Vacation: To cheat or not to cheat?

To cheat or not to cheat? That is the question on vacation for most health-seeking people. Eating healthy while traveling can be both stressful and empowering, depending on the situation. I found on my recent vacation that mindset was paramount to my success, and starting out in a healthy place mentally and physically set me up for “good” decision making. I actively made the decision that being on vacation does not mean that I want to ignore what I know about nutrients, but also that sweating every little crumb I ate was not going to be fun either. I figured there has to be a balance there. When you’re on vacation, you want to “soak up the culture” and “eat what THEY eat” and, of course, drink alcohol (if you’re into that). However, I had two concerns about falling victim to the leniency I’ve given myself in the past on vacations. First, weight gain was always an inevitable part of adult vacationing for me. When I’m home I work out and eat right, but vacation is <er…WAS> a free for all. I decided that I don’t want that to be the case anymore. It turned out that I also wanted to feel good! I realized that bingeing on vacation could make me feel ill, and who wants to feel sick while traveling? It was a surprising motivator, and it worked for the most part.

Now I want to share with you my literal journey and how I managed to maintain a healthy state of mind and body while having the time of my life, soaking up culture and making memories with friends. My husband and I went to New Zealand and Australia as a bucket list destination before we start a family. We have friends in both countries and wanted to visit them and meet their families as well. It was a 19-day trip including 10 flights, and I was a bit nervous about the food situation and how I was going to try to eat healthy in airports and restaurants.

As with many other situations in life, planning makes all the difference. I’ve never packed as many snacks for a trip than I did for this one, and you can see some of them here. Justin’s Almond Butter has two ingredients: almonds and palm fruit oil. You can also see organic pumpkin seeds, jerky and some meal bars (those do have sugar). I also had some Steve’s PaleoGoods PaleoStix (meat) and dried apples, and Quest bars (gluten free protein/fiber bars made with sugar alcohols or stevia depending on the flavor) [EDIT: I don’t eat Quest bars anymore, as many have sucralose). These items replaced my usual Swedish Fish and Skittles stash, and they really came in handy on that 15 hour flight from L.A. to Sydney. What I didn’t eat on the way there was kept close at hand throughout the three weeks, but I didn’t even end up needing all of it.

One thing people dread when traveling is airport and airplane food; the cost of the former and the quality of the latter. I was fine paying a bit more in the airport for quality food, and I was surprised and elated that the airplane food was good! Virgin Australia and Air New Zealand know how to feed their customers. They also know how to beverage their customers, but that’s not the healthy part 🙂

Now I’m going to take you through what I ate and where. This may seem painfully tedious to some, but this could be helpful and encouraging to aspiring travelers! Labels are above the pics.

LAX airport- Mexican Steak Salad with lime vinaigrette

Virgin Australia flight- Chicken with quinoa, tomatoes and green beans (I ate it all)

 Virgin Australia flight- fruit, cheese omelette, hash brown, bacon, spinach, tomato, OJ. OJ was ick, from concentrate. Full disclosure: not pictured is a muffin I was planning to not eat but hubby said it was good so I ate it- and it was damn good.

 Air New Zealand flight (mind you, this was a 3 hour flight)- lamb with couscous and veggies, complimentary wine. De-lish.

 Aukland, NZ- It’s “Mussel Monday!” This is hard to see, but there are about 16 giant mussels in this bucket and there’s a creamy garlic lemon sauce. served with “chips” aka fries and “aioli” aka fancy mayo. mmm

 The current NZ foods that our friend Ole bought for us to try: Rashuns are bacon flavored cheese curls basically. L&P is a lemony soda, Crunchie is a chocolate covered honeycomb bar (hard to explain but my fave), Pineapple Lumps are chocolate covered pineapple flavored marshmallow, that can and the packet were combined to make an onion dip for veggies. We did eat these foods to try them, but didn’t go crazy with them on our trip. I also loved these fruit chews they have- I did overeat those.

 Aukland, NZ- homemade breakfast with poached eggs, avocado and home-jarred tomatoes. Ole doesn’t refrigerate her eggs because they don’t need to be refrigerated here. Do you see the color of this yolk!?

 Aukland, NZ- barbecue on the beach with free-range chicken skewers and kale salad with homemade Thai-almond dressing and feta.

 Aukland, NZ- A “fast food” place called Burger Fuel. Grass-fed burgers, free-range chicken. This is a chicken bacon sandwich with avocado, aioli, onion and tomato, made into a “low carbinator” by replacing bread with lettuce. I didn’t have to ask for a special order, it’s part of the menu. Seen here with kumara fries (sweet potato).

 Aukland, NZ- Cable Bay Winery. This is lamb with fried calamari on the side. I did have one of the calamari rings.

 Aukland, NZ- At a breakfast joint. They have a huge cafe culture there. On the left is a flat white (coffee with frothed milk) and a mochaccino on the right.

 Corn and Zucchini fritters with a poached egg, sour cream (can you tell which one is which?), bacon, relish, avocado and greens. The fritters were super bready (like pancakes almost) and I ate one of them. This was delicious overall  though.

