8 Tips for Healthy Eating when Traveling with Kids

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Getting kids to eat healthfully is hard enough at home, but it’s a whole other story when you’re on the road. With new smells and tastes in every destination, it can be tough to ensure your family gets proper nutrition while on vacation. Because this mama loves a challenge, especially one that encourages good health and delicious food, when Super Savvy Me asked if I could share my healthy eating tips I said, “Of course!” Here are eight tips for healthy eating when traveling with kids.

Tips for Healthy Eating when Traveling with Kids1. Load up before your vacation.

The week before heading out, I start sneaking in immune-boosting foods into my family’s favorite dishes. Ground flax and hemp seeds are virtually unnoticeable in smoothies and muffins. Blended squash and zucchini disappear into spaghetti sauce. A little extra garlic tastes great on teriyaki chicken.

2. Pack your own food for the plane.

We all know airline food is typically neither healthy nor delicious. Instead of being tempted by sodium-laden sandwiches and trans-fat cookies, pack an attractive picnic for the plane. You need to clean out your fridge anyway so pre-cut everybody’s favorite fruit and veggies. Add whole grain crackers, nuts and a homemade oatmeal cookie (or two) and you’ll feel virtuous, indeed.

3. Sip a smoothie.

Surprisingly, my pre-flight ritual isn’t posting my status on Facebook. I make a bee-line for the nearest smoothie kiosk past security. Typically I go for a raspberry concoction as it’s high in fiber and low in calories. My family members choose what they like, and everyone starts their holiday with a healthy and yummy punch.

4. Stash food in your luggage.

I don’t just pack snacks in my carry-on. I load up our suitcases with granola bars, whole apples, nuts, mini containers of peanut butter and cereal. Certain countries (I’m looking at you, Mexico) throw additional sugar into the same brands we enjoy at home. Sugar lowers your immunity for up to 12-hours after ingesting it, so why set yourself up for sickness?

5. Max out multivitamins.

Despite your best efforts, you can’t force anyone to eat (or sleep, or use the bathroom). Hedge your bets by toting a children’s multivitamin and get your kids in the habit of taking them once a day.

6. Stay away from bribery and offer choices.

We all know what happens when you threaten, “if you eat this, you can have that.” Kids will eat a bit of the offending food, not nearly enough to satisfy your requirement, and then you cave. Once you give in they know the jig is up, you’ve lost your bargaining chip. The key to navigating many parenting conundrums is through consistency and consequences. Instead, try a slightly different approach and say, “Yes, you can have that sundae, after you’ve finished your carrots.” If they don’t finish their carrots, they don’t get the ice cream. It’s not the end of the world, people. Be sure to instigate this practice before your holiday, so they know you mean business.

7. Make a rule that everyone (even parents) try a full bite of new foods.

My neighbor’s 10-year-old was dying to go to Italy, but he was a super picky eater. They made a deal that if he took up tomato sauce on his pasta and pizza for a year, they’d consider it. Guess who’s now a fan of pasta a la norma AND who got to see the canals of Venice last year?

8. Lead by example.

Take a look at your own eating habits and be realistic. If kids don’t see their parents noshing on spinach it’s unlikely you’ll be able to convince them to do the same. All good habits start at home, so if you make a conscious effort to eat healthy meals during your everyday lives, you will be all set for healthy eating when traveling with kids.

Do you have any tips for healthy eating when traveling with kids? Let us know in the comments below!

A Note from The Saucy Travel Mama: All opinions and advice are my own. Check with your family doctor or pediatrician before changing your family’s diet.

Photo from Morguefile.com (Creative Commons)

About Jody Robbins, The Saucy Travel Mama

After a career in international marketing and a few years spent living the high life as an expat, Jody now resides with her family in Calgary, Canada. Figuring travel writing was a good way to combine her wanderlust and parental duties, she’s spent the past few years working with both print and online media, contributing to the Calgary Herald Travel and Real Life sections and blogging about her adventures at Travels with Baggage (JodyRobbins.com). When not circling the globe with her precocious children (one daughter, one husband, one dog), she can usually be found snowboarding or pretending to enjoy hiking. Find Jody on Twitter at @Jody_Robbins.

  1. Sounds like me when I go on races…..I packed peanut butter in a very small container for prerace toast and it was confiscated on return……but not on the way which was good……we pack oatmeal and bars too and electrolyte powder…..good tips

    • Jody Robbins, The Saucy Travel Mama says

      Oh, electrolyte powder. That’s a good one! Thanks for the tip!

      • I’m an avid yoga practitioner and have taken many trips to India. Emergen-C has electrolytes, B-vitamins and Vitamin C. The ‘Tangerine’ flavor I think would taste the best to kids. It really helps keep away and quickly recover from travel colds.

  2. Amy Simpkins says

    We especially like dried fruit (mango, coconut, dates, apple and banana chips), nuts, Larabars, and grass-fed beef sticks for the plane.

    If traveling internationally, it’s important to be aware of customs regulations and import restrictions. Some countries (like the US) prohibit bringing in unprocessed fruit or any form of meat. Other countries don’t care what you bring in. Know what you should be prepared for and pack food accordingly.

    I like the multivitamin tip – we need to start doing that!

  3. Jody Robbins, The Saucy Travel Mama says

    Yes, I definitely take my chances when I go through customs. But I’m always honest on the form as I think chocolate counts as diary and olive oil as a vegetable and I note those down (but maybe not the others…). Great tip on the dried fruit. I don’t know why I never thought of that. Thank you!

  4. All great ideas. I confess we used to load up on junk food during our road trips but recently started with monthly healthy options. And my kids are much less moody…who’d have thought? 🙂

    • Jody Robbins, The Saucy Travel Mama says

      I get it. It’s the little things. My girlfriend always packs Twizzlers for the kids on road trips to have after their healthy stuff.

  5. All good tips. I also pack cereal, nuts, and bars in my suitcase because those items can be hard to find or are too expensive in other countries. At least if we have those, we have some healthy alternatives if the kids are not eating well.

    • Jody Robbins, The Saucy Travel Mama says

      Your comment came at the perfect moment. I’m frantically packing this morning for our afternoon flight and can’t believe I forgot to add oatmeal. What a great breakfast suggestion. Thank you!

  6. wanderingeducators says

    Excellent tips! I always bring my own – granola bars, muffins, etc. It makes a difference!

  7. Thanks, I agree. Muffins would be good, too!

  8. Laurel- Capturing la Vita says

    Oh, it’s such a challenge to eat healthy while traveling. Hopefully, the US takes some tips from Europe and soon realizes that there is healthy fast-food. Great tips!

    • Jody Robbins, The Saucy Travel Mama says

      I totally agree. At lease there are fast food places like Chipolte opening up and giving us some better options. Really appreciate you taking the time to comment!

  9. Lisa @bitesforbabies says

    What a great post…I pretty do every one of these when traveling! I take homemade snacks for the trip AND stash snacks in our suitcases! I always make homemade energy bars because they full us up (which is a must when running from airport to airport) and the keep well. These are our fave’s: http://www.bitesforbabies.com/coconut-carob-puffed-rice-bars/

  10. Jody Robbins, The Saucy Travel Mama says

    Oh, I love homemade granola bars! I’ll be sure to check your recipe out.

  11. henryekcf.blog.com says

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