5 Healthy Vacation Tips

Vacations. They are amazing. A time to get away, relax, and just be.

However, it’s not rare to come back from vacations a little bit heavier (and I’m not just talking about your luggage). A new atmosphere, no routine, frequently eating out, lots of wine and indulgences… I’ve been there. There’s no reason you can’t maintain a fit and healthy lifestyle while traveling. It’s all about balance, moving, and drinking lots of water.

Below are 5 tips I compiled for staying healthy and active on vacation!

5 healthy vacation tips 1. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! I cannot stress this one enough. Sometimes when I’m out of my normal routine it’s easy for me to forget to drink water. Bad. Drinking plenty of water is so, so important – everyday, whether on vacation or not. While traveling you are probably in an environment that your body isn’t used to. Drinking plenty of water will help keep you regulated and hydrated. I always carry a water bottle with me and try to refill it multiple times throughout the day. This is especially important when traveling to a hot weather climate where sweating is a common occurrence, also known as “perma-sweat”.

It is a bit trickier when it’s not safe to drink the local tap water, but spending the extra money on purchasing bottled water will be worth it. I recommend buying gallon sized (or larger) water jugs. This much water is necessary and more cost-effective. You can store it in your room and fill up your water bottle whenever you need to! You don’t want to be zapped of energy on vacation simply because you’re dehydrated. Chug that water!

2. Eat breakfast! Eating breakfast is another super important everyday thing, regardless of being on vacation or not. As you have probably heard by now breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It helps fuel your body for all the exploring and activity you’ll be doing… or relaxing, it’ll help fuel your body for that too. Not only should you make sure to eat breakfast, but you also need to make sure to eat a good breakfast. And by good I mean healthy with a mix of protein, carbs, and healthy fats. A good breakfast can be easy or difficult to come by depending on where you are staying and what is available to you; however, you can always get a healthy breakfast in with some proper planning. Here are some of my recommendations:

  • If you are staying at a hotel with a breakfast buffet (lucky you) try to avoid the sugary pastries and waffles. They are over-processed and you’ll probably get a sugar spike and then hit a wall a few hours later. Plus, save your sugar consumption for an afternoon treat at a local bakery. Instead go for oatmeal and a hard-boiled egg, fruit and yogurt, or peanut butter and toast. These options will help keep you satiated and energized!
  • If you are staying at a hostel or someplace that doesn’t have a kitchen, grab some fruit and granola bars at a nearby grocery store so that you don’t have to eat out for breakfast every morning (if you don’t want to). These items can also serve as a great mid-day snack while you are out and about in between meals!
  • If you are staying in a condo/hotel with access to a kitchen, you can stock on up your regular breakfast foods. Fruit, granola, yogurt, eggs, toast – you can pretty much do whatever you want here!
  • If you are going out for breakfast, you may as well try the customary local breakfast. In Costa Rica it was rice, beans, eggs, plantains, and good strong coffee – it doesn’t get much better than that!

3. Walk everywhere! Walking is one of the simplest and most enjoyable exercises. Regular brisk walking (~30 minutes per day, 5 days per week) can help reduce the risk of heart disease, improve blood pressure and cholesterol, and boost your mood. Also, brisk walking falls within the “fat burning zone”, so you can be burning lots of fat calories while you are sightseeing: multi-tasking!

Walking is my personal favorite mode of transportation. If I want to get from A to B (assuming that A and B are only a few miles apart), my default is walking. It is also such a great method to explore a city. My friend and I once walked 5 miles to check out a local market, which then stretched on for at least another mile or so. We passed by gorgeous parks and little boutiques along the way and were able to see different parts of the city that we wouldn’t have discovered if we had taken a cab. So the next time you are on vacation and want to go to a museum or restaurant, plan a nice walking route that will help you hit other sites along the way.

Not only is walking great for your body, but it is also super cost-effective – as in, it is free! Why pay for a cab or public transportation when you can walk? I’m looking at you, budget traveller.

If you feel like picking up the pace a little bit, go on a sight-seeing run. You can fit in more miles and sights in less time, while also burning more calories! To find a good running route check out MapMyRun, ask your hotel concierge, or consult blogs. You can also do a City Running Tour (shameless plug) for a guided city run!

Please be safe. No running/walking alone at night or down creepy alleys. Also, make sure to bring water (see tip #1)!

4. Do active sightseeing! I love my vacations to have the right mix of activity and relaxing, about 50/50. Long afternoons at the beach are amazing, but it’s not something that I can do day after day after day; I need some activity. Besides walking or running, there are so many other things to try while on vacation. In Costa Rica we went surfing, zip-lining, and hiking. In Mendoza we rode bikes (between vineyards). In San Juan we kayaked and hiked. In Rio we… danced. Dancing is an activity. The fun just goes on and on!

5. Balance healthy choices with indulgent ones! It is my personal philosophy that indulgences are healthy, especially while on vacation. If you are spending the time and money to travel somewhere you better make it worth it! Go to France and not eat a crepe: blasphemous. Make it to Brazil and not drink a caipirinha: it’s illegal. Travel to Italy and not eat pasta: why even go? Savor all of the amazing, local experiences and balance them with other healthy choices.

