Getting my kids to eat healthy foods is a challenge even under the best of circumstances. But getting them to eat healthy foods while we're on vacation? Well, that's a whole other story. Vacations present so many opportunities for unhealthy eating that we can usually simply avoid in our everyday lives — fast food on the road, fried treats at theme parks and giant hotel breakfast buffets.
With all these delicious and not-so-nutritious foods so readily available, it's easy for kids (and parents) to treat vacations like a free-for-all. But this just makes things harder for everyone in the long run, both during the vacation and afterward. When my kids load up on high-sugar, high-fat, unhealthy foods, our family is in for all kinds of unpleasantness: the kids get cranky, they tire more easily, their digestion suffers, and it's difficult to get them back on track when we return home.
Here are some things we've learned through trial and error:
Pack your own food
When I was a kid and my family would take road trips, we always packed a cooler with sandwiches, water bottles and cut-up fruits and veggies. I used to hate it — I wanted to stop for fast food — but I get it now. By packing our own lunches, my parents were saving money and helping us make better food choices.
Coolers are great for road trips, and I would recommend filling one with as many healthy foods as possible. Pack a separate bag for non-refrigerated items — we always have a variety of granola bars, protein bars and other healthy snack choices in the car.
Obviously you can't take a cooler on an airplane, but do save some room in your suitcase for healthy, portable snacks. You can throw them in your purse or diaper bag once you arrive at your destination, and then you'll have some options on-hand when your kids start asking for churros and ice cream pops.