Summer vacation is usually the time of year when stress levels are at their lowest and we try to enjoy life to the fullest. That said, if we overdo it, we're going to regret it when we come back to "real" life. With many nutritional options available to us on our summer travels, Habs strength and conditioning coach Pierre Allard once again turns to team nutritionist Martin Frechette to help us eat healthily over the summer.
The first thing to do when trying to keep a healthy diet on vacation is to plan things out. The same way we'll plan out our activities, it's also important to think ahead to which foods would be interesting to bring, especially when it comes to snacks.
If we're expecting to have a long day or a big day of travel, snacks consisting of fresh fruit, dried fruit, nuts, whole-wheat cereal bars, cheese or yogurt are all good options.
Also, food that would generally be part of an actual meal, like pieces of fish, chicken or even good quality beef jerky, could be taken as snacks and can be good alternatives.
If we have those kinds of things with us, it'll be easier to eat healthy. On the other hand, if we're always stopping at rest stops or dépanneurs (convenience stores), it makes it harder, although dépanneurs - especially in Quebec - are getting better with their food selection. That means that we should be able to easily find snacks that you'd keep in our fridge, like vegetables, fruit salad or yogurt, eliminating the need to buy chips or chocolate bars.
It's also important to prioritize quality over quantity. Take advantage of the opportunity to try new things on vacation - especially when it comes to food. Try "real" food, as opposed to what we typically consider to be "vacation" food. What often happens on vacation is there are no rules and anything goes. Try to think outside the box and get in the mindset of discovering something new. Maybe eat a bit less, but at the end of the day, eat better.
Another important thing to watch out for on vacation is liquid calories, particularly with sweetened drinks, soft drinks, vitamin water, etc. I would also add flavored coffees to that list - French vanilla, mochaccinos, etc., which are all the rage these days. Sometimes, those coffees can have almost as many calories as a Big Mac. Without knowing it, some people are "drinking" a lot of Big Macs on vacation!
Instead, prioritize drinking water, sparkling water or even water we've flavored ourselves with frozen fruit or herbs. We can even make iced teas using tea bags we buy ourselves and prepare at home.
On the subject of liquid sugar, it's important not to forget about alcohol. On vacation, people tend to let themselves go a bit more. I'm going to go with the boring suggestion that we should try and drink in moderation. Generally, we drink alcohol in social situations and often, it'll be one glass after another. That's why we should try to alternate with sparkling water or flavored water. That way, we'll still always have a glass in our hand and participate in the social aspect of things, but we'll be in better shape and proud of it the next day!
It's ok to not be as rigorous with our diets on vacation as we are in our normal day-to-day. Cheating a little bit throughout the year is acceptable; if we're too strict with ourselves all the time, we're more likely to give in to temptation on vacation. Sometimes, if we eat too much "cheat" food, we lose the enjoyment factor. Whether with food or drink, the first bites or sips are magical, but the effect wears off when we overindulge. If we consume less, it'll be just as enjoyable and we won't be having as much of an impact on our health.