morning. It’s a great time to really enjoy the morning meal—and a pancake house is a great place for favorites the whole family can love. Here’s how to make sure your order satisfies your taste buds and your weight loss plan.
- Omelets: Of course! Researchers found in 2013 that dieters who ate 35 or more grams of muscle-building, filling protein at breakfast ate fewer high-fat, high-sugar snacks in the evening compared to people who either skipped breakfast or ate cereal. And eggs are a great source: Each one has just 70 calories, and six grams of protein. Load your omelet order with vegetables, and you’ll get a head start on eating your four to five servings of non-starchy, fiber-rich veggies for the day, which help Nutrisystem members stay full and satisfied.
- Top your pancakes with fruit: Pouring maple syrup over a short stack is a treat, but all the sweet comes with baggage—added sugar. And added sugar can be deadly: A 2014 study found that people who eat 17 to 21 percent of their daily calories from added sugars increased heart disease-related death risks by 38 percent. So stick to a tablespoon of sugar-free maple syrup or top your pancakes with something wholesome, but still sweet: Fruit, which has natural sugar, not added. That means it brings along nutrients your body needs and fiber to keep you full. You can add a whole cup of strawberries on top for just one SmartCarb on your Nutrisystem plan.
- Combo foods: Like every restaurant, the servings at pancake houses have exploded, with more and more calories piled on every plate. The biggest culprits at these sit-down breakfast spots are combo foods, which combine two or more breakfast meal favorites into one dish: Things like pancakes WITH a loaded omelet or French toast with bacon, eggs and breakfast potatoes.
You may be headed to the shore for vacation, so, of course, you’ll want some of the freshest fish you can get all year. Seafood restaurants are known for being luxurious, but here’s the good news: Many of the dishes you might think of as most indulgent are some of the most weight-loss-friendly options on any restaurant menu.
- Shrimp cocktail: As if you needed an excuse! But even if you eat an entire shrimp cocktail appetizer with the entire side of cocktail sauce, you’d still be under 200 calories. You’ll also pack in 21 grams of filling protein, meaning the rest of your meal will feel all the more satisfying (nutritional information taken from redlobster.com).
- Lobster: It doesn’t get any more indulgent that whole lobster—and it’s surprisingly low in calories, too. According to Medical News Today, a full cup of cooked lobster clocks in at just 129 calories, without the butter, of course. So go easy on the dipping, and you’ll stay well within your goal range.
- Fried fish: You’re by the sea! Keep it fresh. Having fried fish doesn’t just take away that just-from-the-sea flavor, but it also loads on the calories. Many fish and chips plates might clock in at more than 1,000 calories. Stick with grilled fish, fresh shell fish or steamed mussels in non-creamy sauces.
- Calorie-heavy side dishes: Like a steakhouse, seafood places often serve dishes with sides that are loaded with butter and excess calories. But they almost all offer steamed broccoli, too: Try it to add some crunch to your next fish dinner, while also getting one or more of your daily non-starchy vegetable servings.
After a long day of hoofing around and seeing the sights, it’s tough to beat a smoothie to refresh and refuel. But don’t let liquid calories undo all that exercise from your day of moving. Save some for a vacation-worthy dinner by following these plan-friendly smoothie shop tips.
- Whole fruit instead of fruit juice: As with the syrup vs. fruit at the pancake house, choosing a smoothie that features whole fruit instead of fruit juice or sherbet can not only save you calories and grams of sugar, but also adds in fiber. A strawberry smoothie from a national chain may use sherbet or ice cream as the base, so it’s likely loaded with sugar. Instead, ask to swap in almond milk, skim, whole fruit and no added sugar.
- Get one with veggies: Eating your vegetables on vacation can be a challenge, but it’s key to success on programs like Nutrisystem. One of the beauties of smoothies, though, is that vegetable flavors can be mixed into a sweet treat, masking the flavor. Smoothie options that include vegetables are often lower in calories and can pack in the fiber, while still including the flavors of bananas, peaches, strawberries and more.
Nothing says vacation quite like room service: A lazy day in your room can be the ultimate antidote to stressful weeks and months at work. It’s fast. It’s convenient. But it’s also got a potential problem when choosing what to eat on vacation while ordering room service: Sometimes, the food just isn’t that good. We’re not talking about wholesome—though there’s that, too—but not good: It’s food that isn’t fresh, delicious, and as expected by the time it reaches your door. You’re on vacation. Your meals should be delicious. Here’s how to make room service serve you better—both in flavor and nutrition.
- Cold sandwiches instead of hot: The bun on a room service burger often comes in soggy—a problem for lots of room service foods. Stick with cold options, and ask for the mayo on the side: It will keep the bread fresher, and let you use a healthy serving in line with Nutrisystem’s guidelines.
- Fresh fruits and veggies instead of fries: Fries are never good cold or soggy. Sitting under a steaming platter on the journey from the bowels of your hotel to your room, those perfect pieces of potato are likely to arrive in both of these sorry conditions. (The same goes for just about any fried option on a room-service menu). Save your fry-eating for when you can get them crispy and enjoy some still-crunchy fruits and vegetables when you order to your room.
- Pasta with sauce: What to eat on vacation when ordering in? Like any takeout pasta, it’s likely to be a little rubbery when it arrives, and the steam in the container will make the sauce go watery. Skip it!