Eating healthy while on vacation might sound like a conundrum: you’re in unfamiliar territory, away from your own kitchen and your regular routine. Meal prep can help you rise to the challenge, simple and easy. It’s also a great way to spend less time cooking and save money (for those souvenirs you want to buy).
Don’t think you can include meal planning in your already packed schedule? Think again. Meal prepping only requires some simple adjustments to fit into your vacation. Keep reading for some easy vacation meals to cook and prep on your next vacation.
Why you should consider meal prep on your next vacation
Time for a vacation? Make the most of this well-deserved time off by spending less time in the kitchen and more time enjoying and focusing on yourself. Our hot tip? Meal prep! Here’s why you should consider meal prepping so that your next vacation actually feels like a vacation.
It’s the cheaper option
Whether you’re traveling on a budget or would just rather spend your hard-earned bucks on something more exciting than groceries (mani-pedi, anyone?), meal prepping can help you keep your costs to a minimum. Meal prepping is all about cooking in bulk so you can significantly cut your costs at the supermarket. Because all your meals will be ready in advance, you won’t be spending so much money on eating out either.
It’s good for you
Not only is meal prepping ideal for your wallet, it’s also a great option if you are trying to make more health-conscious decisions. We all know vacation time can lead to overindulgence. To stay on track with your nutrition during your vacation, meal prep allows you to monitor more closely what you nourish your body with. And because you will always have a batch of healthy meals at hand, it makes junk food and takeaway options that much less of a temptation.
It saves you time
Who wants to spend their vacation in the kitchen? Certainly not us. Making sure you have your lunch and dinner all prepped and ready to go for the days ahead will save you some precious time. Rather than cooking every day, you can spend more time actually enjoying your vacation.
Weight Loss Tip: Looking to loose weight in a healthy and sustainable way? Check out our beginner's guide to meal prep for weight loss.
Our favorite easy vacation meals
Enjoy your vacation to the fullest with these simple yet delicious meal prep ideas.
Chia seed pudding
Mix 1 cup of any milk for 6-7 tablespoons of chia seeds. Add honey or your sweetener of choice to taste. Pour mixture into individual cups. Let the puddings sit in the fridge for at least two hours (best overnight). Grab one in the morning, add a fruit topping, and you’re set.
Vanilla Chia Seed Pudding
- 3 cups creamy non-dairy milk alternative like unsweetened coconut, almond or cashew (add more if you find the mixture too thick)
- 6 tbsp chia seeds
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup mixed fruit like blueberries and strawberries, for topping
- 1 tbsp maple syrup or pure honey (optional)
- In a mason jar or a bowl, combine the chia seeds, milk, vanilla extract, and maple syrup. If you’re using a jar that has a lid, close it and give the mixture a good shake and let it sit for five minutes.
- After five minutes, give the pudding another good shake or a vigorous stir to break up any clumps. Cover the pudding and refrigerate overnight, or for at least 1-2 hours if you’re short on time. If the vanilla chia seed pudding doesn’t come out to your liking, add more chia seeds or milk to balance it out and return to the fridge for another half hour or so.
- Cut some fruit up, like berries, banana or mango and add them to your chia seed pudding when it’s ready.
Whisk eggs with cheese, ham, and vegetables (we love this recipe with bell peppers). Pour the mix in a muffin tin and bake for 20-30 minutes at 350°F. Store in the fridge for a quick on-the-go high-protein breakfast.
Combine processed dates, honey, peanut butter, chopped almonds, and rolled oats. Once you have a paste, transfer to a tray, press down firmly, and let it set in the fridge for 15-20 minutes. Chop into bars that you can store in the freezer for up to a month.
Other grab-and-go breakfast options:
Mini sweet potato and spinach frittata––simply have a slice for breakfast Breakfast burrito or wrap––with chicken strips and salad Waffle––prepare a batch, store in the fridge, and eat with berries in the morning
For lunch and dinner:
Think big! Prepare large dishes that can easily be portioned into individual servings and enjoyed over a few days, such as:
Beans, vegetables, spices and a hot tomato sauce (and ground beef if you are looking for a meat option) cooked over low heat are a perfect choice for meal prep. You can easily make a big batch of this hearty dish and freeze for later.
