I’m going to lay it out for you straight. No unicorns and rainbows. Just pure truth. For most people, summer travel makes it harder to stick with healthy eating. It’s the best season for being active and getting in exercise – swimming, biking, hiking, canoeing, etc. But, nutrition? Between backyard barbecues, beach trips, s’mores, baseball games, vacations, splash pads, water parks, and miscellaneous day trips, it is H.A.R.D. to stay on track with healthy eating.

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I have a lot of travel planned for this summer, and I’m following a new nutrition program that I adore so, so much, and that I refuse to deviate far from. It’s encouraging me to have a better relationship with food, and a much, much, much healthier mindset about eating.

My first trip just wrapped up – a long weekend with my family in North Conway, New Hampshire. This was the test – could I follow the program and not gain weight while on vacation? I NAILED IT. I was legitimately shocked. For me, vacations and travel have always been about food. I plan each day around all the meals and treats I’m going to have, and it’s usually a non-stop binge-fest of – no joke – probably 4,000 calories a day or more.

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I went into it with a plan. Planning is the #1 key to staying on course with your nutrition during summer events. That whole, “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail,” thing really does ring true.

Do Your Research

I do not go anywhere without researching the place ahead of time. This is mostly true for restaurants, but also true for anywhere else that you’ll go in the summer. I’ll log on to a restaurant’s website, and assess how I can stay on track there. I’ll mentally flag a few healthy options, so that when I arrive at the restaurant, I don’t even need to consider unhealthy choices, because I’ve already picked my meal. I also decide before I go if I’ll have an alcoholic beverage or not (in most cases, the answer is usually no, but you do you, boo).

A few weeks ago in my accountability group, we had a discussion on what’s the healthiest thing to get at the Costco cafe. Turns out the salad is one of the worst options! Now that I’m officially two weeks into being gluten- and dairy-free, I had to think outside the box during our Costco pilgrimage on Friday. One of my favorite healthy hacks is to grab one of my beloved rotisserie chickens when shopping, and bust into it while the rest of my family has pizza and chicken bakes. This one was an insanely good one, too. And guess what? I wasn’t the only person doing this! . . . . . #glutenfree #glutenfreedairyfree #dairyfree #diastasisrecti #diastasisrectirepair #csectionmom #csectionmum #vbacmom #vbacmum #vbac #postpartum #healthyhacks #costcofinds #costcopizza #costcofood

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This is especially true if you’re like me, and make bad choices when you’re hangry. The worst thing is to arrive starving, with no clue what’s on the menu – because you’re that much more likely to order something that may derail your progress. If you’re going to an amusement park, check out the concessions online before you go. If you’re headed to the beach, pack a full bag of healthy choices, so you won’t be tempted by the ice cream truck as it rolls by.

Don’t Leave Home Without Produce

The produce section of any grocery store, gas station, or convenience store, should become your new best friend. I’m famous for stuffing backpacks full of rainbow snacking peppers, apples, baby carrots, and grape tomatoes. If I am leaving the house – whether it be to the grocery store, the beach, the playground, or a family backyard barbecue, I bring fresh veggies and fruits along. Every. Time.

I’ve arrived at birthday parties with a container of greens, so I can pop whatever protein is being served, right on top (cheeseburger salad, anyone?). I go to play dates with a small cooler bag of whatever vegetable I feel like having that day. I fill up carry-on bags with baby carrots and sliced cucumbers so I can sail through the airport concessions with ease. My rule is that I have to eat a large serving of veggies first (or a fruit, if that’s all that’s available), before I even consider having anything else. Most of the time, that’s enough to satisfy me and I’m no longer hungry.

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True, you may get some weird looks and comments like, “Oh come on, live a little!” or “You mean you’re never going to have x, y, z unhealthy food again?” or “Ohh there you go being healthier than everyone again,” but that negativity is their problem, their insecurity shining through. Never let anyone dull your wellness sparkle – you are making big changes to have a happier, fuller, healthier life, and if people can’t be fully supportive of that, that’s their issue and not yours.

Stay #HydratedAF

My new mindful eating program has taught me the extreme importance of drinking enough water. I am actually a little horrified at how dehydrated I’ve been my entire adult life – which I didn’t realize until now, because I’m super hydrated at this point. You should be drinking a minimum of half your body weight in ounces, daily.

I have quickly learned that really pushing water can help you not gain weight when you have the occasional treat. There have been days when I splurged a little too much, but I took in extra water, and saw the same number on the scale the next day. Bonus: your skin will clear up and look more dewy, you’ll look younger, and have more energy, because your body will be functioning on a much higher, much more optimal level.

Maintain Your Usual

As much as you possibly can, try to maintain your usual routine as much as possible. If you normally wake up at 6 AM, keep at it – even when traveling. If you usually work out after the kids go to bed, keep at it. If you have the same healthy meal for breakfast every single day, do that, even if you’re away from home. Keeping these little consistencies can help remind you of the path you’re on, and how amazing you feel when you’re on track. Plus, every healthy decision – no matter how small – adds to the snowball effect of big changes.

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Be Gentle With Yourself

Summer doesn’t have to be all about unhealthy food choices. You CAN go on vacation and have an incredible, memorable time, without focusing on food. But if you do want a treat – call it a treat, not a cheat (that subtle mindset shift works wonders), enjoy it, and move on. Don’t let one treat derail you from your goals. Just as you can’t become healthy from eating one salad, you can’t become unhealthy from having one donut. Feeling deprived never helped anyone, so find ways to treat yourself – whether it be non-food treats, or food treats in moderation – and enjoy them.

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Summer doesn’t have to be a binge-fest of s’mores, burgers, ice cream, and pizza. You absolutely can enjoy all of those things in moderation, but make sure you’re setting yourself up for success with these tips. It actually is easier than you think to stay on track, as long as your mindset is right. You can do this!

For more of my personal column, Heather Gets Healthy, click here.

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