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What to Eat When You’re on Vacation to Stay Healthy and Lose Weight

Natalie
Stein
June 4, 2024
What to Eat When You’re on Vacation to Stay Healthy and Lose Weight
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In this article:

  • Vacations can help you relax and recharge. They can improve productivity at work, support mental health, and allow you to refocus at home.
  • A change from your regular routine can change your eating, physical activity, and other health-related behaviors. Making healthier choices when you see opportunities while on vacation can help you feel better during your trip and when you get back to your regular routine.
  • Some ways to eat better on vacation are to watch portion sizes, ask for healthy local cuisine, and enjoy fresh fare from markets.
  • It’s easy to stay active by walking while sightseeing. You can also look for specialty classes or tours to explore the local area or pick up a new skill.
  • Keep logging to stay accountable and keep weight in check as you have new experiences or enjoy a break from your regular routine at home.
  • Lark can help you manage weight with or without GLP-1s as you log food, get tips for eating healthier, and make small changes that can turn into healthy habits.

Taking vacations can improve your mental health, as vacation time can improve productivity at work, expand your horizons, and give you a break from regular responsibilities. There’s even more good news: a vacation can also support physical health.

Taking a vacation can interrupt healthy habits that may be ingrained by now, and foods abroad may be less familiar to you. But, changes in schedule and scenery can also have benefits.

Going away can expose you to different, delicious, and healthy foods that can keep you on track while you take a break from daily life.

Wherever you are, it’s possible to make healthier choices that support your weight and health goals while still having a great time. Here are some ways to do that when you leave the country for one of the top destinations for American tourists. We also have plenty of tips for eating well on the road, finding healthy restaurants, and better fast food orders when you’re in the US!

Ask Locals for Help

Do some research if you’re going to a destination with a different cuisine than your local fare at home. That way, you can already have an idea about what you may want to order. As you’re looking, check for vegetables, lean proteins like fish, beans, and chicken, and healthier fats like oil instead of butter. If you’re not sure which dishes they may be in, or how to order, ask for help. Hotel receptionists, restaurant chefs and servers, and vendors at farmers markets can be valuable resources.

The hotel receptionists may be able to explain popular local dishes so you know which ones are healthiest. You can also ask where you can find specific items that you may want, like salads or seafood.

When at restaurants, take advantage of experts like servers and chefs to get gourmet food on your meal plan. Tell them the ingredients you want, like vegetables and fish, and see what they recommend.

Mexico

It’s easy to find fatty red meat and added fats like lard and butter. Mexican food also features fried options and refined carbs like rice, tortilla chips, and tortillas. Luckily, you don’t have to look far to find healthy options, too.

Here are some examples.

  • Chicken tacos or tacos with grilled shrimp or fish
  • Salsa roja or salsa verde
  • Broth-based soups like caldo de pollo (chicken soup), pozole verde con pollo (green chicken pozole), and caldo de camaron (shrimp soup)
  • Guacamole offers healthy fats, and it’s a great choice for a condiment in small amounts
  • Ceviche with shrimp or fish raw or cooked and marinated in lime juice along with onions, tomatoes, cilantro, and chili peppers
  • Chicken fajita salad (ensalada)
  • Black bean soup

Canada

Canada’s culinary diversity makes sense given the size of the country. Have only small tastes of high-calorie foods like poutine, butter tarts, and bacon sandwiches. Instead, take advantage of wild game or seafood and ethnic dishes.

Here are some examples.

  • Grilled salmon with a side of steamed vegetables
  • Lentil soup with vegetables
  • Chopped kale Caesar salad
  • Quinoa salad with chopped cucumbers, tomatoes, and bell peppers, with a lemon vinaigrette
  • Indian curries with vegetables and chicken or fish
  • Chicken souvlaki with grilled vegetables
  • Vegetarian moussaka

United Kingdom

The UK traditionally has a reputation for lackluster cuisine, but it has a lot of delicious foods to offer. Compared to some other countries, it can be easier to choose foods that meet your dietary needs due to things like posting calories on menus, meeting demands for dietary preferences like plant-based or vegan, and having a variety of ethnic options close at hand.

Take advantage of knowing the language to ask for what you want so you can get a healthy meal.

It can be hard to stick to your healthy intentions if you often choose deep-fried foods like fish and chips, dishes with processed meat like bangers and mash, and high-fat, high-carb meals like a full English breakfast and afternoon tea. Look a little further, and there are many nutritious choices that are just as tasty and satisfying.

Here are a few items to consider.

  • Roast chicken with jacket potato and roasted vegetables
  • Veggie burger patties
  • Vegetable soup
  • Prawn cocktail
  • Roasted parsnips
  • Tandoori chicken
  • Lentil soup
  • Grilled halloumi salad

Italy

Pizza, pasta, and Italian meats may not seem ideal for health and weight loss, but you can look for the “Mediterranean Diet” side of Italian food.

Here are some choices with fiber, lean protein, and healthy fats.

  • Insalata caprese with mozzarella, tomatoes, basil leaves, and olive oil
  • Grilled branzino with vegetables
  • Insalata de mare (seafood salad) with seafood, lemon juice, and olive oil
  • Frittata with vegetables
  • Pollo alla griglia (grilled chicken) with vegetables)

France

France may be a culinary destination all on its own. Luckily, there’s the French paradox in which the French traditionally eat full-fat foods like butter and cheese, but aren’t overweight. You can take advantage of the French paradox by acting like traditional French people: enjoy your food, keep portions in check, and walk a lot.

A few high-fat foods in France are buttery pastries like quiche and mille-feuille, bacon or lardons to flavor stews, and steak frites, which is the French term for fatty steak served with French

fries. But there are so many nutritious items that you can get from restaurants, charcuteries (like delis), and street vendors.

Here are some items to look for.

  • Boeuf Bourguignon is beef stew cooked in red wine with garlic, onions, carrots, and mushrooms
  • Bouillabaisse, or fish and shellfish stew
  • Salade Niçoise, which has many variations but may have tuna, boiled eggs, tomatoes, olives, and anchovies, and is dressed with olive oil.
  • Ratatouille is a vegetable dish with eggplant, zucchini, bell peppers, onions, tomatoes, and flavored with garlic and herbs.
  • Poisson en Papillote is a simple dish of fish cooked in parchment paper with herbs and vegetables
  • Poulet roti (Roast chicken) is simple and often served with small potatoes and steamed vegetables or Salade Verte (green salad)
  • Omelette aux Légumes is a vegetable omelet that may be a lunch or dinner

Dominican Republic

This is a popular tourist destination among Americans, and there are amazing flavors here. It's possible to limit fried foods like chicharrones and fried fish, excessive starches like large helpings of rice and yucca root, and added fats from coconut milk and mayo-based dips.

Here are some flavorful choices to consider.

  • Berenjena asada (Grilled eggplant) with spices and herbs
  • La Bandera Dominicana with stewed chicken and rice, beans, and salad
  • Pescado al vapor (steamed fish) with herbs and spices, served with salad or steamed vegetables
  • Sancocho (stew) made with chicken, root vegetables (like yuca, plantains, and potatoes), and vegetables, and seasoned with herbs and spices.
  • Sopa de Habichuelas (bean soup) with vegetables and herbs
  • Ensalada Verde (green salad) with lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and avocado, dressed with lime juice or vinegar. Ask for chicken, fish, or beans with it.
  • Yuca con Mojo: Boiled yuca (cassava) served with a citrusy garlic sauce (mojo)

Spain

There are certainly some gut-busting dishes in Spain, but Spanish cuisine goes beyond processed meats like Jamón Ibérico (cured ham), starchy sweets like Churros con Chocolate (fried dough sticks), and fried foods like croquetas. If you want paella, opt for versions with seafood and vegetables rather than paella with sausages.

Here are some healthy options while enjoying Spanish cuisine.

  • Tortilla Española (Spanish Omelette) with eggs, potatoes, and onions. Add a salad, and it can be a light meal
  • Gazpacho, or cold soup with tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, onions, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, and bread
  • Pisto, or ratatouille with eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, onions, bell pepper, and olive oil

Pulpo a la Gallega (Galician-style Octopus): Octopus cooked with olive oil, paprika, and sea salt, served on a bed of boiled potatoes. Ask for it with Ensalada Mixta (Mixed Salad) with mixed greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, olives, and other fresh vegetables, dressed with olive oil and vinegar.

  • Gambas al Ajillo (Garlic Shrimp): Shrimp sautéed with garlic, olive oil, and chili flakes. Ask for it with vegetables like Espárragos Trigueros a la Plancha (Grilled Asparagus) or Escalivada: Grilled vegetables such as bell peppers, eggplant, and onions, marinated in olive oil and vinegar
  • Germany

    Popular German foods may include bratwurst, spaetzle, schnitzel, and apple strudel, but there’s a more nutritious side to German food than sausages, breaded meat, starchy sides, and desserts. Consider these choices.

    • Pickled herring with sauerkraut
    • Grilled Fish with Potato Salad
    • Sauerbraten with red cabbage and potatoes
    • Gegrilltes Gemüse, or grilled vegetables
    • Hühnersuppe or chicken soup with chicken, vegetables, and herbs
    • Hähnchen-Gemüse-Pfanne or chicken with vegetables

    Japan

    There are a lot of refined carbs in ramen, sushi, steamed rice, and udon, as well as excess carbs and fat in fried and bread foods like tempura and cutlets. However, there are tons of healthier choices with lean protein and vegetables. Plus, it’s easy to get smaller servings of a variety of foods.

    Here are some better-for-you choices.

    • Sashimi, or fresh raw sliced seafood served without rice (only order from a trusted restaurant and if you’re confident that you’re aware of the risks of eating raw seafood
    • Edamame are steamed green soybeans that make a high-fiber snack or side with protein
    • Sunomono is shrimp or octopus salad with cucumbers, vinegar, and soy sauce
    • Yakitori (Chicken Skewers) are low-carb and high in protein
    • Yudofu (Tofu soup) has a light broth and some garnishes like vegetables
    • Hijiki salad with seaweed, tofu, and vegetables
    • Oden (hot pot) with vegetables, protein, and boiled eggs simmered in a light dashi broth, providing a warm and filling meal with low-calorie options.

    China

    Cuisine in China is as varied as the country is big, and that’s saying a lot! Street food can be fried, and pork, rice, and noodles are everywhere, but there are ways to get nutritious meals with all kinds of flavors. Ask for vegetarian, chicken, or tofu dishes, and see how many vegetables you can add. Many experts suggest staying away from raw vegetables for food safety reasons.

    Here are some examples of healthy foods in China.

    • Stir-fried vegetables with tofu, chicken, or fish
    • Steamed fish with black beans or ginger
    • Broth-based soups like hot and sour
    • Hot pot with chicken or seafood, vegetables, and broth

    4 More Tips for Healthy Lifestyles Anywhere in the World

    1. Walk

    Do you want to window shop, stop to look at local signs and architecture, and learn what life as a local may be like? Walking may be the best way to do that. Check a map and see if you can walk to your destination, or set aside an hour after breakfast to stroll around the neighborhood where you’re staying. Either way, you’ll feel energized and get to see the sights in a different way than if you drove everywhere.

    2. Keep logging

    It can be difficult to know exactly what’s in your food if you’re abroad, but you can still do your best to log it. That way, you’ll stay accountable and keep thinking about your choices. If you’re not confident about the exact makeup of your foods, you can set less precise goals, such as eating vegetables at both lunch and dinner or having only half of a dessert after dinner.

    3. Have picnics

    What better way to stay active, experience local customs, and eat healthy, than choosing picnics for some of your meals? Shop at a supermarket, smaller grocery store, or farmers market. Then walk to a nearby park and enjoy your meal.

    4. Find new activities

    Active experiences can be among your new experiences when you’re abroad. Walking tours are a great way to get active without overextending yourself. They tend to tell you how long and fast you need to be able to walk to keep up, so you can decide which ones to go on.

    Additional types of outings and classes may be available, too. If they appeal to you, consider biking or hiking tours, rock climbing, kayaking, surfing, skiing, or other guided tours or classes. They’ll keep you active, which can give you an even greater high on your vacation.

    How Lark Can Help

    Weight management and health are about healthy choices every day, and you can stay healthy while on vacation no matter where you are. Your Lark coach is available 24/7 for nutrition and physical activity coaching and tracking. Lark can help you make healthy choices and establish habits that fit into your lifestyle so you can lose weight and keep it off with or without GLP-1 medications.

    Click here to see if you may be eligible to join Lark today!

    About Lark

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