Tips for Healthier Vacation Snacking

by  Paul Eisenberg | Mar 29, 2011
Various flavors of ice cream
Various flavors of ice cream / kerdkanno/iStock

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Sunshine doesn’t necessarily promote bad eating. But as we spend more time outdoors enjoying spring-like and summery weather, the allure of street food vendors, ice cream shops, and other purveyors of not-so-healthy but oh-so-satisfying snacks is hard to ignore.

If you’re at the beach or some other warm weather destination where easy treats beckon, it can be a challenge to offset the family’s “we’re on vacation” attitude and diet even if you had hoped to prepare some snacks yourself. For such times I feel like it would be nice to ask a nutritionist for a little guidance, so I did.

With nearly three decades of experience in nutrition and exercise counseling, registered dietitian Monika Woolsey ( says very basic summer snack traps to avoid are sugary beverages like punch, soda, and juice, which “add up even though they keep us cool and hydrate us.” One of her favorite alternatives to sugary drinks is “hint water,” which she says you can make easily wherever you are by “cutting up fruit [or] cucumbers and floating them on top of a pitcher full of water.” Even if your family resists, “if you don't keep the alternatives around, it's harder for negotiation to weaken your resolve,” she says.

Two more ideas can work particularly well if you’re staying in a vacation rental or any lodging where you have access to a freezer. You can buy some plastic popsicle makers at a nearby drugstore, Woolsey says, “and fill them with Greek yogurt. The resulting treats will be creamy and cool. You can use flavored yogurt, or to cut the sugar, buy plain and sweeten to taste or add blended fruit to flavor.”

This strategy may not negate what sometimes feels like a molecular-level craving for real ice cream, but if you're staying in a vacation home and “keep the ice cream out of the house and make outings for the occasional ice cream a family adventure, it will be portion controlled and you won't create the expectation that ice cream is an everyday food,” Woolsey says.

Another idea along the same lines is keeping “frozen fruit on hand for the munchies. You can buy berries, mangoes, pineapple, pretty much anything already frozen. Or, you can freeze your own. It's sweet, it's cool, and it feels like a treat.” And if you’re feeling brazenly nutritious, she adds “you can even use this fruit as ice cubes in water or mineral water at meal time.”

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