Even the greenest families can fall victim to the lure of fast food. A road trip, vacation to Disney, or beach getaway gives your family a chance to enjoy some quality time together, but maintaining quality nutrition on these excursions can be daunting and seemingly hopeless.
I love to travel and have done quite a lot of it with my husband and two young children. Between taking an infant to Costa Rica and the Bahamas, and two toddlers to Disneyland and several trips in between, I’ve been given lots of opportunities for trial and error when it comes to achieving healthy eating on the road. While my kids have had their share of Chipotle burritos and pizza by the slice, we’ve managed to completely avoid some of the worst fast food evils like McDonald’s, Burger King, and KFC. But it takes planning and a little extra effort. Here are some tips I’ve found helpful for maintaining healthy habits even on vacation.
1) Know its OK to “cheat”:
Even if you are strict about food at home, remember it’s OK to break the rules sometimes. You are bound to be in a situation that calls for a quick meal at some point during the vacation. Try to make your fast food choices carefully, opting for chains that offer fresh ingredients, antibiotic-free meats, and whole grain options.
2) Choose durable fruits and veggies:
By durable, I mean ones that can last a couple of days without refrigeration and that won’t squish in your bag. Organic apples, oranges, carrot sticks, avocado, firm bananas, pears and bell peppers are all good choices that can be easily packed and enjoyed for a healthy (and cheap) snack.
3) Make friends with food pouches:
The single-use food pouches aren’t my favorite due to cost and waste, but they are an easy way to get your kids a quick serving of fruits and veggies on the go. I’ve recently discovered Squooshi reusable pouches, which make it super easy and affordable to pack your own smoothies, applesauce, hummus, yogurt and more for travel.
4) Nonperishables are key:
It helps to have a small soft-sided cooler or insulated lunch bag for items that need to be refrigerated; but finding some healthy nonperishable items such as whole wheat crackers or unsweetened cheerios makes it much easier. My kids love homemade trail mix and snack mixes. Basically just toss raisins, dry cereal, pretzels, nuts, and any other dried fruits or favorite snacks all in a big reusable snack bag and enjoy throughout the trip.
5) Box beverages:
I’m big on organic milk, which is hard to find on vacation. I usually save some space and weight in my suitcase to pack the organic non-refrigerated milk boxes so my kids can each have one daily during vacation. If your kids drink juice, pack some organic juice boxes to replace any sweetened drinks or sodas they might want while traveling.
6) Simplify sandwiches:
A nut butter and jelly or honey sandwich can go at least a full day without refrigeration and still be safe to eat and tasty. Keep sandwiches simple so they don’t need to be kept in a cooler and can be brought along for a cheap, nutritious meal or snack.
7) Scout a grocery store:
Whenever we arrive at our vacation destination, we typically hit up a grocery store right away to stock up on any must-have snacks that we didn’t or couldn’t pack. Make sure your hotel room has a refrigerator you can use (you can request one at most hotels) so you can have fresh milk, yogurt, etc., on hand for breakfast and packing a small cooler for each day’s outings. If possible, we’ll stop by the local farmer’s market or back to the grocery store another time or two during the trip to restock. It can even make for a nice break in the pace of a busy vacation.
My kids are happier, more tolerant, and more energetic if they have a daily dose of whole foods. I can’t imagine sitting on an airplane with them after a week of eating nothing but junk – it would be a guaranteed epic meltdown. Even most adults get cranky, groggy, and uncomfortable after eating heavy, processed foods. Any effort you make in getting in some real food while on vacation will go a long way to a happier, healthier traveling family.
What works for your family when it comes to eating on the road? For more tips, check out this article on helping your child eat healthfully.
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