Can a family really eat healthy on vacation?

When my great friend and travel agent, Denise Lorentzen, asked me to write an article about healthy eating on a family vacation, I had mixed feelings, because I know with the current childhood obesity epidemic families aren’t eating healthy at home, so how can you expect them to eat healthy on vacation. Second, I have so many fond childhood memories of special treats on vacation. My family would always stop for ice cream cones and fudge on Main Street in Disneyland and on Father, Daughter fishing trips, I always looked forward to that one chance at an unhealthy breakfast, M&M peanuts.

That being said, I am going to tackle this question of healthy eating on a family vacation a little differently than I have seen others address it. I may be an expert on healthy eating and weight loss, but I believe vacation treats often bring back fond memories for a family, especially for a child. Also, if a parent is too rigid about nutrition a child will grow up to have an unhealthy relationship with food. I suggest following the  80/20 rule and believe there is room in a healthy diet for the occasional treat.

Is your family ready to eat healthy on vacation?

Here are a couple questions for you:

  1. Is your family currently eating healthy, meaning getting their daily allowance for fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, dairy and/or dairy alternatives?
  2. Does your entire family start the day with a healthy breakfast? By healthy I do not mean pancakes, doughnuts, and/or high fat breakfast meats like sausage.
  3. Does your family eat together most evenings?
  4. Does your family eat fast food on a weekly basis?

If you answered yes to the first three and no to question four, then you can plan to eat healthy on your next vacation. If not, you need to work on healthy eating at home first. If you suddenly decide the family is going to eat healthy a week before your vacation, I can guarantee, your children and spouse will not like you for some time.

Should a family eat 100% healthy on vacation?

Whether traveling by car, plane, train or boat your family can eat healthy on your next vacation. But should you? If you have kids I suggest giving them treats here and there during a vacation. Follow the 80/20 rule and your family’s nutrition will not be derailed. Moms and Dads treat your selves a little too!

Tips to keep your family on the right track!

  • Whether at home or for travel you will have to plan in advance. Think about the healthy foods and treats your child enjoys eating. That will give you an idea of where and when a treat time may occur. Write a list of healthy items you can pack.
  • Keep a food and exercise journal, there is even a tracking sheet your kids can use to track how they eat http://teamnutrition.usda.gov/resources/mpk_worksheet.pdf. I have had many parents shocked to find out how unhealthy school lunches are.
  • Eat a healthy breakfast each morning. This will start your metabolism off in the right direction. I suggest a lean protein (Eggs, egg whites, greek yogurt, low fat cottage cheese), whole grain carb (Whole wheat toast, cheerios, oatmeal) and some fruits and/or vegetables.
  • Pack healthy snacks for car and plane trips. When traveling by car bring a cooler, full of yogurt, fruit, cut up veggies, whole wheat crackers, nuts, sandwiches, dried fruit, raisins and/or string cheese. When traveling by air, stick to snacks that won’t spoil, such as some fruits, dried fruits, whole wheat crackers, nuts, healthy meal bars, cheerios, etc…
  • Do not skip meals. That goes for Moms and Dads too!
  • Skip the fast food if at all possible. I know they have healthy options, but most kids aren’t going to choose the apple sticks over the French fries. I know I wouldn’t have! If you need a quick stop, a sandwich shop is a much healthier option. If you have time, eat in a restaurant that is child friendly and has healthy options available.
  • Remember the 80/20 rule is for the week, so you want to eat healthy 80% of the week!

While eating right is important, you should also plan to be active on vacation

Part of staying healthy and being a good role model for your children is living an active lifestyle. Vacations are a wonderful opportunity to be active. Many vacations include a lot of walking to take in the sites, but you can also find opportunities, to swim, hike, and bike and/or take a sports lesson of some kind.

Moms and Dads, bring an exercise band when you travel. It is easy to store in your suitcase and it is a great way to keep up with resistance training while on vacation.

When you have some free time in the hotel room have the family do body weight exercise, like push ups and crunches. Little ones will find it fun and it will create a healthy behavior for their future.

Enjoy your family vacation!

PS If you are planning a vacation visit my friend Denise at http://kingdommagicagents.com/denise/

Denise Lorentzen is a Family Travel Specialist and Disney Vacation Specialist. She has a CTA (Certified Travel Assoc.) from the Travel Institute as well as various other specialty certificates such as Disney, Universal Parks, Carnival Cruise, US Airways, and more!!  Denise loves traveling with her family.  That is why she chose to specialize in family travel, to help others have the same vacation experiences that her family has enjoyed.

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