More than a month has passed since my family’s trip to Disney World in March, and of course, “How was your trip?” has been the most popular question I have received from people asking about our time in the Happiest Place on Earth. The No. 2 question…“How was the food?” Which as a professional health and fitness coach, I took to mean, “How did you eat healthy?”

The answer…

It actually was easy – for a couple of reasons.

First, unlike many people nationwide these days, I’m not an all-in or all-out kind of person. I didn’t attempt to stay as disciplined and dedicated as I am at home, and I didn’t blow up in one week all the work I have done for more than a decade, and all the gains I have made along the way.

Secondly, thanks to my wife Shelly’s meticulous research, I prepared in advance for where we would eat and what those restaurants offered.

Long before traveling to Orlando, Florida, she mapped out our daily itinerary for the entire week, nearly down to the minute.

Along with being able to maximize our time in each of the parks we visited, that helped us pinpoint the best option for meals, specifically lunch and dinner, each day. With that information in hand, we began researching various restaurants and eateries that would best fit into our daily plan.

Then we checked out their respective menus. So, when it was time to eat, I walked into each establishment with a solid idea in mind of what I would eat.

No fuss – and most importantly, no stress – because I began each day knowing I could enjoy myself without getting off track, and I didn’t have to worry about the choices I made because I already was confident in the choices I would make.

And with Memorial Day, the unofficial start to the summer season, fast approaching, a little advance preparation will go a long way to making your vacation plans as stress-free as possible (at least nutritionally speaking, anyway).

Here are some helpful tips to keep top of mind when you’re on vacation so you can focus on having guilt-free fun in the sun while staying on track with your health and fitness goals:

* Don’t Head Out Hungry: Have a healthy snack before heading out to satisfy your hunger. It’s no different than when you head to the grocery store. If we aren’t hungry while walking up and down each aisle, we stand a better chance of not putting a bunch of unhealthy options in our shopping cart.

* Don’t Eat While Waiting: Don’t fill up on bread and other appetizers while waiting for main course. I used to make this common mistake over and over again in my heavier days when unhealthy choices were a staple of my diet. Often, there are fewer healthy versions of appetizers than dinners. So, staying away from those fillers leaves much more room for our meal.

* Order Vegetables and Protein: Calorie-dense vegetables and lean proteins, such as chicken and fish, satiate us faster and keep us stay satiated longer. Vegetables provide slow-metabolizing fiber, and proteins take longer to metabolize as well.

* Have a Salad With Dressing on the Side: Salads are always a healthy choice, especially with lean protein included. But dressings high in calories, sugar and saturated fat quickly make those same salads unhealthy option.

I’m simple with my salad dressing. I have used olive oil and vinegar all my life, but a tasty balsamic vinaigrette can provide the same nutrients while adding some zesty flavor to your meal. Also, I dip each forkful of salad in the dressing instead of pouring it on to savor the flavor without adding extra unwanted calories.

* Eat Slowly, Stop Early: Portions at restaurants often are two to three times larger than the average portion size. I cut my meal in half and put one half into a box to take home for a meal the next day. Then I take my time eating. Studies show it takes our brain 20 minutes to signal our stomach that we are full. When we eat quickly, our stomach often is full long before we know it is.

These tips seem simple, don’t they? That’s because they are.

The work we do each day to stay healthy and fit is hard. But the process we should follow doesn’t need to be. It can – and should – be simple and straightforward, even when our normal routine changes at vacation time.

Work smarter, not harder…and of course, enjoy!

And if you want to learn more about meal prepping in advance or simply have a conversation about your fitness goals and needs, contact me at 814-504-7774 or, or head to for more information.

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