How to Eat Clean on Vacation

It’s probably the number one question I get this time of year: how do I eat clean while on vacation? I know it can be hard, but it’s certainly not impossible! With a little bit of forethought and planning, you can have a great vacation and come home feeling good about yourself and your food choices.

How to Eat Clean on Vacation

Here are my best tips for eating clean on vacation:

Choose to Maintain

I don’t recommend trying to lose weight on vacation. I tell my clients to focus on not gaining.  To do this, you must decide from the start and get into the right mindset. Vacation should be about fun, friends and family…not unwanted weight gain.  If your vacation is ONLY about the food, you might want to rethink what vacation means to you and where you choose to go. If you overdo it every year at your favorite all-inclusive, maybe it’s time to choose another destination.

Avoid Eating Traps

Don’t blow it before you even arrive to your destination by pigging out in the airport.  Make sure to eat breakfast the morning of your flight (or at least throw a PB sandwich in your carry-on).  A week or so before you leave, start thinking about what snacks or other foods you can stash in your suitcase or purse (especially for airport travel). I wrote about my hotel survival kit HERE. If you’re road-tripping, pack your lunch and healthy snacks in a cooler for car noshing. Trust me, you won’t find clean eats along any of our US highways. Some portable foods are: nuts, vegetables with hummus, apples with nut butter packs,  RX bars, cereal swag, mini cheese, olives cups, cherry tomatoes, grapes, popcorn. 

Have Policies

Notice I didn’t say rules? A policy is different than a rule, it’s more of a code of ethics, a principle, a this-is-how-I-roll kind of thing. Rules are meant to be broken, but people will go to great lengths to abide by their own principles. Create some policies/principles before you leave (and especially if you’re going to an all-you-can-eat destination).

Here’s a few ideas to get you started:

– have the same healthy breakfast every day (don’t start the day off on the wrong track)
– have a zero calorie policy for your drinks (stick with water, iced-tea or naturally flavored waters; avoid the sugary, high calorie lattes, chai teas, and other stuff)
– dessert only once per day
– grains and bread only once per day
– no alcohol until dinner
– fruit only for snacks (not chips or other “pool food”)
– exercise before breakfast (a long walk on the beach counts!)


Plan your meals as best you can. Check out the food offerings near your vacation destination. Take advantage of travel sites like Yelp and Trip Advisor for healthy restaurant recommendations. Read the reviews ahead of time and find restaurants that offer clean eating options (think lots of salads, fresh seafood, organic, vegetarian, farm-to-table, grass fed, gluten free, etc.).

Order As-If

At restaurants, follow my “order-as-if” policy. If you wouldn’t normally eat fried chicken, don’t order it on vacation. I’m not saying you can’t indulge a little, but don’t make every eating decision over the top. If you stop at the ice cream shop, don’t order the 3 scoop Sundae with chocolate sauce, nuts, and whipped cream or the chocolate covered cone. Just get one scoop of ice cream and enjoy every creamy bite. As with most things in life, less is more.

Use the Nourish Plate

Keep plate portioning in mind can go a long way in eating less, but feeling full. Creating a Nourish-style plate provides you the perfect balance of the foods you want with the foods you need to stay full and satisfied. Get your copy of the Nourish plate here.

Count Bananas

Alcohol can be a big calorie source on vacation and can lead to out of control eating. My advice is to make your cocktails as low calorie as possible. A bloody Mary or vodka-tonic has as many calories as a large banana. A sugar-laden frozen strawberry daiquiri is the equivalent of 2 ½ bananas. How many bananas would you normally eat at once? Count your drinks in terms of bananas and see if that helps you put on the breaks.

Earn it

I always feel better about myself if I do a little exercise every day while on vacation, especially a beach vacation. If you can, rent bikes and explore the city, walk the boardwalk, explore the beach in the morning before everyone is awake, play beach volleyball, hit the tennis courts, take a yoga class, or just hit the gym for 30 minutes. There’s always time for  a little movement in your day. Make it happen.

3 replies
  1. Jessica @ Nutritioulicious
    Jessica @ Nutritioulicious says:

    These tips are awesome and so spot on! We’re heading to Nantucket with Andy’s family in a week and it’s always a food fest. I really try to keep the kids and me (can’t control the hubby, lol!) on regular breakfasts and snacks so that splurges at dinners out can be enjoyed!

  2. Dietitian Jess
    Dietitian Jess says:

    Perfect timing- I’m leaving for Italy in less than a week! I usually follow the no alcohol until dinner and dessert only once a day rules for most trips. Most of the hotel breakfasts are croissants and coffee so I’m bring oats, nut butter, and some healthier snack bars so I am at least getting a healthier breakfast in!

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