Nancy Gessner of Hastings can be reached at

It's summer and vacations are in the air. Vacations are about stepping outside of your life, about letting everything go - even if just for a few days. Whether you're relaxing on the beach or exploring a new city, a time out from the normal routine can be a wonderful thing.

But it can also make it hard to stick to a healthy lifestyle - all those meals out and indulging in a few (OK, a lot) of cocktails makes it tough. All that fun means you may return home feeling less than refreshed.

The good news is feeling healthy during and post-vacay is totally possible. Making just a few smart choices will keep you active and energized and help you get the most out of your vacation.

While on vacation, we tend to get relaxed about our nutrition selections or we think it's too much effort to stay healthy with the changes of being on vacation and out of our normal routine. Many of us expect to gain weight while on vacation, not because we want to but because we really don't know how to prevent it. While enjoying your vacation keep in mind that eating healthy will keep you feeling great and help you avoid the blahs that come from eating too many high-calorie, low nutrient foods.

The following are some tips to help you maintain your healthy eating, and rock a happy, healthy vacation.

Keep hydrated: Drink plenty of water while on the way to your destination and while you're there as well. A stomach that's filled - even with water can lessen the sense of hunger and help prevent you from overeating.

Beware of drinks: A single cocktail contains loads of sugar and calories. Try swapping in a low-cal mocktail for some of your favorite summer drinks.

Cut down on portion sizes: Eat smaller portions of everything you desire. Try sharing an appetizer, a main course and even a dessert. Even if you're not eating healthy, at least you're eating less of it.

Indulge ... within reason: There's no need to stick to a strict diet while on vacation - everyone deserves to let themselves off the hook every once in awhile but that doesn't mean you need to throw all health concerns out the window. By making some smart substitutions, you can bend the rules without packing on the pounds.

Walk whenever possible: Let's get real, you have more time to exercise on vacay, not less! Take a hike or walk on the beach. Try to get in some additional time moving rather than sitting and vegging out. You can easily burn a few extra hundred calories a day just by walking while you're sight-seeing or how about a sunset run.

Have a can-do attitude: Bring that along on your vacation and when it comes to knowing how to eat healthy you won't develop vacation amnesia. (which means you forget everything you know about eating healthy)

Finally, just enjoy yourself. Vacations are about relaxing and rejuvenation.

Trying to adhere to a strict routine can get in the way of enjoying your vacation. Don't go crazy worrying about how many calories something has. Instead just follow the principle of moderation. Sample smaller portions of a variety of foods, get out and walk and see the sights.

Eating healthy even while on vacation is all about checks and balances. Being healthy is a lifestyle, not a quick fix. Follow these tips to return home with plenty of memories and souvenirs, not extra pounds.