Food Tips to Healthy Eating on Vacation

May 10, 2017 by Joel Fuhrman, MD

Whether you are taking a road trip or flying to some distant destination, if you are committed to following a nutrient-dense diet style, you do not have to leave your healthy eating habits at home. With a little pre-planning and thinking outside the box, it is possible to relax and make healthy food choices. It can even be fun to eat healthfully while traveling. Here are some of the strategies I use when I vacation with my family.

Advance Preparation

American highways offer an endless line-up of fast food chains, however, visiting them does not have to be part of your food agenda. Instead, invest in a large cooler, stock it with plenty of ice packs and bring along a supply of salads, cut up raw veggies, fruit, whole-grain wraps, raw nut butters, unsalted raw nuts and seeds.

This is actually a lot more relaxing, especially if you are traveling with young children, because you do not have to worry about finding a restaurant everyone agrees on and foods that everyone likes, and it is cost efficient.

If you are on the road for several days, stop at local farmers markets or grocery stores along the way to restock. It’s a great way to learn about a new area. I like to search for local farms that sell to the public in the area I am traveling to. It is fun to drive up directly to the farm for your food and talk to the farmer about the fruits of his labor: fresh berries, melons, cherries, peaches, apples, tomatoes, corn, okra, carrots.

Visit a pick-your-own farm. Look for farms in the area and call ahead about your visit. Fast food or chain restaurants are the same wherever you go in the world, but farms and farmers markets showcase the uniqueness of their locale and offer the freshest produce a location has to offer. They are abundant in the summertime and can be a memorable adventure. This is especially true when visiting a different part of the United States or travelling internationally.

Make accommodation arrangements ahead of time so that when you get to your destination, you have a refrigerator available or even better, a small kitchen so you can stock up on lots of healthy options, particularly for breakfast and lunch.

At night, refreeze your ice packs if you have a fridge with a freezer in your room or travel with plastic bags and fill them up with ice from the hotel icemaker. You can also ask the hotel to put your ice packs in their kitchen freezer. Travel with real silverware, and bring one big sharp knife, for opening melons and other chopping (obviously for road trips only; do not bring any metal silverware or knives on a plane). It is also wise to bring a large bowl for washing veggies and making food in the room. Don’t forget to bring your insulated water bottles that can be filled with ice and water when needed.

If you are flying within the United States, pack everyone’s carry-on bag with fruit that travels well, such as apples, as well as nuts, seeds or home made trail mix. Contact the airline to investigate vegetarian or vegan options for in-flight meals, but don’t count on it being healthy, you still need to bring your own food to play it safe.


Of course, eating out is part of being on vacation and you don’t need to give up restaurant dining completely. I look for restaurants that have healthy choices. Most restaurants have web sites and make their menus available on-line. Many places will make special accommodations. Call ahead and ask. I recommend eating dinner at a nearby Whole Foods Market or other healthy market that has a large salad bar. Many of the Whole Foods stores not only have salad bars, but cooked options too, such as steamed vegetables and veggie soups.

It is easy to find oatmeal and fruit for breakfast; you can even make it yourself by soaking it in the room the night before or cooking it in the coffee maker in your room. For lunch or dinner, look for restaurants which offer an interesting assortment of creative salads or have a salad bar.

As I always say, “Make your salad the main dish.” Order a double-sized salad and let them charge you double. Ask for your salad dressing on the side and use it sparingly or ask for oil and vinegar and just use a little bit of oil. Because restaurant soups are always high in salt, it is best to avoid them. Ask the waiter not to bring bread to your table so you are not tempted to fill up before your meal arrives.

Request an extra side of steamed vegetables instead of pasta, potato or white rice to accompany your main dish. Ask for them to be made without butter, oil or salt. You can also just request a double serving of vegetables as your entrée.

If you order a conventional entrée, choose simple broiled fish or chicken items and share with someone you are dining with so neither of you consumes an excessive amount of animal products. Asian restaurants are also good choices because you can order vegetable dishes that are steamed or water sautéed with the sauce on the side.

On vacation, you may not eat perfectly at every single meal but the goal is to eat very well the vast majority of the time. If you eat some conventional foods, don’t despair. Just start eating healthfully again at your next meal, and continue for the entire next few days until the vacation is over. In other words, pick one or two meals, where you might eat something off your regular diet, such as an animal product, but not more than one or two meals the entire week away.

Lastly, be more active on the road. Do more and more exercise when you are away from home, structuring your fun around physically demanding activities. Go to bed physically tired every day.

It’s always better to come home feeling great—and you’ll be thankful you did!


Joel Fuhrman, M.D. is a board-certified family physician, six-time New York Times bestselling author and internationally recognized expert on nutrition and natural healing, who specializes in preventing and reversing disease through nutritional methods. Dr. Fuhrman coined the term “Nutritarian” to describe his longevity-promoting, nutrient dense, plant-rich eating style.
For over 25 years, Dr. Fuhrman has shown that it is possible to achieve sustainable weight loss and reverse heart disease, diabetes and many other illnesses using smart nutrition. In his medical practice, and through his books and PBS television specials, he continues to bring this life-saving message to hundreds of thousands of people around the world.