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Healthy Eating on Vacation

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I was asked by a reader:

Hey Katie,
It would be great if you could do a post on eating healthy on vacation, especially how you deal with when you first arrive and haven’t had time to go grocery shopping yet. I always struggle with that! And working out too. Love your blog by the way!

I’m really lucky because the beach house where we’re staying is equipped with a full kitchen (oven, microwave, fridge and freezer). And—as I mentioned in my previous post—my parents drove down a week before me, taking dangerous “Katie things” I couldn’t bring on an airplane. They also bought a few staples, during the week, to save me from having to go grocery shopping first thing.

znyc 1392

Breakfast was an old favorite: Blended Oatmeal Pudding.

I cooked the oatmeal in Texas and took it on the airplane in a small Magic Bullet cup. Thankfully, no one tried to stop me.


The above was my breakfast backdrop.

For lunch, on the first day, I utilized some of the items my parents bought. My meal was close to the ugly meal from yesterday’s post—with the monster salad, Artisana coconut butter, and Chee-fu. The only difference was that I had a bowl of corn instead of the zucchini fries. And now that I have had time to go grocery shopping, I’m eating very similarly to the way I always eat.

There’s just one exception: Since I’m on vacation, I want to enjoy the scenery, the town, the beach, etc. I don’t want to be stuck in the kitchen all day. So I’m keeping things simple—less cooking, more “thrown together” meals, with lotsa salads and fresh fruits and veggies (taking advantage of those side-of-the-road farmers’ markets we don’t have in Texas). Plus, being out shopping or hanging in the town requires portable snacks, so I’ll often exchange my beloved blended pudding or Vita-Mix ice cream snacks for Jocalat bars, fudge baby bars, raw nuts, or especially fresh farmer’s-market fruits. Yesterday afternoon, for example, I feasted on this:

greenport 205

Juiciest box of raspberries ever. In the words of Usher: OMG! These berries hail from the cutest little farmer’s-market stand. Honestly, I want to box up the entire stand and transport it with me back to Texas. Why don’t we have places like this? Almost everything is organic, everything is local, and the stand boasts the ripest and juiciest fruit/veg. Berries, peppers, asparagus, salad greens, apples, peaches, tomatoes…

Question of the Day:

How do you eat healthily on vacation? And in the summertime, do you tend to stick to the same type of routine, or do you completely deviate from how you live during the rest of the year?

Personally, I love the freedom of not having to be at a specific place at a specific time (unlike in college– *blah*). However, as far as eating is concerned, I still pretty much eat around the same times because that’s when my body is conditioned to feel hungry. Same thing with sleeping: For the most part, I still fall asleep around 11ish and wake up naturally around 6:30 or so. If I mess with my sleep routine too much, my body feels it the next day. (All rules go out the window on dancing nights, though. Sometimes, feeling icky later is soooo worth it!) But the rest of my family—and some of my friends—follow a completely different lifestyle during the summer months, eating dinner at 10PM, sleeping til noon, and having pizza for breakfast.

Thanks, Gisela, for the question. I’ll try to get to the second part of your question (about working out) later this week.

Katie is the baker, photographer, and author of the popular blog Chocolate-Covered Katie. Her favorite food is chocolate, and she believes in eating a balanced diet that includes dessert every single day. More about Katie—> 
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  1. Those berries do look delicious!!
    It used to be so simple for us. We’d just eat whatever, whenever on vacations, hitting up local markets or restaurants and such as we went. NOW there’s a mini-us in the picture and his tummy doesn’t understand “vacation schedule” vs. normal life schedule. (And no, we’re not stopping for the fast food window. Ever!) So we travel with food! I always have a giant bag of produce with me when we venture away from home. I even drag it along on the little 3 hour drives to my mom’s because a hungry toddler breaks my heart! We haven’t flown yet though, but we’re more of a road trip type of family anyway. 😉

  2. This is always a huge, and the FIRST concern of mine when I go somewhere else! It can be so uncomfortable being vegan in a new place. When I just go with my husband its easy cause we grocery shop, but if we are visiting someone or family it can get so difficult! Due to it being difficult in the beginning though I know realize that I just need to plan ahead and I think eventually itll become second nature!

