Jul. 11. 2018
Written By:
McKel (Hill) Kooienga
McKel Hill Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

McKel Hill Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

Founder of Nutrition Stripped and the Mindful Nutrition Method™

Taking a vacation is the perfect way to de-stress and get some relaxation.

What I see most commonly with people who come to me for coaching, is they may use it as a time to overindulge and skip out on staying active. The thing is, healthy eating and exercise don’t have to feel like a huge event when you’re away, it’s about doing the things that make you feel your best and healthy eating and exercising is part of enjoying yourself. All you have to do is make a good-for-you diet and physical activity a little easier, and fit it seamlessly into your travel schedule.

Whether you’re hitting the beach or jetting off to a foreign country this summer, find ways to fit in nutrient-packed meals and take some time to break a sweat (even if that means exploring your city by foot). To make this simple and doable, I’m sharing my favorite tricks and go-to strategies for staying healthy on the road. A few days or weeks away doesn’t define or “make or break” the healthy habits you’ve established in your life, so here’s how to have fun while making healthy choices on vacation.

How to Have a Healthy Vacation

1. Eat At Least One Vegetable-Heavy Meal Per Day

A produce-packed omelet, a big juicy salad with protein and healthy fats, or a plate full of roasted veggies with a side of protein — choose at least one meal every day that you’ll dedicate mainly to vegetables. Another suggestion is to try ordering a side of veggies with as many meals as you can. Eating vegetables can help you get in the fiber your digestive system needs, which helps keep your blood sugars stable. Plus, vegetables are loaded with the vitamins and minerals your body needs to feel your best.

2. Walk To Explore

One of the best ways to get to know a new area is by simply strolling around it, so skip the cab or train when you can and get to your next tourist attraction by foot. You’ll feel great knowing you put in the extra steps to get there, and you might discover a great view, photogenic spot, or cool restaurant along the way to check out later. It’s recommended that we walk at least 10,000 steps per day, so added bonus if you can wear a tracker or use your phone to help count your steps! That’s especially important considering the average person walks just under 5,000 steps per day, according to research (1), so aim to hit your quota by taking in a new city by foot.

3. Stay Hydrated With Water

No matter what activities you’re up to while on vacation, we all know staying hydrated is key to feeling our best, keeping digestion calm, energy up, and focus sharp. If you’re traveling on foot or walking for most of your day, keep a reusable water bottle on hand to fill up with water routinely. While dining out or just hanging out poolside, be sure to keep a glass of water nearby to have between beverages, before meals, and even between bites of food. It just might keep you fuller for longer, too. To read more about why staying hydrated is important, read up here and here.

4. Sneak In Exercise

Do five squats as you brush your teeth, hold plank on the beach for 1 minute between swims in the ocean, walk to and from lunch, or jog to pick up a morning cup of coffee or smoothie. These little bursts of exercise throughout the day will add up, so try to squeeze in a few quick moves whenever you can.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends you get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise (2). Experts say as long as you get in 10 minutes at a time and spread it throughout the week, you’re good to go in terms of fitness. You can even make this into a friendly competition with your travel buddies. Who can get in the most push-ups before you head out for the day? Where can you find a place to do pull-ups? You can always make exercise fun by having a workout buddy.

5. Stock Up On Healthy Snacks

It’s easy to go for something greasy or extra sweet when you’re super hungry. Avoid making quick choices by being prepared and packing some healthy snacks before you leave for vacation or pick some up when you arrive at your destination. This can be as easy as a handful of almonds, fruit like a banana or apple, or a bag of raw veggies and hummus. When you reach your vacation spot, you can easily pick these up at a local grocery store or likely a gas station. Simply make sure to grab enough to last the length of your stay. You can check out my favorite snacks to take on the road in this post.

6. Plan An Active Adventure

Like with any other goal or activity, if you prioritize and schedule it, then it’s more likely to happen, including breaking a sweat! Try planning activities like a guided hike, a bike ride, a walking tour, or even a new sport like rock climbing. Add it to your itinerary and it’ll hardly feel like hard work. It’ll be a fun way to get moving and bond with your friends and family on the trip.

7. Share Your Meals

Living the Nutrition Stripped way is all about enjoying food while feeling your best — so if that includes enjoying pizza, wine, and chocolate cake, then do so! Sharing meals with your friends, family, and loved ones are one of the many joys of food. It will nourish your cells on a physical level and also help you bond over traditional foods or explore other cultures. Another way to try the food of your destination is to order and share it with the table. That way, you get to taste and explore several dishes and still apply some balance and moderation to your meals.

8. Take Advantage of Healthy Hotels

Chalk this up as a wellness trend from 2017, because so many hotels will offer wellness benefits these days. The healthy perks might include great gym facilities, healthy snack options or room service, and in-room yoga videos. Some hotels even have a run concierge that will take you out for a jog or at least give you ideas of routes to take while exploring the city. Ask the concierge about any benefits they offer and use it for your health advantage.

How do you stay healthy on vacation? Share your tips and tricks below or on social media using #nutritionstripped. I’m excited to hear what you do when you’re away!


  1. Tim Althoff, Rok Sosič, Jennifer L. Hicks, Abby C. King, Scott L. Delp, Jure Leskovec. (2017, July.) Large-scale physical activity data reveal worldwide activity inequality.
  2. Current Physical Activity Guidelines. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.