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Vacation Food for Kids

Headed out on vacation for spring break? Lucky you! If you’re traveling, you might get a much-needed break from cooking, packing lunches, and washing dishes. But it can also mean that your kids are headed for a weeks’ worth of hamburger-and-fries kids’ meals. How can you keep the food reasonably healthy for your kids while you’re on the road? Depending on where you plan to eat, we’ve got a few ideas:

Restaurants and Fast Food Joints: You don’t have to order kids’ meals. Repeat: You don’t have to order kids’ meals. Let your kids think beyond chicken nuggets and pizza by ordering from the regular menu; if the portions are too big they can split an order. Also, there’s no rule that you have to get fries with that. If fries come with the kids’ meal, ask for fruit instead, and get a single order of fries for the table to share. That way they can fill up on fruit and treat the fries more like a snack.

Another issue that tends to come up at restaurants, especially at fast food places, is soda. Your kids don’t need soda. Let them drink water instead, or milk if they like, and if they want to have a sugary beverage for dessert that can be their choice (although it’s hard to picture a kid who would choose a soda over, say, some ice cream or a cookie).

Buffet Lines: Have you ever met a kid who doesn’t like those hotel breakfast buffets where everyone gets to choose his or her favorite meal? Unfortunately, most kids make a beeline straight for the sugar cereals. So have everyone line up for toast, fruit, and/or eggs first and let the cereal be a second course if they’re still hungry.

At dinner buffets, take a stop at the salad bar first. You don’t have to control what they are choosing but just make sure that everyone has at least one vegetable and one fruit.

Picnics: Packing your own meal as you head to the great outdoors? Think sturdy, nutritious foods like nuts, sunflower seeds, dried fruits, or granola bars or mixes. You don’t need to load up on all kinds of pre-packaged fruit snacks. Look for Mother Nature’s best package – an apple, an orange, a banana, or some grapes.

Train or Plane: Bring your own sturdy snacks (see above), or else you may get stuck ordering whatever is offered in the snack car or on the meal cart. For the most part, those foods are built for longevity – in other words, they are highly salted and processed so that they last as long as possible. If you do have to order from the cart, go with the healthiest possible options rather than overly salty or fatty snacks, and urge your kids to drink water.

Parties: What would spring break be without a party? Whether it’s a family gathering or a birthday party, chances are  there will be some form of salty snacks (potato chips, etc.) and some sort of cake. Again, fill your kids up as much as you can beforehand with fruit and/or protein. And by all means, don’t park your kids right next to the bottomless bowl of candy.

Above all, let reason be your guide. Being on vacation doesn’t mean your kids need to go nuts. But if going out for ice cream is a special treat, by all means go out for ice cream. Have a great spring break!

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2 Responses to Vacation Food for Kids

  1. Valentina April 7, 2012 at 11:15 pm #

    What a great post this is! We just got back from Yosemite and while my little guy loved the snow, biking, etc. . . I think his favorite part of the trip might have been the Fruit Loops at the hotel. I tried to do what you said, and filled him with the healthier choices first — so now Fruit Loops are his favorite “dessert!” Ugh! ;-)

    • jollytomato April 8, 2012 at 10:21 am #

      Thanks, Valentina! Yeah, those cereals seem to have some sort of universal appeal to kids. Too bad they don’t feel the same way about broccoli!

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