Red lentil and curry, pumpkin and coconut or leek and cheddar: there are so many soups to choose from. Take an hour out of your time to prepare it, then freeze it in individual portions. Your lunches for the week are sorted!
Pumpkin Soup With Ginger-basil Garnish
- ¼ cups sweet corn (cooked) (~1 ¼ oz)
- ¼ cups unsweetened coconut milk (canned) (~2 oz)
- ⅓ cups white beans/cannellini beans (canned and drained) (~3 oz)
- 1 whole grain bread slice(s), 100% whole grain (~1 ½ oz)
- ¾ tsp fresh basil (chopped)
- ¾ tsp ginger (grated) (~⅛ oz)
- 1 ¼ cups vegetable broth (~10 oz)
- 2 tsp curry paste (~⅓ oz)
- 10 oz pumpkin
- Wash the pumpkin and cut it in half. Remove its seeds, and cut into small cubes. Drain and rinse the beans and corn.
- Heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Once the saucepan is hot, add the curry paste and cook for about 30 sec or until the paste becomes fragrant. Add broth (or water) and the pumpkin cubes, then stir and cook for about 20 min or until soft.
- Once the pumpkin is done, add the beans, sweet corn, coconut milk and heat the mixture. Then blend with a mixer or food processor until smooth.
- Ladle the soup into a bowl. Add the chopped basil and finely grated ginger on top. Enjoy with bread (toasted for a nice crispy texture!).
If you’re looking for extra carbs, cook a big batch of pasta and divide it into individual containers. Add a salad topping of your choice to each container. We like beetroot, bean and feta, tomato, courgette and chicken, tuna, bell pepper and sweetcorn. You can keep these in the fridge for three days. Don’t forget a little dressing before eating.
Other easy vacation meals to cook for lunch and dinner include curries, one-pan roasted veggies, lasagna, stir fry, and rice salads. Make these dishes ahead of time so you won’t need to stress about what’s next on the menu.
What about snacks? Easy to prep healthy snacks
It wouldn’t quite feel like a vacation if you couldn’t treat yourself. However, if you don’t want to ruin your year-round efforts, we’ve got some not-too-naughty snack ideas that you can prepare ahead of time. Studies even show that wise snack choices contribute to a healthy diet. These ideas below are just perfect to nibble on while on vacation.
Combine oats, peanut butter, ground flaxseed, chocolate chips, honey, chia seeds, and vanilla extract together in a bowl until dough-like. Cover and chill in the refrigerator 30 minutes. Roll into balls. That’s it, you’re done.
Apple Almond Energy Balls
- ½ apple
- ¼ cup rolled oats (uncooked)
- 1 ½ tsp honey or agave syrup
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- 1 Tbsp chia seeds
- 1 ½ tsp ground flax seeds
- 1 ¼ Tbsp almond butter (plain, without added sugar)
- Pinch of salt
- Wash the apple and remove the core, then grate it.
- Combine all the ingredients in a food processor or bowl. Keep a Tbsp of oats to one side for coating.
- Roll into balls and coat with the remaining oats.
- Enjoy immediately or, if you have time, chill in the fridge to for 30 minutes.
Yum! Try these low-carb and keto snack ideas for more energy balls.
Fruit & nut
Mix dried fruit (raisins, apricots, figs) with nuts (cashews, walnuts, hazelnuts) in a container. Grab a handful for a super easy, super healthy sweet fix.
Mix together chickpeas, tahini, olive oil, garlic, and lemon juice until smooth. Use as a dip for veggie sticks (celery, cucumber, carrot, courgette) every time you want a healthy and savory snack option.
