Travel and vacation is all about taking a break from the ordinary, but it’s often difficult to stick to your diet and wholesome nutrition when on the road and travelling with kids. There are restaurants, drive-thrus and buffet lines, time zone interruptions, cultural culinary delicacies and busy schedules. However, holidays shouldn’t un-do your family’s diet, because you’ll all come home with more than just great memories: weight gain, bloating, digestive upset and moodiness are all consequences of travel nutrition sabotage!
Here are some helpful tips to help keep the family’s health on track while travelling with kids on vacation and even on one-day outings.
1. Don’t sabotage your snacks
The worst culprit for sabotaging healthy eating are those moments when you’re off schedule, running around, coordinating activities and children and hunger strikes. This moment, affectionately known as ‘hangry’, is anger caused by hunger. It manifests as a cranky state from a lack of food. More precisely, ‘hanger’ is really a blood sugar crash and results in moodiness.
Whether you, your travel companions or children are hangry, the best prevention is having an arsenal of prepared and healthy snacks. I’m not talking granola bars, chips or Krispie squares, but rather a variety of nutritious, whole food snacks. Like their convenience-food counterparts, nutritious snacks must be portable, easy to grab and distribute, and simple to pack and store.
To make the most of your snacks and avoid ‘hanger’, follow the Protein-Fiber-Fat rule of eating to maintain blood sugar levels – which means include these three important nutrients in your snacks. Here are some examples of blood sugar-balancing snacks:
- Mini Carrots, Baby Cucumbers and Grape Tomatoes with Hummus or Guacamole
- Apples, Pears and Bananas with Nut Butter
- Nuts, Seeds & Trail Mix
- Homemade Energy Bites or Muffins
2. Pack light and bring a suitcase with food
If you’re planning to visit a warm destination, all you really need to pack for clothing is your bathing suit, flip flops and beach towels. So pack light and reserve a suitcase to bring your and your children’s favourite foodstuffs. Most airlines allow you to pack food as long as it’s in the checked luggage.
I always pack a tetra pack of non-dairy milk, a variety of tea bags, protein powder, greens powder, a jar of almond butter and cereal. I also pack a small portable “bullet” blender, empty jars with lids (to shake a quick protein drink with water), reusable water bottles and insulated travel mugs. These accessories and food not only help with mornings, but they provide the comforts of home and help to establish routine when you’re away. By starting your day with preparing your own breakfast, you’ll save time and money by not eating out, too.
3. Navigate the buffet and eating on the road with smarts
Eating out is inevitable when it comes to travelling, holidays or day trips. But eating out doesn’t have to mean you feed your kiddos at all-you-can-eat buffets, greasy spoons or drive-thrus. Your family can certainly eat nutritiously when eating out, you just have to be conscious about your food choices.
On cruise ships and all-inclusive destinations, the buffet is generally part of the package deal. Buffet doesn’t have to mean all-you-can-eat! The first rule when navigating the buffet line is to only fill your plate once. Browse the buffet menu options with your children before everyone grabs a plate, and encourage everyone to pick their 3 favourite items. Having a tough time deciding? Most buffets rotate and repeat their selections, so chances are, you’ll have another opportunity to try a dish that piques your interest. Reserve half of your plate for salad or veggies and portion the rest of your plate with protein and whole grains. Skip the bread basket and avoid dessert.
When eating out at a restaurant, the same rules apply. Pass on the deep-fried foods, white carbs and appetizers. Instead order salads (with dressing on the side), wraps and substitute fries, potatoes, pasta and rice with extra veggies. Most restaurants will happily accommodate your requests. Include a protein with your meal – if you’re ordering meat or fish, make sure it’s grilled or broiled as opposed to fried.
4. Stay regular
If you and your kids eat healthy on a regular basis, then travelling or eating out can often affect everyone’s regularity! That’s why when eating out, I suggest including a variety of veggies and pack a greens supplement in your suitcase. Staying hydrated with water, supplementing with healthy fats from Omega 3s, and a good quality probiotic will help to keep you and your kids regular, aid in preventing traveller’s diarrhea and reduce chances of constipation.
5. Keep moving – exercise and stretch
Car rides, airport lines and long waits are also part of travelling, vacations and day trips. Make the most of these situations by periodically moving and stretching to keep the blood flowing. Kids have a lot of energy to burn, so this will help them work off that extra energy.
If you’re lucky enough to include an excursion or activity in your plans, then make sure to properly warm-up prior to exercising. And follow-up strenuous activity with a cool-down to prevent injury and sore muscles.
Be adventurous and have fun during your vacation. Take an opportunity to try something new and get out of your comfort zone. Look for active and family-friendly events and activities to stay moving. Keeping kids active and busy is also a great way to get them to sleep! A welcome reprieve for parents after a long day, right?
With these tips in mind, you and your family can travel healthfully and return from your vacation refreshed and relaxed – not immediately in need of another vacation!
What tricks do you have to keep nutrition on track when travelling with kids? Please share in the comments!