My family recently spent a week at the “happiest place on earth” and get this—I lived to talk about it and even managed to stay on my diet while on vacation! I am relatively certain Disney World earned its prestigious nickname due to the carefully crafted attractions and the animated characters that greet you at every turn. Or perhaps it is because there are literally hundreds of activities you can sign up to do every minute of every day.
Some might argue that this happiness is due to an abundance of foods from various countries, or the Willy Wonka type food vendors parked strategically outside of every children’s ride.
Whether you are young or old, or somewhere in between, there is something for everyone.
So how does one stick to a healthy diet or meal plan when your entire vacation consists of food fit for a carnival? Allow me to share my survival tips for how I stayed on course and enjoyed my diet while on vacation, while still leaving room for some tasty treats.
1. Make smart choices at the airport. Instead of consuming the complimentary cookies and/or pretzels along with a complimentary soda, stop at one of the food court vendors that offers healthy choices.
2. Use a backpack for all of your essentials. Rather than carry a purse, or several bags, use a backpack for your water bottles, ponchos (in case of rain), souvenirs, camera, etc. This not only keeps your hands free, but it adds another 20 – 25 pounds for some weighted cardio.
3. Keep a water bottle on you at all times. There are plenty of water fountains around the parks and resorts, and with a bottle of water costing $3 a pop, it is cheaper to refill your own. And be mindful to do so often.
4. Rent a stroller for any and all children. Between my brother’s family and mine, we have kids ages 4, 5, 6, and 7. No child is too big for a stroller, especially when you have a ton of ground to cover. This actually helps you get through the park quicker because people will move more quickly out of your way when you are pushing a stroller. It also helps add some resistance training into your day. Pushing and pulling up and down hills.
5. Seek out healthy snack options at food trucks and carts. They are there—you just need to look for them. Cotton candy, funnel cakes, and foods on sticks are not going to fuel you properly for a big day on the go. You need nutrient-dense food options to allow you to sustain your energy and avoid hunger and cravings.
6. Be mindful of empty calories. The majority of the breakfast restaurant options are set up buffet style. While they certainly do offer an abundance of Mickey-shaped pancakes and waffles, along with pastries and donuts, there are plenty of ways to stay on your diet while on vacation. Be mindful of empty calories, and this includes beverages, not just food.
7. Walk wherever you need to go. Some of the resorts offer free shuttles or buses to transport you to the various parks. Yet most people don’t even realize there’s a Boardwalk that connects some of the parks, and the scenery is beautiful. You can also take the stairs instead of the elevator in your hotel, or take advantage of the hotel’s fitness facility.
8. Scope out menu options at restaurants, so you are aware of healthy options, and decide ahead of time what you’ll eat. According to research experiments at Carnegie Mellon University, when there’s a time delay between when you decide what to eat and when you actually eat, you’re more likely to choose a calorie-conscious meal, which is important if you want to stick to your diet while on vacation.
If you are inclined to try out something unique, why not share a meal with one (or more) of your family members? My brother really wanted to try the truffle French fries, so rather than order them with his meal, he ordered a side of them for our entire party to sample. I did the same thing with an apple pie a la mode; however, nobody in my party saved room for dessert, so I had to take one for the team and eat it all by myself. Hey, I tried.
9. Get plenty of rest. Often times when we are on vacation, we think we need to stay up later just because “we are on vacation.” I’m not saying you need to be on a strict sleeping schedule, but try not to overdo it on the late nights, as this will play tricks on your internal clock and leave the door open for late-night snacking and a whole host of concerns regarding the following day’s productivity.
10. Have fun. Leave the negative energy behind and focus your energy on having a good time. Ride some scary rides (I’d recommend the Tower of Terror), which will really get your heart racing. Get your picture taken with Mickey Mouse. Sing along with the show tunes. Dig down deep and find your inner child and let loose. Bippety boppity boo your cares away. And last but not least, remember to take lots of photos.