It’s summertime! This time of year makes me think of family vacations! Traveling always presents “what-do-I-eat?” challenges, but particularly in the summer, it’s more important than ever to focus on nutrition and hydration. That’s because the summer sun, long car rides and airplane cabin pressure can zap our energy. To stay safe, happy and healthy wherever your travels take you, read my Travel Tips below.

• Prepare for the unexpected. You can’t control a flight delay or long lines at museums or amusement parks, but you can control what you eat. Keep your blood sugar levels happy by packing your own heart-healthy treats. I fill several small snack bags with a ¼ cup of nut mix (almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds) and several other snack bags with my own trail mix. You’ll get the benefits of zinc, magnesium, fiber, Omega-3s and healthy fats.

• Drink water instead of soda, fruit drinks, Gatorade, or tea/coffee. This is the number-one health tip of frequent flyers, because airplanes are extremely dehydrating due to the pressurized cabin air. Bring water bottles (or bottled water) everywhere you go and plan to drink 8 ounces every hour or one 16-ounce bottle every two hours. Your goal is to drink AT LEAST half your weight in ounces of water a day (more on very hot days or when you are exerting a lot of energy.)

• Eat a protein-packed breakfast. At a hotel restaurant, it’s tempting to select a bagel and cream cheese or French toast—but that’s like eating cake for breakfast. That’s right – to your body, this kind of breakfast metabolizes the same way as cake, spiking your blood sugar then setting you up for an energy crash. Instead, opt for an omelet with sautéed broccoli, red pepper, onion, garlic, mushrooms, tomatoes – fill it with veggies to fill you up longer. Or for smaller appetites, order one egg any way you like it, skip the hash browns and ask for sautéed spinach on the side. Another great option is oatmeal with blueberries, sliced almonds or crushed walnuts. You can even get oatmeal at Starbucks! Oatmeal is a perfect food to mix with chia seeds!

• Sip smoothies. If you have room, you can pack a Nutri-Bullet or use a Blender Bottle (with a spring or metal ball) and make your own smoothies as a morning start and sometimes an afternoon snack, too. I blend single-serve chia seeds, single-serve almond milk, single-serve Vega Protein Powder, and bottled water; then I toss in whatever fruit and veggies I can buy nearby or get from the hotel restaurant. This gives me a TON of energy and regulates my blood sugar and mood. In airports, you may be able to find Evolution Fresh Juice at Starbucks – add your protein powder, shake well and you’ve got a healthy substitute for your homemade smoothie.

• When dining out, have it YOUR way. If an item is fried, ask for it grilled. If it comes with french fries, ask for a side of steamed vegetables. Request a veggie salad instead of coleslaw. Tell the waiter no bread basket, please. (You won’t fill up on empty calories), Check http://www.happycow.net/ to find some healthy restaurants in whatever area you’re visiting. Some of the best choices may be off the beaten path!

• Don’t go by the menu. Ask how the food is prepared. For instance, cholesterol-free does not mean fat-free; the dish could still be filled with calorie-dense oil. Neither does “lite” necessarily mean light in calories or fat.

• Order a salad, but skip the extras. The typical Caesar salad (topped with cheese, croutons and dressing) has a whopping 560 calories, with 36 grams of fat, 6 of them saturated. So get the salad, but ask for vegetables only. Use oil and vinegar and lemon juice for dressing, or do the fork dip: ask for your dressing on the side, in a small bowl. Dip your empty fork into the dressing, then skewer a forkful of salad. You’ll be surprised at how this tastes just right, and how little dressing you’ll use.

• Skip the alcohol and caffeine. These drinks really dehydrate you, deplete your natural energy and make it more difficult to get a restful night’s sleep.

• Don’t take a vacation from fitness. Go for a walk, do yoga stretches, fit in a series of push-ups/sit-ups – do some form of exercise every day. I make it a first-thing-in-the-morning ritual, before the day gets too busy. Also, plan activities that are unique to your vacation – waterskiing, surfing, paddle boarding, kayaking, wakeboarding, hiking, tennis, horseback riding, dancing – whatever your destination offers, go for it!

Be sure to have a look at my new travel-friendly Trail Mix recipes!

Wishing you a safe, happy and healthy start to summer!