  3. Katie says:

    Gorgeous beach. Gorgeous raspberries.

    My schedule changes dramatically in the summertime. My sleeping/eating schedule SUCKS when I work (up at 4:30…lunch at 11am…dinner at 6pm…bed by 9pm) – and that is NOT how my body functions naturally – so I relish the summer days when I can stay up a little later and sleep in a little later. It’s “recharge” time for me, and I just listen to what my body wants to do – it’s glorious really.

  4. Gabby says:

    Thanks for doing this post. I am taking down some of your snack ideas and also will be reading the comments to see what others write!!!

  5. Mo says:

    Eating well away from home always gets me in a sort of mini panic attack because people seem to think I’m a huuuge snob for, *gasp*, wanting to take care of my body and/or the environment. So I always pack at least one thing that I can fall back on (read: eat alone after meals) if I had to turn down food served to me away from home (away from home usually means at my grandparents haha). Like, a couple weekends ago it was homemade granola packed with almonds and pepitas. I ate more granola in a weekend that I thought I’d really have to… Thankfully there’s usually fresh produce around but otherwise I’m kind of on my own. :\
    I plan on being super prepared when I go to Maine next month! 😛

    It looks like you’re having fun! :)

  6. Abby says:

    Great post! I am working on being more comfy on vacation. It is hard for me to do anything out of my routine

  7. Jennifer - jcd says:

    Sounds like you are having fun in New York. Your breakfast backdrop is gorgeous! We have wee duckies in our neighbourhood pond too – sooo cute!

    Eating on holidays? Great ideas, Katie! We like to bring some things from home to get us through the first day or two, lots of snacks, and sometimes breakfasts for the first four days. We will bring muffins, homemade energy or granola bars, dried fruit, nuts, oatmeal, etc. It’s all easy to pack and bring on a plane or bus. After that, what we eat is up in the air. We usually eat around the same time of day as at home because our bodies need the fuel. Finding healthy vegan food in foreign territory can be a bit of an adventure, as can finding a supermarket. When in doubt, ask a random local/shop employee where the best food is. Or, find the restaurant with the longest line and stand in it – the food must be good! (In that case, it always is.) Local eateries and roadside stands are usually the best places and even if they don’t have vegan fare, most places will make you something.

    1. JCD,
      It’s so true; some of my favorite restaurant meals have come from asking for a “special” meal and being surprised! I just went to a wedding and got the most amazing platter ever! It’s good to be adventurous :).

  8. Rick says:

    great post, but what a shame about your friends who eat dinner at 10pm, wake at noon, and eat pizza for breakfast. those are three of the most horrible habits to have, i feel sorry for them. it really stinks when we watch those around us, especially those we love, disregard our health advice and choose the low road. life is so much more special when you live it to the fullest, at least in my opinion.

    for our vacation this year we’re skipping Aruba (don’t trust weather in the Caribbean come October – hurricanes + oil spill = nasty weather being predicted for the rest of the year) and going to a small lake, staying in a cottage. we’ll most likely just eat fresh fruits and veggies all week; no time for being in a kitchen when we’re on vacation.

    we’ll also bring some Wild Bars, Raw Revolution bars, and most likely the Blend-Tec to make smoothies from all the fruits and veggies we’ll buy from farmers on the side of the road on the way to the lake 😀

  9. Serena says:

    I can *not* understand the people who have the ability to sleep until the late afternoon. I just can’t do it! Nor do I want to.
    I used to have a very wacky sleep schedule, but for the past year or so I have been sleeping at around 11 and waking at around 7 or 7:30 and it seems to work for me. I feel much more in balance when I do so.

    As for eating. Well, it depends on where I am, of course… If I’m in California, I do most of the cooking for myself and eat a lot of fresh meals like salads, summer pastas, etc. If I’m traveling a lot (ie. staying in hotels), it’s a bit harder to find good food. I at least try to carry some dry foods like granolas (I like the Go Raw apple cinnamon variety) for when I feel hungry and there isn’t much else to eat.

