Don't let vacation derail your healthy habits — make a ski getaway even better for you with the right workout plans, snacks, and safety tips

By Marnie Soman Schwartz
December 15, 2014

Heading to the slopes for your winter getaway automatically makes your vacation a healthy one. After all, a day of skiing gets your heart pumping, works your muscles, torches calories, boosts your mood, and gets you out in nature. But horrendously unhealthy cafeteria food and endless après-ski beers can threaten your healthy vacation vibe. Here, 10 fitness, health, and nutrition tips to keep your skiing holiday on track-without killing the fun. (If you're looking for an exciting ski destination, consider one of these these 7 Travel Destinations That Answer the Call of the 'Wild'.)

1. Build your fitness. You can go from a half-hour on the elliptical once a week to four straight days of skiing…but it's gonna hurt. "To feel your best, do regular cardio workouts 3 to 5 times a week at varying intensities," says Miami-based fitness expert Aimee Nicotera, M.S. She also suggests building strength and endurance in your core and lower body with workout plans that include squats, lunges, box jumps, and planks. (Try this Lower-Body HIIT Workout to tone your butt and thighs.)

2. Fuel up before you head out. "Nobody should leave the house without fueling up for a physically challenging day, and protein and complex carbs are the two golden tokens on the slopes," says TODAY Show nutritionist and founder of Nourish Snacks Joy Bauer, M.S., R.D.N. Her healthy breakfast suggestions: A veggie omelet with a side of fruit or oatmeal with fruit and nuts.

3. Wear sunscreen. Seriously, we cannot stress this one enough. Not only will you be outside all day, but a higher altitude puts you at an increased risk of UV damage. (Basically, the closer you are to the sun, the stronger the rays.) And, snow reflects those rays right back at your face, which is like getting hit twice. Repeat after us: Reapply, reapply, reapply.

4. Pack some healthy snacks. You're going to get hungry out there, and you're probably not going to want to miss great skiing to stand in line for overpriced candy. Bauer suggests stashing some energy bars in your pocket (look for high protein ones with less than 12 grams of sugar) or even a banana (just bring a baggie for the peel). Her line of Nourish Snacks also make a great portable pick. (Need more ideas? Check out the Best Pre- and Post-Workout Snacks for Every Workout.)

5. Wear a helmet. It will keep your head warmer than a hat does, it won't get soggy with snow, and if you take a bad fall, it can drastically reduce your chance of a severe injury. Enough said.

6. Make smart lunch picks. You're ravenous, you're cold, and nothing sounds better than a big plate of nachos or a burger with fries. But think about how you feel after a heavy, greasy meal-not exactly jumping to get back out there, right? Instead, Bauer suggests you order a turkey burger, hearty soup like lentil, black bean, or chicken noodle, a thin crust veggie pizza, or even a baked potato topped with chili.

7. Know when to quit. "Listen to your body, and when you start to feel tired, take a break," advises Nicotera. When you're fighting fatigue, you lose your form, technique, and rhythm-and that's the perfect formula for an unnecessary fall.

8. Stretch and roll. At the end of the day, stretch out your quads, hips, and hamstrings. And pack a foam roller, massage stick, or therapy ball, says Nicotera, so you can keep your muscles pliable and ready for the next day. (The New Wave of Foam Rollers includes something for every muscle.)

9. Have a healthier happy hour. Planning ahead for those hours between your last run and dinner is key, says Bauer. Have crudité, salsa, hummus, and guacamole around for snacking, and don't feel bad about indulging in a little après ski cocktail-after all, you're on vacation! Just keep it to one or two drinks so you don't feel sluggish the next day, and stick to wine, vodka with club soda and a splash of fruit juice, or beer. And, oh yeah, chug some water before bed.

10. Cook up healthy comfort food. It's what you'll be craving after a day of carving powder, so work with it. "If pasta's your thing, go with whole grain and up the nutrient quotient by adding lots of flavorful veggies like sautéed broccoli or mushrooms, add diced chicken, shelled edamame, or beans for protein, and finish with a pesto or marinara sauce," suggests Bauer. Her other great go-tos: Hearty stew, soups, or chili.