Last-Minute Vacation Diet Cheat Sheet

by Charles Platkin, PhD


For the Trip
Always try to plan the “food” part of your trip. You probably spend time planning all the other details, but you often neglect the food and fitness aspect. Just because you’re going on vacation doesn’t mean you have to take a break from making good health choices. Whether you’re traveling by plane, train, car or bus, you can pack a cooler or bag with food. But what to pack?

  • Cereal in a cup: These are portion controlled at 1.5 ounces, and they’re easy to store and easy to use. (Keep choices under 120 calories per ounce.)
  • Sandwiches: Pre-cut them so you can pull out portion-controlled sections at different times during the trip without making a mess. Try chicken, turkey, cheese or peanut butter and jelly (on 100 percent whole-wheat bread).
  • Water: Dehydration can cause or exacerbate hunger and fatigue. (For plane you need to purchase water after you go through security.)
  • Energy bars: While they can be high in calories, they are often better than a slice of pizza or a candy bar.
  • Nonfat yogurt: Yogurt is a great portable snack (although it is perishable). You can pack a 3-ounce container in an insulated bag or take a small cooler, but understand that this might be counted as one of your carry-on bags.
  • Peel-and-eat tuna and salmon cups: Chicken of the Sea makes these easy-to-open cups that give you a quick protein source. With no draining required, this wild-caught tuna or salmon is perfect for on-the-go lunches and snacks.
  • Nuts: They’re a good source of protein, and they help fend off hunger. Portion them into 1-ounce bags (about 160 calories each).
  • Dried or freeze-dried fruit: Eat dried fruit in moderation; it’s high in calories.
  • Fruit: Stick with fruits like apples and oranges that can withstand some rough treatment. Grapes or most any other fruit can be carried in a plastic container.

On the Road

  • Look for supermarkets. Go to and put in the word “supermarket” and the ZIP code of the location. The names of local supermarkets will pop up on your screen.
  • Fast food can help. You can eat healthy fast food on the road. All you need to do is explore the Web sites for the various chains to get nutritional information beforehand and make the best picks
  • Stay in health-minded motels/hotels: Call ahead or check online. Typically, newer properties have the latest exercise equipment and the best fitness facilities, but check around and ask to see photos. Many hotels such as Hyatt and Westin have made it their business to have fitness-friendly properties.

For Your Arrival

Scope out the Territory

  • Find healthy restaurants and markets in the area. Search online or call the concierge or hotel manager of a few local hotels (even if you’re not staying there) to ask for recommendations. Find out if the menu’s available on the Internet so you can make decisions before you get there — it’s always better to map out your food choices ahead of time.
  • Get moving. Ask if there are hiking or walking trails nearby, local fitness facilities or other interesting activities that require you to move. If your motel or hotel has no gym, try The International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) Passport Program, which gives members of participating IHRSA clubs guest privileges at over 3,000 clubs worldwide. Find a club by going to
  • Find a farmers’ market. The USDA Web site provides information on places to find fresh, healthful food.
  • Get a kitchen. Find out if the place you’re staying has rooms with kitchens, or, at the least, ask for a fridge in your room — even if you have to pay a small fee. That way, you can stock up on healthy fruits and veggies. Also, see if you can get a microwave — not that you should spend your vacation cooking in your room, but you can use it to make snacks like popcorn or even healthy microwavable packaged foods.

Plan to be Active

  • Get wet. Swimmers Guide is a free online database that contains a detailed international directory of “publicly accessible” swimming pools. The site proclaims that it lists “18,266 facilities with 19,443 full-size, year-round swimming pools in 10,398 cities and towns in 165 countries.” Go to
  • Get out and walk. Research shows that the more scenic your walks are, the more you’ll want to take them. Walking burns 246 calories per hour. Again, go online and do a search at or Type in “walking tours,” “hikes” and/or “bike rentals” and the location you’ll be visiting.
  • Go sightseeing. Download tours to your MP3 player at or
  • Give it the old college try. Visit nearby universities or colleges — typically a beautiful way to spend a morning or afternoon just walking around.
  • Go for a hike. Here are a few sites to visit:
    • ( offers thousands of day hikes and includes interactive maps, aerial and scenic photos, video and downloadable GPS files.
    • (
    • ( charges $49.95 per year, but they do have a 14-day free trial. The site offers detailed route descriptions, driving directions, guidebook-quality trail maps, photos, and ratings and reviews from their members for more than 38,000 trails.
    • ( is the U.S. government’s one-stop shop to the outdoors. There is information on everything from monuments, hiking, canoeing, kayaking, water-skiing and rock climbing to wildlife observation and caving. It lists 388 National Park Service areas, 3,200 federal recreation areas and 16,741 miles of trails in parks that range in size from one-fifth of an acre to 13.2 million acres.
  • Do yoga. Find a yoga class at or do yoga with the help of your computer using,which offers free daily classes online.
  • Hire a trainer or take a lesson or two. A great way to stay in shape is to hire a personal trainer. Once you make an appointment there is a high likelihood that you’ll show up (especially if you’re committed to pay). Look for trainers certified by the American College of Sports Medicine (, the National Strength and Conditioning Association ( or The American Council on Exercise ( You can also take lessons in activities such as tennis, yoga, volleyball or horseback riding.
  • Here are a few other activities to explore: (caloric expenditure based on a 155-pound person)
    • Rent bikes. Burn 422 to 562 calories per hour.
    • Kayaking. Burn 352 calories per hour.
    • Horseback riding. Burn 281 calories per hour.
    • Canoeing. 281 calories per hour.
    • Water-skiing. 422 calories per hour.
  • Fitness Streaming. Join or
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