Homemade Hummus Recipe
- 1 cup chickpeas/garbanzo beans (canned) (~5 oz)
- ½ lemon (~1 oz)
- 1 garlic clove (~⅛ oz)
- 2 Tbsp tahini (sesame paste) (~1 oz)
- 1 ¼ Tbsp olive oil
- ¼ tsp sea salt, ¾ tsp cumin (dry), ¾ tsp paprika (dry)
- Put the chickpeas with half of the liquid from the can into a food processor or blender.
- Juice the lemon. Peel and chop the garlic. Add those to the food processor.
- Add all the remaining ingredients (tahini, olive oil, salt, cumin and paprika) to the food processor.
- Blend for 30 seconds, scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl then blend for another 30 seconds or until the hummus has a smooth, creamy consistency.
- Serve as a dip with vegetables or on bread.
Our tips for prepping easy vacation meals
Ready to meal prep on your next vacation? Great stuff! To get started, we’ve broken down the essentials for you. From logistics to shopping lists, here’s all you need to know about easy meal prep.
Plan in advance:
This is at the very core of meal prepping. Start your vacation with a clear idea of what every meal of every day will look like. Write all of this down in a table for extra clarity. You won’t be wasting any vacation time at the supermarket wondering what to buy if you have all of your meals planned out ahead of time.
Prepare a shopping list:
Once you know what you’re cooking, you will be able to come up with a detailed shopping list that you can easily follow. Having a list will limit your shopping to what you actually need and prevents overspending.
Keep it simple:
You’re on vacation, so the last thing you want is getting a headache trying to figure out complicated recipes. Choose dishes that require little to no cooking, simplify meals by lowering the number of ingredients, look out for 5-minute recipes.
Prep ahead of time:
Why not bring pre-portioned ingredients on vacation with you? It’s a real time and money saver. If possible you could even think about making entire meals ahead of your vacation. Pop all the food in containers, stash them in the freezer and take them with you using a cooler.
Cooking tips for affordable and healthy vacation meals
Just because you’re on vacation doesn’t mean you necessarily need to break the bank. If you’re short on money, meal prepping is the way to go. For even more money saving, take a look at our tips below.
Eat less meat
Vegetables are boring? Nope! There is so much more to food than sausage and steak. Cutting off meat makes your wallet happy and gives you space to explore the variety and deliciousness of a plant-based diet. How does a vegetable curry or lasagna sound? While you don’t have to go full vegetarian if you don’t feel like it, favoring a good quality piece of meat every now and then is a better option than low-grade meat for every meal. Oh, and you’ll be doing the planet a favor too.
Buy in bulk
One of the great things about meal prepping is that you can cook batches of food for the meals ahead. For this, you’ll need a well-stocked pantry. This means that you will often get discounted deals by simply buying all the ingredients in bulk portions. Don’t be afraid of waste either: many of the ingredients you can buy in bulk have a long shelf life (think pasta, grains, legumes, nuts).
Choose local and seasonal
This should be a given but a reminder never hurts. One of the best ways to save money while doing groceries is to stick to produce that is in season and grown locally. It’s a great way to support the local economy too. If you’re on vacation abroad, this means opening up to the local offering of fruit and veg rather than trying to find familiar ingredients that have traveled as much as you to get there.
Reduce and Reuse
If you’ve followed our tip about buying in bulk, you’ll have plenty of the same ingredient. It doesn’t mean you need to be eating the same thing over and over again. Overlap ingredients instead. You can use the same ingredient (say avocado) for a breakfast recipe (crushed avocado on toast) and a dinner one (guac and nachos). The same mix of ingredients prepared differently can result in completely different dishes. Be creative!
Want more ideas? Click the link for more nutrition and meal prep advice.
One last thing: meal prepping is supposed to make your vacation easier. If it feels like a chore then it’s probably not for you and that’s perfectly fine. If you’ve decided to meal prep while on vacation, do give yourself permission to eat out from time to time or simply not follow your meal plan. You know, live a little. For more ideas on how to stay healthy, whether you’re on vacation or not, download the 8fit app now.