Being Paleo and on Vacation

Travel and being Paleo (and food conscious lifestyle for that fact) certainly can be challenging, and being on vacation can double that challenge.  You want to have fun, eat, relax and be like everyone else, but then that guilt could set in or you could accidentally make the jump and leave your new lifestyle.

So how do you balance following your healthy lifestyle while being on vacation and having fun in the sun (or wherever you might go)?

I’ll break it down to a few simple points that I followed on my first Paleo vacation (A resort for 4 nights in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic) and the good news is:  I had fun, I did not stress, I did not stress out my wife or travel friends and I did not gain any weight!

1. Follow the major rules of your lifestyle

Paleo has major rules and minor (IMO).

Major Rules

  • Eat only Meat, Fish, Chicken, Vegetables, Fruit, Nuts and eggs.
  • Do not eat grains (rice, wheat, corn etc), legumes (beans, peanuts etc), dairy (cheese, milk etc), white potatoes, no refined sugar and no processed foods.

Minor Rules (IMO), I follow these daily, but on vacation you need to be flexible

  • Organic, local, grass fed, wild caught – All important, but much harder to know when on vacation, the good news is, outside of North America, most countries follow these basic principals regularly.  So, IMO, slack off on this rule and eat what is native to your location, as long as it fits in the major rules and you will be basically OK.
  • Avoid certain Oils / Fats – Ignore this one (unless you have an actual allergy), it’s going to be very challenging to find out what oils are used for cooking etc, and most likely you won’t be able to change them, so guess what?  It’s a few days, don’t worry about it , if you are not eating fried food, you won’t ingest enough for it to harm your lifestyle.

2. Pack your many snacks

  • Even the airports can be challenging – I’ve been spending a lot of time in airports lately and am really shocked at how many snacks at first glance appear to be healthy and then when you take a closer look they break the major rules, for Paleo anyway, such as Cane sugar (doesn’t matter if it’s organic, it’s sugar, not an alternative sugar, it’s full blown sugar).  Or you will see Gluten Free and then see rice flour as the “alternative” flour.  So the best bet is to just bring your own snacks.
  • Plane food – Generally no real Paleo options either, so bring plane food
  • Pack extra for the days you are on vacation as well, you never know, you might need them

3. Opt for buffets

  • Buffets generally offer a very wide range of foods, where as restaurants have a fixed menu and may not be flexible, especially if the native language where you are is not your own, making communication and asking about changes difficult or possibly misunderstood.  So if you find the restaurants challenging use the buffet for the majority of your meals.  For example we did breakfast and lunch at the buffet and then dinner at a couple of the restaurants that had at least an option for myself and one for my wife.  This way we could eat a lot for morning and lunch where we had lots of local food options, Susan is vegan, so she lived on fruit and nuts for 4 days basically and I could have many different local fish and fruit, etc.

4. Eat locally

  • I said this above but again, outside of North America most countries follow a more locally sourced and organic food lifestyle unlike America, so do some research before you go and eat what is typically local to your location / country and then apply the major rule (meat, fish, chicken, nuts, eggs, veggies and fruit only) and you should be just fine.
  • The Dominican Republic, like all Caribbean locations) focus on local items mostly, fish and fruit (for example).  I ate lots of fish and fruit, vegetables when they could be found, but lots of fruit the rest of the time.  Remember Paleo is not a no “carb” diet, yes technically it’s “low carb” because we avoid grains, rice, potatoes, etc, but it’s not Atkins, fruit is your friend, especially when local and in season!

4. Avoid white and brown sauces

  • White sauces are generally dairy based so it’s easier to just avoid them completely
  • Brown sauces are generally thickend with flour, so it’s best to avoid those

5. Don’t count your calories

  • Normally I do put everything in my Fitbit app just to make sure I’m not going crazy on either end, too few calories or too many. You are on vacation so don’t do this, put the app away, stick to the major rules and enjoy.  Even if you don’t get stressed by this, your travel mates probably will, in the least you could make them self-conscious about what they are eating and it’s vacation, no one should be self-conscious.  In fact no one should ever be made to feel self-concious!

6. Stick to your workouts

  • Make vacation work for you, don’t let it put a damper on your lifestyle, make it part of your lifestyle.  Walk to places if it’s safe and under a few miles.  If you have a day of just sun and relaxing, work out for a bit in the am, then go and lay by the pool, if you do it early you will feel great and not worry about the fact that you just laid by the pool all day.

For example, we just got back this week from the Dominican Republic, a resort long weekend.  Met lots of great folks, and when people heard I had a 14 mile training run scheduled for Sunday morning, everyone said you won’t do it (assuming I’d indulge to much and not want to get up at 6 am etc).  For me that was just fuel for my competitive nature.  So Sunday at 6 am, my alarm went off, and I was out on my 14 mile run at 7 am!

I found that since I stuck to these basic half a dozen’ish rules I was able to have fun, not stress  out myself, my wife or travel friends and I did not gain any weight or get sidetracked from my goals!

Until next time, Bobby.

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