When you’re cooped up in the car on a family vacation, it’s all too easy to send healthy eating habits packing and cave in to whining with dining on fast food.
While it’s important to be flexible on vacation (nothing wrong with an occasional burger or ice cream!), if you completely abandon your usual healthy, balanced diet, it can backfire when you get home. The longer the vacation, the more pronounced the consequences, says Natalie Digate Muth, MD, RD, and author of Eat Your Vegetables and Other Mistakes Parents Make. Here’s how to keep eating right even when you’re away.
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#1: Pack healthy foods for the trip. Whether packing for a road trip or plane ride, ditch convenience foods and juices, which are usually high in sodium, sugar, saturated fats and/or calories. Better choices: edamame, sugar-snap peas, carrot sticks, hummus, whole-grain crackers, tangerines, raisins, apples, nuts, and plain milk boxes or water.
#2: Order good-for-you dishes at a restaurant. When dining out, look for healthy options on the menu. Typically, these are not on the children’s menu, which usually offers pizza, macaroni and cheese and/or chicken nuggets. Ask if the restaurant can provide a child-size portion of a healthier main course, or order it yourself along with a healthy appetizer and share with your kid.
#3: Pack a lunch bag for long day trips. Headed to an amusement park, the beach or the slopes for the day? Don’t pay premium prices for junk food – pack a lunch instead. Digate Muth recommends that one half of the meal be fruits and vegetables, one quarter whole grains and one quarter lean protein and a dairy or calcium-containing choice. For example, you could pack a turkey sandwich, carrot sticks, grapes and yogurt (and steer clear of The 15 Worst Things In Your Lunch Bag).
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#4: Keep snacks healthy. “Snacks can be an excellent way to offer kids nutrient powerhouses, such as fruits and vegetables,” says Digate Muth. “Other snacks just set kids up to crave salt and sugar and displace healthier foods in kids’ diets.”
#5: Model good eating habits. Though you may be tempted to indulge at every meal (hey, you’re on vacation!), remember that your kids learn their habits from watching you. Though it’s fine to have the occasional treat -- and let your kids have one too -- treats should be the exception, not the rule. Instead, make your “treats” fruits you can’t get at home: If possible, incorporate a visit to a local farmers’ market to expose kids to healthy new flavors.