It’s difficult for both kids and parents to maintain a healthy diet when traveling. Although it’s great to break the rules every once in a while and overindulge in food from around the world, it’s also important to try to maintain healthy habits while on your family vacations.
As the owner of a kids cooking school and nutritional consultant, I try to keep my four-year-old daughter on a healthy diet wherever possible. We often opt for self-catering accommodations so that we can cook the majority of the meals. Exploring local markets and choosing both familiar and new ingredients allows cooking to become a family activity instead of a chore. Plus we get to learn a little more about the places we visit and try new flavours.
Here are my six tips on how to choose healthy snacks, make smart restaurant reservations, plan meals and offer the occasional ice cream treat.
With so many delicious treats to try it’s hard to say no, especially during long trips when kids can get restless, bored, and overtired. Don’t overindulge by giving multiple treats during the day. Do allow an occasional treat but always try to offer fruit and vegetables as an option instead. Also make sure to include lots of fiber-rich food, such as vegetables and nuts to offset the sugar rush.
We always try and stop at markets wherever we go and let our daughter pick her own fresh fruit to have as a snack. Giving her the chance to choose by herself makes her feel independent and in charge so she always looks forward to it.
Try to stick to water to curb the sugar intake from the extra treats you enjoy while traveling. You’re bound to eat out quite a lot which means salt levels in food will be much higher. Make sure to always offer plenty of water at every meal. When traveling by plane, we each carry a reusable water bottle as the moisture level of the air is low due to the high altitude and pressurized cabin.
Maintain A Routine
Try to keep the kids on a routine as much as possible when it comes to mealtimes and snacks to help their digestive system work efficiently. We try and stick to three main meals and two snacks everyday. This helps us stay in a routine, gives our daughter enough fuel and breaks during the day, and leaves space for an occasional ice cream treat.
Good restaurants are difficult to find at the end of a busy day. Just like with food shopping, avoid searching for a restaurant when you’re hungry. The decision will be rushed and you will probably just stop at the first place you find. Research restaurants ahead of time. I make restaurant planning a family task where we all get to pick a cuisine or something new to eat for each day of the trip. This way we always have something to look forward to and a lot less arguments about where and what to eat.
Bringing healthy snacks wherever possible will help keep you from being tempted by junk food. Practical and healthy snacks include crackers, dried fruit, seeds, oat bars, and raisins.
Remember the Rainbow
Whenever possible, try to include fruits and vegetables at every meal. Different colors mean different nutrients. Plus it makes the plate look more appealing! A good trick is to order a variety of small entrées to share. We each choose something and we always try to pick at least one thing we all like to ensure our daughter will at least eat something. We also make a deal to try at least one new thing everyday. Not only is it fun, but picking food from an adult menu and eating the same food as us always gets our daughter more interested in the food on the table.
Focus on the long run and not on every single meal. A slip-up on the routine or an occasional extra treat won’t hurt. Just make sure that there are some healthy options to choose from. Being social and spending time with family and friends is also highly beneficial to your child’s health.
We know sometimes it’s not a matter of what you CAN eat, but rather what you CAN’T. If you have a child with food allergies who you are planning on traveling with, check out our article on How to Travel with Food Allergies.