5 Tips For Navigating Nutrition Pitfalls This Summer

By Molly Galbraith
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It's official.  Summer is here, and for many of us, that means pool parties, weekends at the lake, and family vacations.  In other words: burgers, barbecue, and probably booze.   Not exactly the kind of food that makes us look and feel our best, huh?

Vacation doesn't have to mean choosing between bingeing and deprivation. It's all about balance.

Vacation doesn't have to mean choosing between bingeing and deprivation. It's all about balance.

What's a girl to do?

Miss out on the fun of summer because we're focused on our food the whole time? Not hardly. Throw caution to the wind and eat into oblivion? Nope.  That won't work either.

Moderation, baby.  Enjoying yourself while ensuring that you don't wander too far from what you know is best for you.

Below are 5 nutrition strategies that can help you navigate the typical nutrition pitfalls that come along with summer fun, especially travel.

1. Take some staples with you.

Who This Is Good For: Anyone who is traveling away from home. Whether it's a day trip, weekend getaway, or a week's vacation, it's always a good idea to have a few different healthy options around in case the choices at your destination just aren't cutting it.

Why It Works: Packing snacks ensures that you're never left "option-less" and forced to eat junky fast food or gas station fare. That said, let's be clear about something, unless you're doing a physique/figure competition or cutting weight for a Powerlifting Meet, there's no need to pack a whole week's worth of meals for the road.  Just figure out how long you're going to be gone and throw a few snacks in your bag for each day as a back-up plan. Unless you're going to another country or a super remote location, you should be able to find decent choices for food most of the time.

Going to a party or cookout?  Consider volunteering to take a delicious and healthy option such as chicken and vegetable skewers (or fruit skewers for dessert, even!). These lettuce wraps are pretty tasty, too!

A few of our favorite travel foods.

A few of our favorite travel foods.

How To Do It: Throw two or three snack-sized servings of non-perishable foods in your bag for every day that you'll be gone.  Some good options include: jerky, nuts, nut butter packets, tuna packets, protein powder, protein bars (like Quest), homemade trail mix, apples, dried fruit, fruit and nut bars (like Lara or Kind)

If you're bringing food to the party, give the host or hostess a heads-up that you'd like to help, and tell them what you'll be bringing.

2. Scout out restaurants before you go to find options that align with your preferences.

Who This Is Good For:  Anyone who is in charge of their own travel plans.

Why It Works: When you research restaurants ahead of time that are close to where you'll be staying, you can have a plan and be more likely to stick to it. It's when we feel unprepared that we make less-than-stellar or impulsive choices. Set yourself up for success from the beginning.

How To Do It: Hop on the Internet and look up "restaurants near [fill in the blank] to see what the options are, and see how close they are to where you're staying. Find one with good reviews and check out their menu online to see if what they offer will fit your needs.

3. Adjust your eating to allow for more a little more indulgence here and there.

Who This Is Good For: Anyone who prefers some flexibility and spontaneity in their life and thrives on moderation.

Why It Works: You can make some very simple and almost unnoticeable changes in your normal eating patterns that will reduce your calories just enough so that if you do have a couple of glasses of wine at dinner, indulge in a hearty brunch and a mimosa, or nosh on some fried chicken while hanging out by the water, you're not totally stepping too far away from your normal intake.

How To Do It: You'll have to find what works well for you, but here are several options:

  • Fast in the morning and eat your first meal at lunchtime (or whenever you're ready to break your fast)
  • Eat about 25% less at most of your meals, compared to the portion you'd normally eat
  • Stretch out the time between the meals

Keep in mind that there's nothing magic about those options.  They're simply strategies you can use to eat a few less calories here and there to make some room for special meals or some treats.

4. Relax.

Who This Is Good For: Um... Everyone, but especially those among us who tend to get a little batty over our nutrition.

Why It Works: Parties and vacations are meant to be a source of enjoyment, not a source of stress.

Thinking in extremes such as

"This is your ONLY chance to eat junk the rest of the year!" or

"You can't have a SINGLE off-plan food on vacation, you MUST stay on plan!"

is a sure-fire way to make you miserable. It might even make a binge more likely. If you follow a few basic healthy eating principles like having a protein source with every meal, and stopping when you're 80–90% full (comfortable and satisfied, but not full), it's actually hard to overindulge. Relax, listen to your body, choose fresh food that sounds delicious, and enjoy yourself.

It's not all or nothing. There's no reason that you can't have salad and a cupcake in the same meal.

It's not all or nothing. There's no reason that you can't have salad and a cupcake in the same meal.

How To Do It: Choose a few healthy, effortless habits like the ones mentioned above. A few good ones include: eating protein with every meal, drinking plenty of water (even if you're having booze as well), eating slowly and chewing every bite thoroughly, and stopping when you're 80-90% full.

5. Prioritize your indulgences.

Who This Is Good For: Everyone, all the time.

Why It Works: As we've mentioned a few times now, parties and vacations are positive events, meant to be enjoyed. Depriving yourself of your favorite foods and beverages on a regular basis depletes your willpower (yes, willpower is finite), and it's more likely to lead to binge eating down the road. You're much better off developing good habits instead of relying on finite motivation and willpower to white-knuckle your way through life.

How To Do It: Take a moment to figure out what's on your must-have list — the food and drinks you absolutely love, that keep you happy and satisfied. Make those foods and drinks your priority when you choose to indulge, and forget the rest.

I guess you could say that ice cream is my must-have.

I guess you could say that ice cream is my must-have.

Mindlessly munching from the bread basket at dinner when it doesn't even taste that good doesn't make any sense. Forego the bread basket and indulge in an amazing slice of cheesecake instead, if that's your thing.  Or skip the loaded baked potato and split a bottle of wine with your dinner date, if that's what you're going to enjoy the most.

Doing this makes it possible for you to enjoy what you're eating and drinking infinitely more, with zero negative feelings (physically or emotionally).

There you have it. Five strategies to help you enjoy yourself this summer (or any time, really!) while maintaining the health and physique you that make you feel your best. What about you? Have any favorite or go-to strategies that we didn't mention? Share in the comments below!

Get in the best shape of your life—for good.

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Throughout our 12-month program, you’ll get a simple, step-by-step plan for developing nutrition, fitness, and mindset habits that will lead the way in reaching your goal.

Your coach is available 6 days a week to answer questions and help you navigate situations — like when you need advice for how to eat while you’re on vacation), when you want exercise substitutions so you don’t aggravate your knee pain, or when you need to plan a workout when you have limited equipment options — so you always have support when you need it. And together, you'll find the best path toward long-term results in a way that works for you.

You’ll learn how to:

  • Improve your nutrition without giving up the foods you love
  • Exercise safely and effectively so you’re getting maximum results from your workouts without burning yourself out
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And you’ll become the happiest, fittest, strongest version of yourself, one step at a time.

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About the author:  Molly Galbraith

Molly Galbraith, CSCS is co-founder and woman-in-charge at Girls Gone Strong, a global movement of 800,000+ folks passionate about women’s health, fitness, and empowerment. She’s also the creator of the The Girls Gone Strong Academy, home of the world’s top certifications for health and fitness pros who want to become a Certified Pre-& Postnatal Coach or a Certified Women’s Coaching Specialist.   The GGS Academy is revolutionizing women’s health and fitness by tackling critical (and often overlooked) topics like body image struggles, disordered eating, menopause, amenorrhea and menstrual cycle struggles, PCOS, endometriosis, osteoporosis, pre- and postnatal exercise, incontinence, diastasis recti, pelvic organ prolapse, postpartum recovery, and much more.   Learn more about Molly on her website and connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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