It’s hard enough to make healthy choices 100% of the time while at home in your normal routine, let alone on vacation. It’s ok that you didn’t run 30 miles that week and it’s ok that you had wine and dessert most days. Stressing about these things is not going to help. Stress does your body no good. It sheds years off of your life and adds pounds to your frame.

Relax. Be active. Be healthy. Be balanced. Be on vacation. After all, #YOLO.

Plantain Chips

I’m backkkkkk from Costa Rica. And within approximately 12 hours of landing in Minneapolis I had a batch of homemade plantain chips in the oven.

plantain chips Why? BECAUSE THEY ARE SO GOOD. And I missed them. And they are super easy to make.

plantain chips Plantain chips were our snack of choice in Costa Rica. You know, something to tie us over when hunger struck at the beach or during our 20 minute drive home from the grocery store. I wouldn’t say we were obsessed, but I’m pretty positive we bought at least one bag every time we stopped at the grocery store, which was approximately every 2-3 days. However, they were small bags. Sometimes we shared with each other, but sometimes we just bought our own.

I love going to grocery stores when I travel. It’s like a whole new world of brands and snacks. I thoroughly enjoy them here in Minnesota too, but international grocery shopping is just way more interesting. Plus, if I’m at an international grocery store it means I’m travelling somewhere, which is just fun in general.

plantain chips I’ve always enjoyed plantains, but I fell in love with them in Puerto Rico (Mofongo? So delicious). However, I never buy or cook plantains back in Minnesota. Out of sight, out of mind, I guess. This may need to change (and basically already has), because Costa Rica reignited my love.

After getting back home (where my refrigerator was completely empty apart from condiments) I needed to make a desperate trip to the grocery store. I bought plantains for the first time ever. Then I made some plantain chips and chowed down on them while I pretended I was back in Costa Rica.

plantain chips Plantains look like bananas, just like you may look like one of your siblings. Similar, but different.I purchased the sweeter yellow variety, but if you prefer the savory side of things, go for the greener ones.

They are so simple to make. Just toss some plantain slices with melted coconut oil, layer them on a baking sheet, and put them in the oven.

plantain chips The difficult part is trying to resist eating them all instantly. However, they do taste best same day because they lose some of the crispiness factor overnight. So don’t resist too hard, I guess.

I think these would be really good with some additional seasonings sprinkled on too. Maybe some cinnamon or chili powder? I’m going to that next time. Because there will be a next time. A lot of next times.

As a bonus, plantains are great sources of fiber, beta-carotene, calcium, and vitamin c, sooooo… eat up!

Plantain Chips
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2-4
These are inspired by my recent trip to Costa Rica. A crunchy, little bit sweet, little bit savory treat. They are best eaten the day of, so snack away!
  • 2 plantains
  • 2 tablespoons melted coconut oil
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Slice plantains, no more than ¼-inch thick.
  3. Add plantain slices and coconut oil in a bowl. Stir until all the slices are completely covered.
  4. Spread plantains on a baking sheet.
  5. Bake for 15-20 minutes, flip the slices, and continue to bake for another 15-20 minutes or until you reach your desired crunchiness.
I used sweet plantains, but go for the green ones for more of a savory taste!

One day when I get my life in order I will talk more about Costa Rica (side note: IT WAS AMAZINGGG!!!!) and post some pictures. But until that day comes I hope you make a batch of these and pretend you are on a beautiful beach.

plantain chips

My Bags Are Packed….

My bags are packed and I’m ready to go…

passport …to Costa Rica!

I ABSOLUTELY CANNOT WAIT. It will be 10 days of relaxation, adventure, and silliness. I.am.soooooo.ready.

Because of this, I will probably not be blogging for 2-ish weeks. Maybe I will find the time, desire, and internet connection to do so? But we shall see.

Pura vida! It’s the Costa Rican way. I am just going to go with the flow and be on vacation and live happily.

I’m sure I will be posting a lot on Instagram though, so feel free to follow me there (@justjfaye)!

Until next time…. xo

Pre-Race Strides

On Saturday morning I kicked off my Philadelphia Marathon training by running a half marathon. Pretty exciting.

Signing up probably wasn’t the best decision I have ever made, since I am a little untrained and haven’t run over 10 miles since Grandma’s Marathon last June. But it’s ok. I survived (clearly otherwise I wouldn’t be typing this).

This was my 4th half marathon and unfortunately I didn’t set a new PR (Personal Record). At mile 10 there was a chance that if I just pushed it those last 3.1 miles I could have done it, but I didn’t. My racing mentality just wasn’t there that morning. Oh well. #betterlucknexttime

Overall though, I’m still happy that I did it. It was a nice long run and a good course. It will be a great baseline to see how I improve over the next few weeks with some actual training.

Now that I am officially in marathon training, it’s time for me to really get down to business. The next 16 weeks will be work, but fun work and exciting work. My goal for this marathon is to finish below 3:45, which would be a 4 minute improvement over my last time. I can do it! I hope.

Are any of you signed up for a race? 5K, 10K, Half Marathon, Marathon??

