Eating Mindfully on Vacation: Strategies for Staying on Track During Travel

Unlock the secret to balance while traveling with mindful eating tips that help you stay committed to your health goals

  • Published: 5/16/2023
  • 4 min. read

Living a more laissez faire lifestyle when it comes to eating and drinking while traveling is recharging, but our overall health is all about balance. Whether you’re trying to stick to your health goals or simply beat the often associated bloat, tuning into what your body really needs is the simple yet effective answer. Find out how to eat mindfully on vacation and strategies for staying on track during travel.

What is mindful eating?

Vacations should be enjoyed! So when you’re seeing new things and experiencing different foods, why not be fully present for it? 

Mindful eating is paying attention to your food and how it makes you feel (1). It includes tuning into your senses and focusing on the look, texture, smell, and taste. By giving attention to the food as it is, rather than focusing on it as “good” or “bad”, it can increase satiety and get better at differentiating between physical and emotional hunger. 

Emotional hunger, or emotional eating, is when we eat for reasons other than our biological need for nourishment. For example, think about a time when you had a stressful tight flight transfer or a boring flight and found yourself mindlessly munching on a bag of chips or airplane snacks. We can also eat when feeling happy, such as while traveling and wanting to taste all the new foods. 

Healthy eating: challenges while traveling 

Traveling typically gets us out of our regular routing, making us eat differently than we usually do. Whether you’re traveling for business or leisure, maintaining a healthy eating plan can seem close to impossible. When we travel, it can be difficult to make balanced meals. We may end up overly hungry, letting all those local pastries or fried foods tempt us into tummy aches. 

Mindful eating can keep you aware of what you eat, without being restrictive. Studies suggest that it can help with weight management and eating behaviors (2). So let’s learn how we can eat mindfully on vacation and enjoy trying new foods without toppling our health goals.

Strategies for staying on track during travel

As a reminder, mindful eating is paying attention to eating without judgment. So be easy on yourself as you try these strategies. It’s all part of the process! 

Am I really hungry?

Ask yourself before you grab a snack or meal if you're really hungry. Typical signs of true hunger include being low on energy, stomach growling, or an empty feeling in your tummy. Sometimes it can be difficult to know, so consider if you’ve had a meal within about 3-5 hours. If you are actually hungry, go for it! Just aim to include some natural and healthy foods like fresh fruits and vegetables or aiming for whole grain versions whenever possible. 

Before you eat, use this acronym: HALT. Ask yourself are you:

  • Hungry
  • Angry
  • Lonely
  • Tired

Then try to honor these feelings. Some examples include getting your anger out by running or punching a pillow, talking to a friend or journaling when lonely, and taking a nap or drinking some water when tired.

How does it make me feel?

It’s good to ask yourself this question both during and after you eat something. For instance, say you start your day with easy oatmeal and nuts made in your hotel –  does the fiber and protein keep you satisfied or maybe you really want a pastry today and crave lean protein and vegetables later. 

Ask yourself what you really want and what you can live without. For instance, maybe you’ve been dying to try the local pasta but don’t care so much for the dessert. Allow yourself to enjoy without overindulging. When we really tune in with how food makes us feel, we’ll likely self regulate.

How can I prepare?

When we’re super hungry, it's difficult to choose healthier options. That’s because our brain is lacking its main fuel, glucose, so it’s screaming at us to get quick carbs (sugary snacks, drinks, bread, etc) as soon as possible (3). Avoid getting too hungry by keeping non-perishable healthy snacks with you like nuts, seeds, or these tasty no-bake bars. Try bringing oatmeal and nuts to a hotel, which can be easily made just with hot water.

If you have access to a refrigerator or kitchen, stop by the local grocery store and make some meals at your rental location. This way you can nourish your body with the energy it needs to explore your travel destination!

Enjoy yourself!

Try cuisines that you normally wouldn’t have access to. Enjoy them and have fun while being mindful of healthier swaps that won’t interfere with the taste. For example, ask for dressing on the side and add enough to flavor your dish. Ready to balance your travels with eating patterns best suited for you? Check out Lifesum!

All of the content and media on Lifesum is created and published for information purposes only. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for medical advice or treatment. Users should always consult with a doctor or other health care professional for medical advice.

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All of the content and media on Lifesum is created and published for information purposes only. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for medical advice or treatment. Users should always consult with a doctor or other health care professional for medical advice. If you have or think you are at risk of developing an eating disorder, do not use the Lifesum app and seek immediate medical help.