Eat it (occasionally)

The Square Meal dish from the Northstar Cafe: Beans, avocado, cheese, tortilla strips and other tasty ingredients.

Eat healthfully and your body will thank you on vacation. Above: The Square Deal from the Northstar Cafe in Columbus, Ohio.

Vacations are paradoxical. They encourage you to bathe on a sunny beach but then force calorie-laden dishes in your face three times a day for days at a time — and we all know bloated bellies aren’t exactly made for the beach.

But, unless you want to end up like this diner did at the Heart Attack Grill in Las Vegas, you can and should take steps to eat a little more healthfully on vacation. Contrary to popular belief, there are ways to still enjoy the fine cuisine of your destination while not sacrificing the diet.

Here are three places to start:

Plan ahead: Time permitting (who am I kidding, I always allow for time planning vacations), I research all the best vegetarian restaurants in my destination. The easiest way to do this is to use Urbanspoon, which lets you search for food by genre and/or review rating. From there, I troll around Google, entering the name of the restaurant I’m interested in and go from there.

It's every vegetarian (and mongoose) for himself at Mongoose Junction on St. John.

It’s every vegetarian (and mongoose) for himself at Mongoose Junction on St. John.

Book a room with a kitchen: One of the easiest ways to bypass the heart attack-on-a-plate meal you’ll often face in restaurants is to book a room with a kitchen. When Caitlyn and I visited St. John, we did our research in advance and found that it wasn’t particularly in touch with vegetarians, so we booked a private villa with its own kitchen and ran to the grocery store to stock up on healthier fare. In addition to cooking up healthier quesadillas, we also made veggie wraps for when we went to the beach. That’s not to say we didn’t also try some of the restaurants – including those in the swank Mongoose Junction shopping area (no, they don’t serve mongoose … or is it “mongeese?”) – but this hybrid approach to eating spared our bodies – and wallets –for the week. Some hotel chains offer kitchenettes as a standard amenity in their rooms, including Residence Inn by Marriott, Extended Stay and Staybridge Suites. The drawback is that many of these chains are often times not located downtown, rather, in the suburbs.

Look for tip sheets: This tip sheet isn’t the only one out there. USA Today has a great post on how to eat healthy on vacation which, among things, suggests eating fatty healthy foods, like fish; frequenting restaurants that use only local or organic foods; and loading up on healthy foods at breakfast, since you’ll need the energy and who knows how long you’ll be out and about. WebMD also has a women-centric tip sheet, leading off with the need to resist splurging.

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