Eating healthy when you’re traveling can be challenging. I was put to the test a few weeks ago when I flew down to Miami to be post surgery nurse to my mom. It was minor surgery thankfully, and I was only there for a few days.

Aside from the usual travel jitters, my biggest concern was how to stay away from all that good food I’m used to gobbling up every time I visit. In Miami, where there are more Latin Americans than palm trees, there is no shortage of restaurants and small cafes serving up delicious cuisine. Now that I’m more conscious of what I eat, all I could think about was all the sweat and possibly tears I’d have to shed to burn those calories if I gave in and went on “vacation mode.”

You know what I’m talking about, “vacation mode.” Every one’s favorite excuse for overeating and not working out while taking a break from the real world.

Everywhere I turned there were ham croquettes, fried plantains, arepas, empanadas, churros, that little sugar and caffeine bomb called cafe Cubano, and the bread. Oh the Cuban bread! It’s like a little pillow from heaven and the local Publix is nice enough to keep it in a warming oven for you to take home fresh or ahem, devour in your car on the way home.

I surprised myself though and I said no. No to the bread, the fried treats, the puff pastry filled with guava jam that was calling my name at the Winn Dixie… I was determined to stick to my new way of eating and show my mom how delicious it is to be vegan-ish.

The day I left I had to be at the airport horribly early so I figured I’d grab a bite to eat before getting on the plane. Most of the food places had high calorie breakfast sandwiches so those were out of the question which left me verrry few options. I ended up paying an arm and a leg for a cup of fresh fruit and grabbed a cup of coffee.

After arriving I had lunch with my mom. I was proud of myself for not caving in to my favorite restaurant, El Rinconcito Paisa, and having my once usual meal: bandeja paisa. A traditional Colombian dish of steak served with rice, beans, a fried egg, fried sweet plantain, chicharrón (meaty pork cracklings), avocado and a little arepa on the side.  Yes, it is literally a tray of food. Instead we had a salad with falafel and shared a piece of baklava.

Since the plan was to stay at home with my mom the whole time, we stopped by the grocery store to stock up on some more fresh fruit and veggies. I really enjoyed cooking for my mom. Oatmeal for breakfast, quinoa, salads, beans and butternut squash. She was pleasantly surprised by some of my recipes which made me happy.

Roasted Butternut Squash
click here for the recipe

When it came to exercise, there were no excuses. My mom was not in dire need of 24 hour care so there was definitely time to work out. Using the google pedometer and a couple of suggestions from my mom I mapped a running route and hit the pavement three days while I was there.

For strength training I turned to one of my new faves, (click on the link and you’ll find the workout I did) There were no weights in at my mom’s but luckily I found a gallon of vinegar and windshield wiper fluid and a yoga mat. Hey, you do what you can with what you’ve got!

don’t know how much they weigh but it worked in a pinch

Just like at home, a little planning and preparation will help you stay healthy and on track with your fitness and weight loss goals when you’re on vacation. Here are three basic things to remember:

1. Find places to eat that offer healthy options and cater to your dietary restrictions before heading out. If you’re counting calories, look up the nutrition information for the restaurant you’ve chosen and decide what you’ll eat beforehand.

2. If you are staying in some one’s home or a hotel that does not have a fitness center, take a jump rope and some resistance bands with you. Still too much? Just pack your sneakers and walk or jog for at least 30 minutes every day. You’ll burn calories and feel energized for the day’s activities.

3. Don’t deprive yourself. It’s ok to have a treat. Just keep your goals in mind so you don’t go overboard.

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