Healthy Eating Tips for Travel

Take your family's healthy habits on the road with these travel tips.

Healthy eating tips - bring your own fruit
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Our family travels often, by car, plane, and even bus (for team sports competitions). And when we do, I try to make sure we keep eating nutritious foods. I don't want us to bring home a run-down immune system or any extra pounds as a souvenir of the trip! So these healthy eating tips for travel are essential.

Bring Your Own (Or Buy It There)

This is obviously most easily accomplished if you're traveling by car.

You can load up a reusable grocery bag and a cooler with all of the healthy snacks and ingredients you want, and restock along the way. If you aren't driving to your destination and have some control over where you'll stay once you arrive, aim to be within walking distance of a supermarket, so you can shop without a car.

Don't forget to check whether you'll have a refrigerator available to you at your lodgings. Just when you think every hotel room has one, you'll end up in one that doesn't! You can often borrow or rent one, but usually there is a limited supply. If you don't score a fridge, you can improvise, at least for a short time, with ice buckets and coolers. Bring along some sturdy, zip-close plastic bags for this purpose.

When I travel with my daughter's team on a bus, I'm limited by space, lack of refrigeration, and allergy concerns. But I have to bring enough food to sustain us for hours!

My shopping list usually includes as many of these as I can cram into my soft-sided cooler:

  • Nonperishable fruits: whole apples (unsweetened applesauce cups for my daughter with braces), pears, and clementines; dried or freeze-dried fruits without added sugars
  • Small, cooler-friendly fruits, veggies, and protein sources: baby carrots, sugar snap peas, melon chunks, grapes, cucumber and bell pepper slices, hummus, string cheese, hard-boiled eggs, yogurt tubes
  • Nonperishable protein: Beef jerky, turkey salami, sun butter in pouches; crackers or chips fortified with beans or lentils. Nuts aren't usually allowed on the team bus, but for family travel I pack some.
  • Treats: Pretzels, popcorn, granola or other cereal, graham crackers
  • Supplies: Utensils, plastic bags for garbage or ice, soap or wipes, paper towels

Cook Your Own

I almost always pack breakfast foods when we travel, since hotel or restaurant breakfasts can be pricey and unpredictable, and may not fit with our timetable (as in, 6 a.m. skating competitions). Instant oatmeal is ideal,  but don't forget the spoons—I have. Nothing like trying to eat hot cereal with a tiny wooden coffee stirrer! Many of the ingredients above are good for breakfast. Instead of toast, a nut-butter-and-jelly sandwich makes a fine morning meal, especially paired with a piece of whole fruit.

And you can even cook a lunch or dinner entree on the road! These hotel-room meal suggestions from Parent Hacks are ingenious.

Order Smart

When you do go out to eat, stay on the healthy eating track by ordering carefully.

  • Remember that kids aren't restricted to the kids' menu! An appetizer, salad, or half-entree from the main menu is often a better choice. If your child does go for a kid favorite like a hamburger or mac-and-cheese, make sure he gets his daily fruits and vegetables via side dishes or other meals.
  • If you know where you'll be going, research menu options ahead of time.
  • Whenever possible, emphasize vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and lean protein.
  • Drink water.

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