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 even more difficult when the rules are relaxed, your schedule is askew, and sugary treats and fast food options abound on family vacation. Although it can be tough to ensure your family gets proper nutrition on the go, it’s definitely do-able! How can you get your family to eat healthy when traveling? Follow these nine tasty tips for healthy eating while traveling with kids!

Make eating healthy fun when traveling with kids

Make eating healthy fun when traveling with kids! (Photo credit: Zucchini muffins, Depositphotos.com)

This story is brought to you in partnership with Naked Nutrition.

1. Boost immunity before your vacation.

The week before heading out, start adding immune-boosting foods into your family’s favorite dishes. Ground flax and hemp seeds are virtually unnoticeable in smoothies and muffins. Blended squash and zucchini disappear into spaghetti sauce. And, a little extra garlic tastes great in teriyaki chicken. Other immunity boosters include citrus fruits, blueberries, ginger, and turmeric.

Zucchini muffins

Add healthy ingredients like zucchini to treats like muffins (Photo credit: fahrwasser, Depositphotos.com)

2. Pack your own food for the plane or car.

We all know airline food is typically neither healthy nor delicious. Instead of being tempted by sodium-laden meals and trans-fat cookies, pack an attractive picnic for your flight or road trip. You need to clean out your fridge anyway, so pre-cut everybody’s favorite fruit and veggies. Add whole grain crackers, nuts, cheese sticks, hard boiled eggs, and a homemade oatmeal cookie (or two) and you’ll feel virtuous, indeed. (When it comes to packing nuts and nut butters, beware that airlines may prohibit eating your goodies due to food allergies.)

Pack healthy foods to eat during the journey

Bring healthy foods to eat during the journey (Photo credit: fahrwasser, Depositphotos.com)

3. Sip a smoothie.

Do like I do and make a bee-line for the nearest smoothie kiosk past security at the airport or make your first road trip pitstop at a juice shop. 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.

Start you vacation with a healthy smoothie

Start you vacation with a healthy smoothie (Photo credit: ehaurylik)

4. Stash food in your luggage.

I don’t just pack snacks in my carry-on. I load up my family’s suitcases with granola bars, sealed fruit cups, nuts, mini containers of nut butters and whole grain cereal. (Just be sure not to pack fresh produce or other food items you may not be allowed to bring to your destination!) 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?

Colorful suitcases

Stash packages of healthy foods in your luggage (Photo credit: monticello, Depositphotos.com)

5. Supplement with multivitamins.

Despite your best efforts, you can’t force anyone to eat (or sleep, or use the bathroom). Hedge your bets by toting children’s multivitamins and get your kids in the habit of taking them once a day. Elderberry gummies are a yummy way to boost immunity while traveling, too.

Chewable travel vitamins for kids

Chewable gummies help kids get their vitamins while traveling (Photo credit: bodu10, Depositphotos.com)

6. Be consistent at home and when traveling.

The key to navigating many parenting conundrums is through consistency and consequences. If the rule at home is no dessert until your children eat their vegetables, then this rule needs to apply while traveling, too. Be sure to initiate this practice before your holiday, so they know you mean business.

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, his parents would consider it. Guess who’s now a fan of pasta alla norma AND who got to see the canals of Venice?

Pasta alla Norma

Pasta alla Norma (Photo credit: myviewpoint, Depositphotos.com)

7. Make trying new foods fun.

Encourage kids to try unfamiliar foods while traveling by being the first to take a bite! Make it clear that kids need not eat the whole dish, but they must at least have a taste.  Shareable platters make a fun way for everyone to explore a new cuisine. Additionally, unique ice cream flavors can be a great gateway food for broadening picky palates with new nuts and fruits!

Colorful gelatos

Encourage kids to try new fruits and nuts via ice cream while traveling (Photo credit: PHOTOLOGY1971, Depositphotos.com)

8. Squeeze in protein with Naked Nutrition.

Be sure to pack some protein bars for your family vacation. Children don’t always want to try new meat, fish, or cheese options while traveling and it can be hard to squeeze in enough protein. Thankfully, protein bars can work as meal replacements or healthy travel snacks. For a protein-packed, gluten-free, low-sugar, fiber-rich option — check out Naked Bars by Naked Nutrition. They come in tempting flavors like Blueberry Almond, Chocolate Almond, Peanut Butter, and Mint Chocolate. Naked Bars are made with real ingredients like almond butter, blueberries and grass-fed whey protein — not chemicals. Naked Nutrition also makes protein powders, shakes, and other supplements to support a healthy lifestyle. Get 10% off with discount code Naked10 on your first Naked Nutrition order today!

