Summer vacation is finally here with many planning to travel by land, air and sea. For many of us, enjoying well-earned rest and relaxation with family and friends while on holidays also involves leaving our healthy eating habits at home. Family events, long days traveling, sightseeing and access to foods not normally available can leave us throwing nutritional caution to the wind, enduring the consequences later. But this is not the inevitable! It is possible to maintain some nutritional structure while still relaxing and enjoying your vacation. A little planning and a few easy-to-follow rules will ensure everyone is at their best both during and after the trip.
Here are a few tips to help keep you and your family nourished when you are on the go, including if a family member is struggling with an allergy, sensitivity or is on a therapeutic eating plan.
Before you leave for vacation
- Decide what is and what is not appropriate food for your vacation. Do your research. Find out what food choices there are for you and your family. This creates a loose structure and boundaries that will be easier to follow with fewer surprises.
- Stock up on nourishing snacks. Stocking up on nourishing alternatives to convenience store snacks goes a long way toward healthy eating while on the go. Good examples include some well sourced jerky, dried fruits, nuts, small cans of tuna packed in olive oil and individual nut butter packs.
- Make your own travel friendly items such as banana blueberry muffins, southwest egg muffin cups and energy bars. These recipes are quick to make, freeze well and are easily transported for a good alternative to the drive-through.
- Get online and go through some of the many travel review sites. Search your destination along with popular terms (gluten-free, organic, farm-to-table) to help take the stress out of deciding where to eat while on the road.
- When booking your accommodations, ask and be specific about how to customize your experience. This is not an imposition; the staff wants you to enjoy your stay and will happily accommodate you. When planning or booking your trip, communicating any special needs will help the staff prepare effectively for your stay. Special requests, however, can typically be catered to pretty easily.
- Request a mini-fridge (if you're not staying in a vacation rental). If necessary, explain that you have food allergies. Hotels are required to have these for medical purposes and making the request when booking can ensure your needs are met. Extended stay venues/suites or vacation apartments are becoming a more viable alternative to traditional hotels and are often cost effective.
- Find a grocery store. Search online for grocery stores in the area(s) you will be visiting. This will make it easy to stock up on essentials when you arrive.
Eating well when away
- Try a cooler bag with a leak-proof ice. This will allow you to take some foods with you, and store foods at your destination. For air travel, pack your ice pack in your checked luggage wrapped in extra zip-top bags to avoid leaks.
- Pack your travel foods strategically! Small and medium sized zip-top bags are helpful for holding food and preventing spills. They can also be used to store some of the trash created while travelling and can serve as containers for ice if necessary. Tall and narrow containers work well for storage too as they remain upright. These types of containers are great for avoiding spills if you are travelling with kids.
- Rinse and re-use containers you bring or that you purchase with food in them along the way.
- Keep extra protein and fat sources (described above) handy for snacking on. It is wise to pack a little more than you think you may need. They weigh very little and can be a lifesaver in the event of delays. A little dark chocolate, extra nuts, or a minimally processed trail mix can work as a healthier choice compared to the protein/energy bars or other snacks on display at airports and convenience stores.
Considerations if you are travelling by air
- Ensure you have enough small (2-3oz), spill-proof containers for liquids. Making sure the volume is stamped onto the container will avoid delays when going through airport security. This is a great way to transport extra-virgin olive oil, home-made dressings and your own condiments for use on meals and snacks that you have either brought with you, or will buy en route.
- Use clear containers for storing food and drinks to avoid having to open them up for security. Only liquids and semi-liquids are in question when travelling by air (unless you are travelling with a baby). Dry foods are perfectly acceptable in carry-on bags so don’t forget to bring your food on-board with you. This can include a meal you have made, leftovers from dinner, a salad, etc. Make sure the containers used to transport semi-solid items (guacamole or egg salad) are clear and can be viewed easily.
- Bring a refillable water bottle. You can buy bottled water once through security and refill a bottle in the airport. They all have water fountains, and many even offer filtered water.
- Take advantage of your frequent flyer or airline points benefits if they offer ‘club rooms’ or special lounges. These usually stock whole pieces of fruit like apples and bananas, raw vegetables and herbal/organic tea bags that can be used in-flight with hot water available. Even if these options are not your first choice, they do exist – use them!
Tips if you are dining out
- Stick with proteins and vegetables as much as possible to avoid most inflammatory ingredients. You can usually find salads or vegetable trays with a protein at airport food vendors. The dressing is mostly served in a package and can easily be discarded. Remove any unwanted ingredients, and use the dressing, dips or with the olive oil you have brought with you. You can ask for some lemon if available to add too.
- A burger served without the bun (if you are avoiding wheat) can often be made to order. They are not usually specified on the menu, but are easy to make if asked for.
- Add flavour to bland travel-food with healthy spices. Bring your own sea or Himalayan salt, pepper and seasoning blends in some of your smaller carry-on containers.
Planning ahead is possibly the most important aspect to maintaining at least a small component of your family’s healthy routine when travelling. You will never be sorry that you have some extra snacks tucked away in your bags. An extended time without food, be it from a delay on the tarmac, a longer stretch of driving or the lack of available options at a restaurant or convenience store, will often leave you, and more importantly your children, hungry, grumpy and possibly scavenging for less healthy choices. Pack a little more than you think necessary to keep yourself well prepared and enjoying your trip, rather than worrying about how you or your fellow travellers may feel later on.
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For more about nutrition, tips to improve overall health and wellbeing, recipes and meal plans, visit Integrative Health.
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