What happens in Vegas… when you’re hungry?

by / Thursday, 15 March 2012 / Published in Wellness

No one should be unhappy on vacation, but that’s just what I was on the first day of my recent trip to Las Vegas.

Unhappy in Vegas! I know a lot of things are legal there, but being unhappy should be outlawed. There was so much to do and see that I was overwhelmed. I was also overwhelmed with grumpiness, which is why I need your help for my next big trip.

Is it possible to eat healthy food on vacation?

The food might have been a challenge, but the view was great!

My problem with Las Vegas wasn’t the sights – it was the food. Everything was delicious! However, some days I felt like there was nothing healthy to eat on the entire strip.

You know that saying “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas”? That’s not true when it comes to calories, sodium, and cholesterol. Plus, I needed the energy to hit as many landmarks as possible each day.

In addition to being a health-conscious eater, I’m also a pescetarian (e.g., a vegetarian plus fish), which means some common healthy solutions – like deli sandwiches and grilled chicken dishes – don’t do me any good. At one buffet we visited even the salads had meat pre-mixed into them! And, even seemingly healthy smoothies were practically milkshakes after all of the added dairy and sugar.

After my first unhappy day, I approached our hotel’s concierge and inquired about more veggie-friendly meals … or even a place to pick up a simple fruit smoothie. She laughed at me. Laughed! She told me I was in Vegas, and I should forget about eating healthy.

“Live a little,” she said.

Living a little (while eating well)

I managed to get past my initial dietary panic and ditch the grump without the help of the concierge. It wasn’t easy. Here were a few of my strategies, which could work anywhere in the world.

  • Finding a source of simple, unprocessed snack foods like fruit, fresh salad, and nuts. They were super-expensive in my hotel, but less so at a convenience store down the street. Grocery stores can be your friend.
  • Asking servers for recommendations or modifications. While this wouldn’t have worked at the diner with an ambulance waiting outside to cart away potential heart-attack victims, many servers were happy to recommend a less-rich option on their menu or put sauce on the side. Wolfgang Puck’s smoothie stand The Pods was eager to concoct a non-dairy drink for me!
  • Searching the web for tips on every restaurant. Foursquare and Yelp apps on my phone helped me get the scoop on each eatery from other travelers, including secret vegetarian options, and butter-smothered meals to avoid.
  • Portioning my plates before I dug in. This protected me from getting overstuffed by huge resort portions and allowed me to bring leftovers back to our room to snack on later.
  • Staying hydrated. Air travel can sap the moisture from your body, as can a dry climate like Vegas. Add salty snacks or alcohol to the mix and you can really wring your body out with dehydration – a major source of grump, for me.

As a result, I felt like I treated my body well. At times I got slightly over-full, but I completely avoided junk! I even added a morning walk to make up for my missed gym classes. (Pro tip: the strip is empty at 8 a.m., but still gorgeous!)

Share your healthy vacation tips!

Now, I need your help, for the sake of my next vacation.

What are your strategies for finding healthy options when you travel? If you have a restricted diet (i.e., sugar-free, gluten-free, vegan), how do you research a destination before you take flight?

After years of developing materials about healthy steps, I decided it was time to take some of my own. I’m a lifelong Philly resident, pescetarian, gym-newbie, and recent yoga convert. I sing and play guitar in a local rock band, and I love to twist and shout.

3 Responses to “What happens in Vegas… when you’re hungry?”

  1. avatar Amanda says : Reply

    One tip is if you know where you are traveling, to do the research ahead of time. Use the web to find local grocery stores to stock up on fruits/veggies and nuts/seeds when you arrive. Ask if they have a fridge in the room.

    I was actually surprised by the concierge’s response. Normally, they are more helpful. But even researching a local vegetarian group (google the place you are traveling and vegetarian) for the area you are visiting may give you more ideas for meals or must-see places. Reach out even to twitter ahead of time. And use #RealFood or #Vegetarian or even #Vegan.

    Where will you travel next? Hope you share tips for that city too!

    • avatar Peter says : Reply

      Thanks, Amanda! I agree: a fridge in the room is key to de-junk-ifying your vacation. Your search and Twitter tips are great.I was a bit stymied with searching for help on my laptop until I happened upon a Veggie-friendly message board, which wound up being a good resource to get started.

      I’m not sure where my next destination will be, but my favorite prior pescetarian destination was Paris, by far!

  2. avatar Jenny says : Reply

    I offer a hardy *second* for your suggestion of visiting the grocery store, especially in search of snacks in pocket-sized packages. As an added bonus, you can also usually find some local “delicacy” to bring home for your coworkers.

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