  10. I love having a fully equiped kitchen when on vacation. Now we try to get hotels with them every chance we get. If not, I hit up the hotel breakfast bar and search for oatmeal and fruit. If no luck there, then it’s off the the grocery store for whatever I can find! It’s awesome when you’re in a beachy town because they generally eat pretty healthy there (everybody needs to stay bikini ready! haha) so finding fresh produce is always easy!

  11. Sarah says:

    That oatmeal pudding looks heavenly!

  12. Stefanie says:

    When I go on vacation I make sure I bring my breakfasts and some bread/PB. Also, I bring snacks and bars to munch on. When I get to where I am going I hit the store and buy fresh fruits and veggies. If I know there is a whole foods market I will stop there for luch/dinner until I get stocked up. Making meals in advance also helps keep hunger at bay and eating helathier. My meals are mostly the same time as when I am not on vacation.

    That is a lovly back drop to eat breakfast by. I hope you are enjoying your vacation (it sounds like you are). :)

  13. So glad you’re enjoying yourself! You have quite the beautiful backdrop for eating meals, that’s for sure.

    I always pack food when I go on trips. I’m traveling this weekend and will spend 12 hours in the car each way (in the middle of nowhere, mind you) so I really have to be prepared. I’ll chop up fresh veggies like carrots and bell pepper, then bring cherry tomatoes, grapes, apples, and a few clementines – all food that is portable and easy to eat on the road. I’ll also pack some PB & banana sammies and several CLIF/Lara bars.

  14. Looks like a lovely place, where you are!
    I haven’t been on holiday for over 3years now, so I hardly remember how I eat! But I can imagine I’d stick to roughly the same routine, cos that’s what my body is set to, like yours. Food wise – lots of fresh stuff! No need to eat badly on holiday :)

  15. katie says:

    thank u so much. im going to spain for ten days in july and im starting to panic over the whole food situation? any suggestions? also, i never got an emial from ya! no worries. ur probably busy!hows long island treating u! lol xoxoxxo

    1. Katie,
      Ack! I DID email you :(. Did you check your junk box? My emails to people sometimes end up there. What part of Long Island are you on? I’d love to meet up :).

  16. Jenny says:

    It’s harder to eat better on vacation, so I make sure I eat reasonable portion sizes!

  17. Meg says:

    Fresh berries are a MUST in summer, no matter where life takes me :) I also stock up on Larabars 😀 Raw food on the go is where it’s AT!

    Aww duckies! :)

  18. Most of my travel is to go to conferences for work, and no matter how much advance notice I give them, I don’t rely on vegan food being readily available. I pack a lot of food in my carry-ons (and checked bag if I can afford it). I take larabars, clif bars, trail mix, nuts, “hardier” fruit like apples and oranges, and ramen noodles to cook at the hotel (if it comes down to that). I also pack food for the travel day and sometimes the next day, like sandwiches, crackers, etc. I probably travel with as much food as clothes. If I’m lucky, it all comes back home with me, but I definitely prefer to be prepared.

  19. mapledreams says:

    OH MY GOSH!!!! THOSE RASPBERRIES. MY MOUTH IS ACTUALLY WATERING. they are my FAVOURITE fruit and thsoe look absolutely delicious and so bright and fresh and colourful! yum, good choice of snack Katie! now that my raspberry excitement is over..

    i tend to stick to the same times of eating all year round! but my brothers….they tend to sleep all day and are awake at night munching through chinese takeaways and pick and mix sweeties!xx

  20. I’m getting ready to go on vacation this weekend, too! I plan on stocking up on Larabars, raw almonds, and fresh fruit for portable snacks– then seeing how it goes! We’re going to be camping a couple of nights, so fresh produce might be hard to come by… and a blender is out of the question!

    But I never worry TOO much about vacation eating. We’re going to be active and enjoy the company of our friends, so if I have a few splurges here and there, that’s okay with me!

    I’m so jealous of your breakfast view! That beach looks so relaxing!

