Eating for Success When You’re on Vacation

You’ve got your scheduled dialed in. You go to the gym at the same time every day, lift weights and finish off your workout with some cardio training.


Your predictable schedule makes it easier to stick to your diet, too.


You step on the scale or look in the mirror and recognize your hard work and healthy choices are paying off.


And then your phone buzzes.


It’s a reminder that you’re going on vacation or have an out-of-town business trip planned.

And if you’re not prepared for the onslaught of junk food, empty calories, sugary snacks, and biggie-sized portions that can derail your diet, you could be in trouble.

Watch Out for Vacation Weight Gain


It’s no secret that going on vacation or taking a road trip typically means more fast food, more restaurant meals, and more quickie-mart snacks and drinks. It’s a recipe for disaster that can tip the scale in the wrong direction.

And it’s not just an urban legend.


In a University Georgia study, researchers followed 122 adults who took vacations that lasted 1 to 3 weeks. They measured their weight before vacation, after vacation, and six weeks after returning home.[1]

And it looks like what you eat on vacation, stays with you after you get back.

In the study, researchers found that the vactioners gained an average of 0.75 pounds (0.32kg) while they were away from home.

Could you work off a pound of fat with some extra cardio and clean eating after vacation?


Of course. But you’re better off doing everything you can to avoid gaining weight while on vacation. Why?


In the study, six weeks after the vacation was over, most people were still packing around the extra weight.


And if you take a couple vacations a year…well, you can see how the pounds start piling up.


Your Healthy Game Plan for Going on Vacation


Take a vacation, and you’re probably not going to have everything you’re used to in your kitchen: Lean protein, fresh fruit and vegetables, complex carbs, your food scale.

Instead, you’re more likely eat a vacation diet of burgers, fries, and sodas at fast food restaurants. Or worse griller-dogs and day-old donuts from a quickie mart.


And even if you’re eating at restaurants with reasonable food options while on vacation, there’s still a tendency to overeat, indulge in dessert, and drink too much.

How to you keep your diet in check when you’re on vacation? You need a game plan.


You’ve probably got your vacation all planned out with flights, hotel rooms, a car rental, and what’s you’ll be doing. But you’re not totally prepared if you don’t have a plan for what you’ll be eating.

Here are some ways to avoid packing on the pounds when you’re on vacation:

Bring Your Own Food


It probably sounds crazy if you’re used to going out to eat when you’re on vacation.


But it’s not. If you’re staying somewhere with a mini-fridge and a microwave on vacation:


  • Prep as much food as you can bring with you in advance.
  • Pack it in a cooler.
  • Transfer it to the fridge when you get there.


It’s the best option for sticking to your meal plan, when you’re not at home.

Pack Healthy Snacks


Cheese and crackers, pretzels, cookies, soda. That’s the typical airline snack food you’ll find when you board a flight to your vacation destination.


Your hotel room, cruiseship cabin, or stay-for-a-week office suite might be stocked with cookies and soda, too. And if you’re on a road-trip, you’ll find even less healthy options at the gas station convenience store.

Avoid packing on the pounds with unhealthy and high-calorie foods, and bring along healthier snacks like:


  • Unsalted nuts
  • Cheese sticks
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Greek yogurt
  • Jerky
  • Protein bars and shakes


Practice Restaurant Readiness


If you know you’ll be going out to eat on vacation, avoid seeing the menu for the first time when you sit down to order.


  • Look up the restaurant menu online before you go. Get familiar with the foods that fit your macros and daily-calorie goal, so you know what to order when you get there.


  • Sans sauce or on the side. Ranch dressing, barbecue sauce, mayonnaise. Sauces might taste good, but they’s often high in sugar and sodium. Skip the sauces and season with a little salt and pepper, or ask for sauces on the side and use conservatively.



  • Steamed, grilled, or baked. If you’re trying to eat clean, pick a meal from the menu that includes steamed, grilled, or baked chicken, turkey, or lean beef, and vegetables.


  • Start with salad. You really can’t go wrong eating more leafy greens. Start your meal with a salad, instead of fries or high-calorie appetizers. Even most fast food restaurants have healthy salad options.


Create an H20 Habit


A few minutes after your plane reaches altitude, a flight attendant will make their way down the aisle serving drinks like soda, juice, and alcohol.


Go with water. Make it your default drink in the car, on the plane, in a restaurant.


This zero-calorie option will help you feel fuller, stay hydrated, recover faster, and avoid the empty calories and sugar in other drinks that can lead to weight gain.


Get Back on Track


Going on vacation doesn’t have to destroy your diet. You can still get the rest and relaxation you need without overeating. And if you do splurge on a second serving or decadent dessert, give yourself a break. And just get back on track when you return.


Need help with meal planning while on vacation? Let’s discuss on my Facebook page.




  1. Cooper, J.A., et al. (2016). A prospective study on vacation weight gain in adults. Physiology & Behavior. From: