This summer, I’ll be heading to the beach for a family vacation and luckily, I know my kids will eat healthy. We’ll be staying with my in-laws who cook and eat lots of vegetables, fruit and beans—enough to balance out our trips to the boardwalk for some ice cream.
Yet so many times in the past when I’ve been on vacation or taken weekend getaways, my kids ate erratically, skipped meals, ate too-large portion sizes and indulged in foods they wouldn’t have eaten at home.
Sometimes grabbing something quick, but not that healthy, is a matter of convenience. Other times, there aren’t always the healthiest options available.
The result? Your kids feel sluggish, have meltdowns, and maybe even get constipated.
So before you take your next summer trip, here are some tips to make sure you and your family eats healthy on vacation.
Bring Healthy Snacks
Although many of the restaurants at highway rest stops have made healthier options like fruit, cheese and yogurt available, most of the food is still fast food and processed food.
Before you hit the road, prepare and fill an insulated freezer bag with an ice pack and turkey and cheese roll ups, lettuce wraps or sandwiches. Other ideas to consider:
- Cut-up fruits and vegetables
- Low sugar, high fiber bars
- Low sugar granola
- Nut butter
- Bean dip
- Chia seed pudding
Prepare For Your Flight
If bringing a freezer bag filled with food to the airport is too much to carry, bring nuts, seeds, dried fruit or bars in your carry-on bag—and bring extra if your flight is delayed.
Although I’m not a fan of kids eating apple sauce or fruit and vegetable purées in pouches on a regular basis, it’s convenient and not a big deal if you pack it for a flight.
Compare Food Options At the Airport
Between travel to the airport, check-in and security, waiting to board and the flight itself, somewhere along the line your kids are probably going to get hungry.
Instead of grabbing fast food at the airport, look for mini mart-type stores where you can get fresh fruit, yogurt, and hard-boiled eggs, for example. Or find a sit-down restaurant but avoid fatty, fried, and high-sodium foods.
Be Choosy About Accommodations
Depending on the types of restaurants in the area and the meals you order, eating out or eating poolside can make for a calorie-, fat-, sodium-, and sugar-filled vacation, not to mention it can get really pricey.
When booking your family vacation, consider Airbnb, or a resort or hotel that has a kitchen or a kitchenette so you can cook some of your meals. When you arrive, go to the grocery store to pick up what you need, have your groceries delivered or place an order beforehand through Amazon Fresh Grocery.
If accommodations with a kitchen aren’t feasible, look for a hotel with a mini-fridge so at least you can stock up on a few healthy snacks when your kids get hungry.
Start the Day Off Right
When you have a full day of activities planned—or no agenda at all—it’s easy to lose track of time, skip meals or grab something quick.
If you start the day with a healthy breakfast, you can at least ensure your kids will eat a vegetable, a fruit and get some protein and fiber. You may even consider bringing your juicer or mini-blender and make a green juice or smoothie for a healthy dose of antioxidants.
Stick to a Schedule
Skipping meals or eating at erratic times throughout the day can lead you and your kids to feel famished and overeat at the next meal. Eating at irregular times might also affect their sleep too. In fact, a small June 2017 study in the journal Current Biology suggests changing meal times can alter our circadian rhythm or sleep/wake cycle.
Grabbing a quick bite to eat like a hot dog or an ice cream can also deplete energy levels, increase sugar craving and make everyone feel cranky.
When you’re on a family vacation, you don’t want to have a strict schedule like you would at home but if you do your best to serve meals and snacks at roughly the same times your kids eat at home, they’ll be more likely to eat healthy.
When you take a family vacation, cruises, all-inclusive resorts and restaurants usually serve up double—even triple—the size of a healthy portion.
To prevent overeating, order a few healthy appetizers and a salad, share a meal or ask for a to-go container and set aside the excess before you eat.
Use the 80/20 Rule
Make sure your kids eat a vegetable with every meal and the food is prepared in a healthy way (i.e. grilled instead of fried). The rest of the time, let them enjoy a special treat.
If you’re staying with family and friends and they don’t eat like your family, bring a healthy dish or two everyone can share, stock up their fridge with healthy options, or offer to cook some of the meals during your stay.
A family vacation isn’t the time to worry about every last bite your kids eat, and you also can’t expect them to eat the same way they do at home.
Yet every time they eat, it’s a good opportunity to teach them about making healthy choices, especially on vacation when food temptations are everywhere. They’ll learn how to make healthy food choices and how to kick back, have fun and enjoy ice cream, cotton candy or a piece of fudge.