  21. I always bring snacks onto the airplane. I find that fresh fruit is the most filling. Although, sadly, I often have tummy issues when I travel. I totally recommend drinking more water! . . . I think I’m going to go make some fudge babies. :)

  22. I typically eat out more on vacation, for obvious reasons, but I usually eat the same types of foods, even if I eat out. I still try to squeeze in my fruits and veggies and limit desserts to when absolutely necessary 😉

  23. Justine says:

    I don’t change much as far as routine but when I go on vacation, I try to make sure that I still get exercise and I try to stick with ‘my’ foods, but we all know how that can go when there are tempting treats that one just can’t get back home. Especially things like nocochi :)

  24. I love to travel abroad and I don’t let my vegetarianism and recent veganism stop me. Eating abroad can be surprisingly easy, providing you know a little bit about the local cuisine. I’ve recently been traveling to Costa Rica and Belize, and it wasn’t very hard to eat veg*n. South and Central America have awesome fruit (fresh pineapple, papaya, mango!) and people frequently eat beans and rice, which makes it easy. The trick is to avoid the “American tourist” places, since they tend to be geared towards lots of meat and dairy. The capital of CR even had a vegetarian restaurant!

    It also helps if you can locate a place to stay that has a kitchenette. The place we stayed at in CR had at mini kitchen and we brought along fudge babies-like treats, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and dry, mixed oatmeal (quick oats, raisins, cinnamon, just add hot water). Anytime I travel to new places I always bring a filling item or two, like Larabars or easy sandwiches, etc. just in case I can’t find anything or I’m just too tired to figure anything out.

    More strange places can still be accommodating to vegans. I’ve traveled to China for a month and was able to eat as a vegetarian pretty successfully. The trick is to do some preliminary research on potential restaurants you can eat at and the nearest grocery/market.

  25. Vanilla says:

    Haha, in vacation I never eat healthy :p

    I’m too scared to have problems with the security to bring my food, lol. Yeah, I’m a chicken…

    I blogged about your coffee ice cream…so good!! Thanks a bunch!


  26. I don’t really go on vacations, but I go to a TON of tennis tournaments! Almost every weekend in the summer, our family packs up and drives. Because I play a lot of matches throughout the tournament, I have to constantly be refueling, and eating! We bring lots of snacks like pretzels, nuts, fruit, Peanut butter:), and a cooler to put it in. We have to eat most of our meals out, though, because we usually don’t have a kitchen at the hotel. We have found which restaurants are quick and healthy to grab a quick meal before our next tennis match. For breakfast, panera has egg sandwiches and both starbucks and jamba juice sell oatmeal. Lunch=panera, subway, pita place, health store, or whatever. I usually grab a quick salad or sandwich. For dinner, we usually go to a sit down restaurant to relax, and fuel for the next day. I stick to unfried foods, lots of veggies, no dairy, and stuff that shouldn’t have white flour in it.

  27. Natalie says:

    hey katie! im glad you brought up this topic. i went to japan a few weeks ago for a vacation with my mom and i ran into this dilemma a lot. i tried to eat fruits/veggies whenever possible but fresh produce is REALLY expensive in japan (im sure you know because you lived there right?) i definitely indulged a lot and tried to expand my taste horizons and just be flexible, but i do like eating by my own schedule and eating the foods that i like to eat so im glad im at home now! i’m also leaving for south africa in a few weeks and actually staying at the university of pretoria, so i am a bit anxious/worried because i have nooo idea at all what food im gonna be given. so far my thought is to bring lots of food/granola bars.. just in case.. and some almond butter!!!! i also have limited packing space (1 suitcase for 1 month!).. any tips for faraway non-vacation travel? haha

    1. Natalie,
      Ugh, I do remember that! (Not so much from when I was little, but when we went back to visit… lots of stuff is expensivo there!)
      Faraway travel tips… hmmm, definitely pack foods from home, be adventurous, and–above all–learn some good foodie expressions (such as “vegetarian” or “healthy”) in the local language. And if worse comes to worse, at least you can be comforted knowing that it’s not forever and you can go back to your normal diet when you get home! :)