 Camping Trip in the south island of NZ- Whitebait sandwich- little fishies in eggs basically. I did eat the bread since it was easy to eat it like a sandwich, but then regretted it because that was just lazy. Luckily I didn’t feel sick.

 Camping- shredded chicken, dry greens and a tomato, banana for dessert. This looks boring but it was delicious. When meat is well-sourced, it just tastes better.

Meat Pies! Of every kind! I got steak, bacon and onion. Yummy and worth the crust when they’re made well. This is one of the most popular foods in NZ and we were able to try them a few times. 

I was so impressed by these chips, I had to take a picture of the bag. I wish we had them in the U.S.!

NZ- Pineapple Cashew Chicken 

NZ- Homemade pot luck dinner. Chicken wings, green beans, mango salsa, crab rangoons

Sunshine Coast, Australia! Greek salad with lamb kebab at our first resort

Sunshine Coast- Noosa Beach brunch at a local cafe- Eggs benedict. I ate one of the pieces of bread.

Buffet Dinner at the Novotel Twin Waters resort. Paella, broiled fish, cabbage, spanish tortilla

Brie, cheddar, fruit, pesto, figs

Pulled pork, salad

Restaurant in Sunshine Coast- Cheese plate with apples, fig spread and tomato chutney

Scallops with micro greens, tomato salsa and bacon

side of green beans and snow peas. Fries are hubby’s

Dessert Martini- Snickers. looks good but not worth it

Gold Coast- Grass fed burger with bacon, onion rings and kumara fries at the Q1 building 

Gold Coast- Another grass fed burger over a salad with ham, pineapple and avocado. This was in a food court, not a sit down restaurant.

Breakfast buffet at our hotel in Surfer’s Paradise, Gold Coast

Cairns, Australia. Fish Curry with white rice. 

 Cairns. Not the healthiest thing I ate while here, but this gyro was incredibly delicious.

Cairns buffet breakfast. Ham, cheese, dried fruit, tomatoes, hash brown 

Fruit and yogurt 

Arugula, chicken, bacon and avocado flatbread with roasted tomatoes 

Sydney, Australia! Chicken Caesar from room service at the Grace Hotel

Mango, papaya and banana smoothie in Sydney

Ham, mushroom and swiss omelette and salad in Sydney. I avoided the bread.

Fish and Chips in Manly. Way too much food! When you don’t eat fried food often, it fills you up fast.

SUSHI in Sydney! So worth the rice. 

Airport snack. Convenient but if you don’t want all four at once bring a sealable bag. 

Egg Skillet in Sydney with roasted red peppers and onions, side of turkish toast (which I ate because it was DELICIOUS)

This is what you get when you order an “iced coffee” in Australia. Be careful. I did this twice because I thought, “surely, the first time was a misunderstanding.” Don’t get me wrong, it was delicious, but it had ice cream in it both times and it was breakfast. 

This was me ordering ice cream intentionally. In Australia but this was New Zealand ice cream. It is well-known that NZ dairy is amazing.

Dumplings in Sydney!

Airplane meal. Greek salad, lamb, potatoes, veggies, cheese, and chocolate mousse.

Airplane snack- dried apples with portable almond butter. Filling and not messy.

Airplane breakfast (Virgin Australia)- eggs, sausage, potatoes, tomatoes, fruit and coffee.

Airport salad, taken onto the plane to eat. Chicken, hard-boiled egg, bacon, tomatoes. 

As you can see, I was not squeaky clean Paleo or Primal while on vacation. Not even close. However, I know I made huge progress from the “free-for-all” mindset I used to have while away. I enjoyed the local cuisine and some desserts while trying to maximize nutrition and minimize the junk most of the time. I learned that bringing your own snacks on the plane is key to not gorging on candy, and that it doesn’t matter if you leave bread behind on your plate. The ultimate tip I can offer is for preparation before you leave for vacation. I recommend getting your sugar cravings in line for about three weeks before you go, so you can focus on exploring the sights instead of searching for a vending machine.

I prepared for the trip by doing the January 21-day sugar detox created by Diane San Filippo.  (  #21DSD ). In this time I was able to free myself of my insanely powerful sugar addiction and learn that I could go from meal to meal without needing to snack at all. I don’t have anything against healthy snacks, but I didn’t need them for the most part while on the detox. I still love sweets but that pull to have them after every meal has decreased dramatically. I can have one piece of chocolate or take 1-2 bites of a dessert and feel satisfied now.

Despite all the progress I made on the detox, I did eat more sugar on this trip than I needed. I wanted to try the local candy and treats that the Kiwis and Aussies love, so I let myself do that. Within three days of the trip, though, I had two canker sores in my mouth from the sugar. I had pimples a few days later. It’s amazing what you can notice happening to your body when you monitor the dietary changes you have made. I indulged at times on this trip, but I am proud of myself for making the effort to maximize nutrition in my meals. I’d say I stuck to my “diet” 80% of the time throughout the 19 days away, with the 20% consisting of alcohol, candy and bread. Not too shabby. And i didn’t gain an ounce for the first time on vacation in a long while. My sugar cravings were somewhat sparked by the indulgences I made, but getting back on track once at home was easy in comparison to previous trips which have sent me into a spiral of sugar-bingeing.

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