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Family Vacation Eating Tips

Today’s post is written by guest blogger and pediatric dietitian Marisa VanSchuyver, MS, RD, CSP, LD.

Eating out is a rare occasion for our family and thought of as a treat. So, I don’t usually grimace when my children choose chicken nuggets and French fries. Family vacation eating includes dining out for most meals, so my panic over how my kids will be nourished over the break is setting in. Eating out on the road can leave us feeling tired, irritable and slow. How can I provide healthy options for my family without being the food police?

Check out some tips for keeping the family healthy AND having fun on vacation!

Keep healthy snacks on hand

Want something healthy to snack on instead of chips and soda from the gas station or something fried from the snack stand? Keep items such as nuts, seeds and dried fruit mixes with you. Granola bars without the chocolate (melting hazard) can also be an easy, quick snack. Fresh fruit like grapes, cherries, pre-slices apples, oranges and bananas also hold up well. You can even choose carrots, celery, broccoli, cauliflower and snow peas for a crunchy snack. If you have a cooler (on a long road trip) try low-fat yogurt tubes, string cheese, and sandwiches.

Eat one meal in your room

If you plan on eating out at most meals, designate one that is simple and can be done from the hotel room. Whole grain cereal and milk, yogurt and fruit, bagels and peanut butter are easy to keep in the hotel room for a quick morning breakfast.

Eat like the locals

Encourage your family to try the local fare and enjoy new tasty items. This helps us have a better experience with a new culture or cuisine. It can also deter your child from choosing the same thing off the kids menu each day (variety!). If you’re going to the beach, try seafood and fish. And if you’re going to visit Miami–try a Cuban dish!

Check out adult menu items for the kids. Kid’s menus can be helpful, but may present your child with the same options over and over. Some menu items on the adult menu may make a better experience for you and your child. Encourage them to try something new and don’t stress if they don’t eat it. On the other hand, you might be surprised at what they pick out on their own and eat.

Indulge once a day  

Many families get excited by the options of sweets, ice cream, and treats which are abundant while traveling. We feel like it’s a special occasion, throwing caution to the wind and end up filling up on foods that should really only be there in small amounts. Not to mention the portions are out of this world!  Make a goal of choosing a treat once a day and choose something really awesome!

Enjoy your travels! What’s your tip for family vacation eating?

Marisa has over 6 years experience working with children and teens as a dietitian.  She has worked at Dayton Children’s Hospital since 2009. She earned her master’s degree in nutrition from the University of Oklahoma and is certified specialist in pediatric nutrition.  She enjoys working with families and helping foster healthy eating habits. 

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