A Healthy Vacation is Possible

By: Rick Bellanti – March, 2016

Rick Bellanti Pants PicThis week’s question came at the perfect time for me, as my plane just landed and I just returned from taking my daughter to Orlando, FL for her school vacation and visited all those amazing theme parks and tourist attractions, better known as the city of delicious but horrible food choices (or so I thought).

Going on vacation doesn’t have to be the end of your healthy lifestyle, don’t throw all your hard work away, just because you are in a different environment. It’s all about taking the time and planning in advance. Not only did I plan well, but something I didn’t realize was how much money I was saving from not buying that unhealthy quick service food in the parks. I understand guests want their food fast so they can eat on the go and get to the next attraction. I planned my meals well in advance and brought my stuff on the road with me daily and actually lost 4 lbs while on vacation.

I’ve been following a very high protein diet, which combines protein shakes along with a balanced fork and knife meal as well as healthy snacks throughout the day. I found it really easy to drink my morning shake before I left the hotel room every morning. I brought along a shaker bottle to mix my second shake for later on in the day, but it also doubled as a great water bottle and every chance I had I would stop and fill it up with ice and water. (Did you know that water is free at any Disney food service spot? Just ask for a cup, but with my own shaker cup it helped keep me in check with my daily water intake as well as keep me hydrated throughout the day and a bonus: kept me feeling full, till my next meal or snack.

For snack options I brought along protein bars and if you don’t have any on hand, you can generally find them at certain places now in a pinch like a gas station or grocery store. Just watch out for high sugar and high carb ones, stick to ones with high protein and high fiber as well as low or no sugar (watch out for the hidden artificial sugars). I also brought along healthy snacks like raw almonds to munch on (almonds keep you feeling full and studies have found may have a beneficial impact on heart health and cholesterol), and fruit, like apples and pears. In the evenings I had a sit down meal keeping it around 500-600 calories. Have you noticed that chain restaurants such as Applebee’s and Denny’s have the calories for each meal right on the menu now, it seems everyone wants to help you stay on track and make good choices, it’s up to you to make the right decisions.

Even if you decide not to bring your own food on the road with you, theme parks such as Walt Disney World Resort, SeaWorld and Universal Studios have been getting on board with the healthy food changes and offer an assortment of healthy alternatives with their kids meals such as grapes, apple slices and carrot sticks so with these on hand I always ask to purchase a few for myself. The good thing is they come in neat sealed little baggies so you can take them on the go and enjoy them while standing in long lines at ride attractions and keeping you away from all the popcorn, ice cream and cotton candy temptations. Did you know on Main Street in Disney World they actually pump artificial smells like chocolate chip cookies (from the bakery) to popcorn onto the street to get your taste buds and cravings going?

Speaking of Disney, the parks are coming out later this year with new healthier alternatives with something called: Snacks With Character, offering you better healthy snack options. The new assortment products include gluten-free, nut-free, and other allergy-friendly products.
Keep an eye out for them in 2016.

Going on vacation means having fun with your family and friends, spending time together and having fun visiting everything from theme parks, zoos, beaches etc. It doesn’t mean you have to make bad food choices, but you should start thinking about changing your thoughts on food. I changed my way of thinking after years of making bad food choices: Food is fuel for your body to help your body function properly think of it as you need to eat to live not live to eat.

Rick Bellanti is a wellness columnist and is on a journey himself to lose 240lbs, and has lost 125lbs since the start of 2015. If you have any questions or comments, please post them to his Getting Healthy with Rick Bellanti Facebook page and once a month he will address a few of the topics here.