Blueberry Almond Naked Bars protein bars

Blueberry Almond Naked Bar protein bars are made with real ingredients like almond butter and blueberries (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

9. Lead by example.

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

Set an example for your kids by choosing healthy foods at home and when traveling

Set an example for your kids by choosing healthy foods at home and when traveling (Photo credit: bit245, Depositphotos.com)

Learn more travel tips.

For additional healthy eating travel tips, take a look at our picks for the best travel snacks.

Nutrition is just one portion of feeling fit while on the go. These healthy travel tips will help your family avoid illness when traveling.

A good night’s sleep is imperative for enjoyable travels. That’s why you need to read these travel sleep tips from a child sleep expert before you leave home!

How to Healthy While Traveling with Kids

Save these healthy eating tips!

Want to eat healthy while traveling with kids? Save this story for future reference! Simply pin the image above to Pinterest. We hope you’ll follow Travel Mamas on Pinterest while you’re at it!

Do you have any additional tips for eating healthy while traveling? Let us know in the comments below!

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

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.

Comments
  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. These are great tips! Before I began trying to live a healthier life, I NEVER considered eating healthy while traveling. I just ate whatever. Now that I’m trying to be healthier, it takes a lot more planning, though. These tips are excellent for anyone, kids or no kids.

    • Colleen Lanin says

      It’s so easy to fall off the healthy bandwagon while traveling. Kudos to you for making the effort!

  12. Bright snow Loveland says

    Very beautiful and educative information. I really love your tips especially Boost immunity before your vacation. Thanks for sharing

  13. TheHappyMommie says

    Very interesting tips, I specifically like the lead by example one, I truly believe kids eat what you do! eat healthy stay fit ❤️

  14. Charis | Choose Frugal says

    It’s REALLY hard to stay healthy when traveling. I feel like I always get sick when I get back haha. Love these tips!

    • Colleen Lanin says

      Oh, that happens to me, too! It’s probably that stale airplane air, decreased sleep, and yes, poor eating sometimes. Gotta boost that immune system!

  15. Marie Phillips says

    I have always been fortunate to have kids that loved to eat healthy food! These tips are all perfect.

  16. I love adding Ground flax and hemp seeds in my smoothies! These are amazing tips how to eat healthy while traveling

  17. the joyous living says

    vitamin c is a must too!! these are all good tips and i think that packing your own food is a great one.

  18. These tips are so helpful! It can be so challenging to get kids to eat healthy! Using multivitamins is always helpful!

    Kileen

    • Colleen Lanin says

      That little extra boost from multivitamins is so helpful because even when we eat our best, it’s easy to miss necessary nutrients. Thanks for your comment, Kileen!

  19. Lucy Clarke says

    The consistency in what applies at home and during travels is truly important. Thank you for sharing this!

  20. Toni Dash says

    These are really helpful and awesome tips! Saving this! Thank you!

  21. Leading by example and packing your own food seem like the key ones to me! Good post!

  22. Ntensibe Edgar Michael says

    Packing your own food always goes a long way! You might not see it from the beginning but it does work out, for your benefit.

    • Colleen Lanin says

      Yes! It may seem like extra weight and work, but packing healthy snacks can be so helpful, especially when traveling with picky eaters!

  23. Emily Fata says

    No doubt travelling with kids can make it difficult to eat healthy! These are great tips to get over that difficulty, though! 🙂

  24. Emman Damian says

    I like boosting myself with vitamin C. Also, I like to prepare my own food. It’s yummier and healthier!

    • Colleen Lanin says

      Such a great idea to prepare your own foods when traveling if possible. Then you know exactly what you’re eating!

  25. Bruce Schinkel says

    Some really great tips in this post, thanks so much! It’s really not as difficult as people tend to think it is to stay eating healthy while travelling

    • Colleen Lanin says

      I think many of us (myself included!) tend to throw a lot of rules out the window when traveling. But you’re right, it’s not hard to eat healthy with a little effort and focus!

  26. katrina Kroeplin says

    those are great tips! it can be so hard when we are traveling.

  27. Matt Taylor says

    Those are all great tips for eating healthy while traveling with kids. Even if you don’t have kids you can still follow these tips!

  28. Kevin Brotac says

    Great tips! You really need to teach kids how to eat healthily! Creating healthy habits will hell your family grow stronger!

  29. I’ve never thought to pack my own food on a plane. That makes good sense though!

    • Colleen Lanin says

      Rosey – Packing your own food on a plane definitely comes in handy nowadays when you might be lucky to get a couple of crackers to eat and not much else!

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