  28. This is my first summer ever when I exercise and try to think a bit what I put in my mouth, it’s not so hard after all. The hardest part will be abroad when I don’t have a kitchen and eat out all the time- not that I mind eating out 😉 it just makes it a bit more difficult to control what you eat. Also, I’m big on indulging while on vacation so I’m not very worried about my foods, life is about enjoyment and if I eat what I want for 10 days I won’t be the end of my world 😀

  29. I don’t do “healthy” on vacation. I figure if I’m on vacation, so are my normally healthy eating habits. I typically seek out vegan restaurants and order as much fried food as possible. :-)

  30. Hope you’re having a wonderful vacation Katie! I’m surprised they let you through with your oatmeal. I got 2 jars of unopened nut butter confiscated once, and I was so upset. They said it was considered a paste or gel. :(

    Anyway, traveling used to stress me out as far as eating and exercising goes, but now I just go with the flow. It’s so fun to try new foods and restaurants, etc. That’s what vacations are for! :)

  31. Demelza says:

    How ironic that the first post I got to check while
    studying abroad in Japan was this one, ;]
    I know I have been having difficulty with fresh fruits and veggies here
    because they are so expensive! :s I knew it would be a bit difficult
    for me to eat as a lacto-vegetarian here but am still very sad that
    I have only had one apple in the eight days
    I’ve been here because they are 178 yen each! :[
    I also have to avoid foods with broth because I know the dashi here
    is made with bonito flakes, and even if I ask if something is
    “vegetarian” that word here is such a foreign concept they think that as long
    as it is not red meat it is okay for me to eat. ._.;
    I have been enjoying lots of ume onigiri, rice, and yogurt though,
    and trying different foods like anpan and dango.
    Sadly, bringing snacks and such with me was not really an option
    because they would have gone in to quarantine. :/

    1. Demelza,
      Oh wow, I hope you’re having tons of fun! And Grrr bonito flakes were the bane of my existence when I visited Japan! :(
      (The same thought concept goes for China. Not red meat = vegetarian. It was hard to get around that. I had to learn how to say “fish” and “chicken” and definitely “beef stock” in Chinese… hey, at least it helped me learn the language hehe!)

  32. carolinebee says:

    Ha, i always pack my own breakfast for early flights!! For healthiness and my slim wallet!! 😀 With those snug seating arrangements, i feel like my plane neighbor is always peering over at my 3 containers of yogurt, cereal, bananas and PB…hmm they’re probably just jealous ;D

  33. BroccoliHut says:

    I’m the same way on vacation–I don’t want to spend the whole time in the kitchen. I always make sure to stock up on my favorites: hummus, almond butter, fruit, and LOTS of veggies. The rest kind of takes care of itself.

  34. Ilana says:

    I think people tend to overthink the “healthy eating on vacation” concept – I mean, just because you’re out of your comfort zone, are you REALLY going to want to suddenly eat a thousand things you never eat on a regular basis? If the answer is yes, then fine, go ahead and DO IT, because that’s what a vacation is supposed to be – a break from your daily grind. If it will make you feel satisfied, eat it. It’s not the end of the world, and the vacation ends, and you’ll go back to normal when you get home. If the answer is no, then it’s really not a problem. I’ve literally never had complications eating on vacation – every restaurant has salads.

  35. i hate that airlines are so strict now because it makes brining some staples hard – like peanut butter!! glad to hear you still enjoy yourself while on vacation and take advantage of the local markets :)

  36. Amanda says:

    You’re lucky they didn’t try to steal your breakfast! I once had my entire yogurt parfait stolen at an airport, so sad for me! During my vacations I am definitely more aware of what I eat – and it depends what kind of vacation I am on. If it’s a beach house vacation – I come with ALL of my goods and pre-plan meals, but if I’m on a go-go-go I take a few staples along and wing it! :) Enjoy your vacay!

  37. Faith says:

    It may be horrible, but I’m not too wrapped up in eating healthily on vacation. I try to stick to whole ingredients (and my vegetarian diet, of course), but beyond that…I prefer to just let myself be and indulge in some foods I might not always pick up at home.

