Foodie’s guide: How to stay healthy on vacation 

Jun 28, 2023

Travel bloat. Weight gain. Breakouts. Sluggishness. We’ve all experienced over-eating symptoms while we’re traveling and it’s never fun.

But, enjoying local food and wine and stepping out of your normal routine is part of what makes traveling so fun and indulgent. And as a foodie, I refuse to compromise on this!

So I’ll never tell you that the way to stay fit on vacation is to cut carbs, avoid alcohol, feel bad about indulging in local cuisine, or hit the gym in your hotel – although if you’re one of those gym people, more power to you!

Also, I know some people don’t care about staying healthy on vacation – and that’s fine! If so, this article isn’t for you. Personally, I can’t enjoy myself when I feel slow and bloated, and I want to be able to enjoy every minute of my vacation with great energy! That’s why I’m sharing how I balance being a foodie and staying healthy while traveling.

“Healthy” is subjective, but to me it’s about feeling my best. And feeling my best helps me enjoy every moment of my adventures to the fullest!

It’s not fun to spend your trip worrying about being restrictive. Instead, check out these 7 practical tips — exactly what works for me to feel healthy on vacation!

How to stay healthy on vacation

1. Embrace active exploration

Sightseeing is exercise. Isn’t it nice to snag an easy win? I know this is an obvious healthy travel tip, but it’s an important one.

Why? Because if you Google, “Tips for staying active during a vacation” you’ll find a lot of unrealistic advice. Find and pay for a local yoga studio or take time away from your family in the crappy hotel gym? No thanks.

Instead, embrace active exploration! It’s exactly what it sounds like.

Instead of relying on public transportation, taking an Uber, or driving your rental car everywhere you go, explore the city on foot or rent a bike to stay active while you’re traveling. Walking or cycling is also just a better way to immerse yourself in the local culture. You never know what you’ll spot serendipitously along the way! I’ve found some of the best hole-in-the-wall restaurants, random festivals, and coolest attractions just from walking by them on my way to somewhere else. Don’t underestimate the value of ULTRA comfortable walking shoes– these are the 5 best white sneakers for travel and sightseeing and my favorite cute and comfy sandals for travel!

Active exploration is easy! If you do any of the following — or many, many other activities like them— you’ll inevitably be more active than you are on an average day sitting at a desk for 8 hours:

  • Paddle a kayak

  • Take a walking tour

  • Ride a horse

  • Tour a museum

  • Go snorkeling


2. Pay attention to portion sizes or share multiple small plates with friends

Everyone knows that the portion sizes are large when you’re dining out (although I will say, this problem is supersized in America. I didn’t find portion sizes to be as crazy in Europe and Asia as they are in the US). Still, pay attention to portions and try to gauge when you’re comfortably full.

Or, order several entrees or small plates with friends and family. You can avoid overeating and sample a lot of new things!

3. Pack nutritious snacks

I know what you’re thinking. “Really? Eat almonds from my backpack while all of the deliciousness that Italy has to offer wafts down cobblestone streets and gelato is piled in every window?” Hear me out.

Long travel days and unfamiliar food options can lead to overeating (keyword: overeating. I’m not saying to be restrictive) at meals because it can be hard to find good snacks in new destinations.

If you just need some quick fuel, you’ll find it all too easy to make your third gelato of the day that “fuel” (no shame – have that gelato and the almonds!). It’s all about balance, and having the best travel snacks on hand can be a huge help!

My healthy snacks for travel include:

  • Energy bars

  • Nuts

  • Dried fruits

4. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate

Staying hydrated is key to staying healthy while traveling. Carry a reusable water bottle with you (I use this awesome collapsible one from Amazon! It’s SO convenient for travel) and make it a habit to drink water regularly. I know you know this, but I had to include it because sometimes in all the excitement and unfamiliarity, we forget!
You can also carry a couple of these little Liquid IV packets, also from Amazon (and one of my favorite travel hacks!) for an electrolyte boost to really amp up your hydration.

5. Practice mindful eating

I remember seeing supermodel Tyra Banks on TV saying that she’s a foodie, but when she’s about to overeat or overindulge, she asks herself, “Am I eating this because I’m hungry, or because I want to taste something good?” This is the definition of mindful eating and shows an impressive amount of self restraint. However, this is a tricky line to walk on vacation. Sometimes, the point IS to indulge and honestly, I love vacation eating!

It’s part of the travel experience, but we can still strike a balance. Enjoy all the local cuisine you want while choosing nourishing, well-balanced meals that incorporate fresh fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins.

6. Balance your meals

If there was ever a healthy travel hack, this is it! Nutritionists agree that creating balanced meals that include a mix of lean proteins, whole grains, and vegetables is the best way to stay healthy. More often than not, I’ll opt for grilled or roasted options instead of fried foods, load up on local and in season produce, then indulge in what I really want to indulge in (like dessert- I ALWAYS have dessert).

7. Listen to your body

Above all, listen to your body’s cues. This is one of the best healthy habits on holiday that I stick to at home, too! Pay attention to feelings of hunger and satiety. I eat when I’m genuinely hungry and stop when I feel comfortably full.

Bon voyage & bon appétit!

*Note: This is not “how to avoid weight gain on vacation” or “what to eat on vacation to lose weight.” Healthy weight is subjective and health is not about the number on the scale. This is not medical advice. Consult your doctor for medical advice about weight, diet, allergies, intolerances, and exercise. Most of all, do what feels best for you!

I know what you’re thinking: “This is great for you, but how can I afford to travel more?” I’ve been there!

It’s easier than you think to travel on a tight budget if you have the right tools. From scoring cheap flights to saving on hotels, snag my FREE guide with ALL the best budget travel tips and tricks! ✈️

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Are you new here? Let’s be friends! I’m Sarah— a solo female traveler (& world’s okayest travel blogger) helping you travel the world, discover surprising destinations, & have a laugh getting off the beaten path. Scroll to the bottom of this page to sign up to stay in touch (I promise not to spam you- just to share the best travel hacks, guides, itineraries, embarrassing stories, and unmissable experiences)!

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