If so, it’ll be good to add some strides into your training and pre-race routine.

pre-race strides

The thing that I love about doing strides is that they make me feel so good! First of all, they only last 30 seconds. Second, they really do help loosen up my legs. The goal is to stay relaxed during these bursts and just let your legs go. It almost feels like you’re flying and it’s pretty cool. When I do these I try to imagine myself in a race and it’s the last 30 seconds before crossing the finish line.

Try them out a day or two before your next race!

What? You aren’t signed up for a race? That’s ok! You can still incorporate these to the end of a normal easy run. It’s a good introduction to speed work. And then go sign up for a race.

Blueberry-Mint Brownies (sugar-free & dairy-free)

Would you still eat a brownie if I told you it was sugar-free?

blueberry-mint brownies

I would. In fact, I made a whole pan of sugar-free brownies and almost ate the whole thing.

No joke. It was a small pan though. And I said “almost”. I still have some to share.

blueberry-mint brownies Earlier this week I was dead set on trying bake up some fudgy, sugar-free, healthy-ish brownies. Then after reading Minimalist Baker’s recipe for simple berry compote I knew I wanted to somehow combine a version of it with my brownies. After all, who doesn’t love fruit and chocolate together?

That is not a rhetorical question. Who doesn’t love that combo?! Let me know.

blueberry-mint brownies Anywho, I had blueberries on hand and some basil. Thus, blueberry-basil compote was born.

Now it was time for the brownies. I baked some up and they were… a total fail. I wanted something fudgy and delicious and these were dense, cake-like, and had little flavor. I baked them in muffin tins and topped them with the compote. They were still edible, just not what I wanted.

I gave them to my co-workers. This is basically how it went:

  • Me: “Hey! Want a brownie?”
  • Coworker: “Sure!”
  • Me: “Great! They are sugar and dairy free!”
  • Coworker: “Nevermind. I don’t want one. (2 second pause) Ok. I’ll still have one.”
  • Me: “Here you go! These were an experiment and not the best… but hey, brownie!”

It is so easy to give away free food. Bless their hearts.

blueberry-mint brownies They did give me some great feedback though. I went home, re-worked the recipe a little bit, annnddddddd……… SUCCESS!

The result was exactly what I was looking for.

blueberry-mint brownies I used a mixture of cocoa powder and melted chocolate instead of all cocoa powder. I reduced the amount of flour (I knew I added too much the first time around! Lesson learned.) I baked them in an 8×8” pan rather than muffin tins. I then swirled the compote in with the brownie batter so that the fruit was baked right into the brownies rather than just sitting on top. Also, I was out of basil, so I used mint instead.

blueberry-mint brownies Since starting this blog I have been doing a lot of baking experiments. Sometimes things work. Sometimes they don’t, which can be disappointing. But failure can lead to a lot of learning and then to success. I like learning and I like success. I also like eating delicious things. So basically, it all works out.

Oh, and as I mentioned before these are both sugar-free and dairy-free. I used honey instead of sugar and coconut oil instead of butter. So you don’t have to feel super guilty when you eat almost the whole pan. And by “you” I mean “I”. But you are welcome to make these and then eat half of the pan and then go share the other half with people who you like. Or keep them all to yourself. No judgement!

blueberry-mint brownies So there you go. Delicious, chocolatey brownies with burst of blueberries and mint. Indulgent, yet healthy-ish. Does it get any better than that?!

Yes. Yes, it does. Today is Saturday and it’s beautiful outside. Enjoy your weekend!

blueberry-mint brownies

Blueberry-Mint Brownies (sugar-free & dairy-free)
Serves: 16
These are delicious, fudge-y brownies with bursts of blueberries and mint. Since they are sugar-free and dairy-free, they are also a bit guilt-free too.
For the blueberry compote:
  • 1 pint blueberries
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons chopped mint
For the brownies:
  • ¾ cup all purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
  • ½ cup coconut oil
  • ¾ cup honey
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
For the blueberry compote:
  1. In a saucepan, add the blueberries and honey. Heat on medium-high until it begins to bubble.
  2. Turn heat to medium-low. Stir and smash berries every few minutes for about 10-12 minutes.
  3. Stir in the chopped mint. Transfer to a mason jar and store in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it.
For the brownies:
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease an 8x8” baking pan, line with parchment paper, and grease again.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, salt, and baking powder.
  3. In a saucepan on low heat, melt the unsweetened chocolate and coconut oil.
  4. Whisk in the honey. Let it cool for a few minutes and transfer to a medium bowl.
  5. Whisk in the eggs and vanilla extract.
  6. Fold in the dry ingredients until combined.
  7. Pour batter into the prepared pan. Add spoonfuls of the blueberry-mint compote. Run a knife or toothpick through the batter to create a marbled effect.
  8. Bake for 40-45 minutes. Let cool completely before cutting and serving.
The first time around I used basil and the second time I used mint. I loved the outcome of both, so feel free to swap out the mint!
The blueberry-mint compote was inspired by Minimalist Baker's Simple Fruit Compote!

blueberry-mint brownies