  38. maxinthegym says:

    Hope you’re having a great vacation!
    Just FYI, I made your fudge babies and I am in love with them! Thank you for posting the recipe!

  39. Ironic that you posted on this subject! I just got back from 4 full days in NYC with my boyfriend. The purpose of our trip was for a wedding but we did a lot of our own things so we were so busy the entire time. We stayed with his cousins who are mostly meat eaters (no veggies in site :-0) and we also did not sit still for long SO eating was not regular and not as good as it should have been. Next time I plan on doing some research and really planning things out because my body was not impressed at all.

  40. Ooh – the traveling question. That is always a toughy. I have food allergies and sensitivities – so I plan ahead (or try to) and bring a few staples that I know will get me through. And then I always look ahead of time to see if there is a whole foods or a market near me with gluten free options. And then – there is always getting my food delivered if I am in the US – delivers raw/vegan food anywhere in the US. That works in a pinch too:) But true – somtimes we do have to just eat fruit and cucumbers:)

  41. Amy says:

    I also have food allergies (dairy and gluten) and I mostly eat raw and vegan when possible. Although, I have not traveled much since I was diagnosed with my allergies, I did recently travel to Israel. Israel was a great place to travel with my restricted diet. Almost everywhere I went there were delicious options. The outside markets were amazing (fruits, fresh figs, etc.) and in the really commercial areas there were usually grocery stores alongside fast food stores, so I was able to throw something together no matter what. I usually was able to find someone who spoke Herbrew or Arabic that could ask the chef about ingredients before I ordered. For those who cannot eat gluten be very aware of the falafel because most of them contain gluten.

  42. Melissa says:

    Huh. I find it odd that someone actually considers eating late at night and sleeping in to be “taking the low road” and not enjoying life to the fullest (who’s idea of fullest, I wonder?). What? Seems a bit judgmental to me.

    I eat late some nights due to working until around 6 and then running after work. I’m not home until 8 most nights when I do a run, even later if I’m doing my LSD run for the week on a weekday night (rare, but it happens). I then have to tend to the ratkids and the cats and cook dinner – meaning I often don’t sit down to eat until after 9. I don’t think eating dinner late is one of the “worst” habits to have. Hasn’t Katie even blogged about how your body has no idea what time it is when you’re eating? A calorie is a calorie. Some of us work later and work out at night and NEED to eat to refuel, period.

    And man, if sleeping ’til noon on my off day of work/running (when I can, which is not often) means I’m not enjoying life, so be it. I’m having a pretty excellent time, IMO. I just happen to NOT be a morning person. I’ve always been a night owl and see my SO, crochet, paint, read, relax, play video games, etc. in the evening after work/workout/dinner time. I think getting up at the buttcrack of dawn and in bed by 9 pm sound awful to me, personally (and it’s one of the myriad reasons I’ve chosen not to have kids – kids can kill your sleep! LOL). Don’t see me getting all high and mighty about it, though. Sheesh.

  43. I was told that anything you can “pour” or “smear” is considered a liquid! You’re lucky they let you through with the oatmeal! I made sure to check my jar of peanut butter when I went to Europe. I took a ton of packaged snacks with me (I wasn’t sure what fresh stuff would be allowed through security) – tons of Clif bars, Luna bars, nuts, cereal, and oatmeal. I went to the grocery store a lot, so I ate relatively similar to how I do at home (and saved a ton of money!). But since it was vacation, I also ate some things I normally don’t and splurged a little.

    I try to eat about the same on vacation as when I’m not on vacation, otherwise I don’t feel good. Like you, my sleep routine doesn’t change either so I’m usually hungry at the same times. Because I have more free time, I do usually spend more time making fun meals/snacks.

    I LOVE your breakfast backdrop! So relaxing :)

    1. Kady,
      They stole my pb once :(
      Oh, and refried beans!! Weird, huh?

  44. Damjana says:

    Oh Demelza, that’s 1.6 eur for one apple! Here now in summertime cost 0.5 eur/kilo. From September on we have apples at home in our garden so it’s easier through winter. I tend to eat food that’s cheap so I take what’s seasonal.
    How come apples and other fruits&vegies are so expensive there?