It’s a tale as old as time: You’re committed to a healthy eating plan when you’re at home, but then you go on vacation, and it’s food anarchy. Because, let’s be real: food is fun. Vacation is a time to let loose and abandon your typical daily structure, which is a notion that certain lends itself to eating habits. Can you even imagine sitting in a bistro in Paris and passing up a baguette because you don’t do carbs despite the fact that you actually love them so much? That’s the stuff of nightmares right there.
But, that said, if you treat vacation like a food free-for-all, getting back into your healthy habits when you get home can be all the more difficult. Thankfully Jane Larkworthy—beauty writer, weekend food blogger, and frequent traveler—has simple tips for striking ever-elusive balance of eating healthy while traveling and still having the best time ever.
The 5:2 diet is a variety of intermittent fasting in which you eat normally for five days out of the week and consume 500 daily calories for the other two days. While there aren’t many specific studies conducted on humans about the benefits of this nutrition plan (experts do, however, say that it’s best to train your body for trying it in order to avoid unfortunate bouts of hanger), there is research suggesting intermittent fasting is easier to stick to than calorie counting.
But why turn to it specifically for a trip? Well, you know how the second you set foot on an airplane, it’s feels like the regular rules of society no longer apply? (Wine at 9 a.m., anybody?) Instead of giving into the chaos that can ensue in the sky, Larkworthy uses her travel days as her two 500-calorie days on her hacked version of the 5:2 diet.
She packs cashews, pecans, pistachios and turkey jerky, along with a huge bottle of water to help ensure she stays on top of her hydration game. Having these two days of “reset” built into her vacation helps her stick to her normal eating patterns and allows room for her to enjoy treats she wouldn’t normally eat.
And while intermittent fasting is a bit controversial and not recommended for everyone, there are experts who say the practice can pay off in the form of energy boosts—which is great news for your sightseeing goals.
2. Explore the city—on foot
Upon arriving at her destination, Larkworthy goes for a walk to explore—and stops along the way might include hitting up the local Zara, the hottest local sneaker shop, and cultural institutions. She likes to walk as much as possible while traveling because doing so it keeps you active—and on vacay your first thought probably isn’t hitting the gym.
3. Take the time to savor your food
“Treat eating as a ritual—the last thing you want to do is waste that food by having it be around your tongue and your teeth for half a second before you swallow it,” Larkworthy says. Basically, don’t scarf down anything—take your time and enjoy it. “Just really respect the food and you will eat it more slowly.”
4. Have a positive attitude about whatever you’re eating
If you’re at a specialized wellness destination, abiding by this tip can be super simple. For instance, when Larkworthy is at Rancho La Puerta, learning to cook nutritiously and enjoying menus filled with fresh, delicious food, she’s totally satisfied. But, if you’re enjoying foods you wouldn’t normally eat, it can be easy to beat yourself up for. “If I’m in Italy, yes, I will have some gelato,” she says. “I think depriving yourself that much is just going to ruin your vacation.”
Basically, learning how to eat healthy while traveling is partially about what you eat and partially about how you eat. (Read: It’s super important to prioritize a healthy mind-set about food and fun).