7 Ways to Make Sure Treats Don’t Take Over Your Family Trip

7 Ways to Make Sure Treats Don’t Take Over Your Family Trip

Vacations are fun, until the first sugared-out meltdown. Here’s how to limit junk! For more parenting tips, visit P&G everyday today!

By Wendy Robinson

As any parent with a suitcase knows, there are many challenges to traveling with children -- from getting them to sleep in an unfamiliar place to keeping the “I’m bored!” whines away on long car rides.

After a recent trip to Florida with my 6-year-old son, I’ve added one other bit of pre-trip planning to my list: planning for healthier eating while on vacation. My son is not what I would describe as an “adventurous” eater by any means, but at home we do a pretty good job of making sure he has a balanced diet. There are smoothies with hidden spinach, fresh fruit, and/or veggies at every meal and limited access to candy and treats. We aren’t perfect (let me be honest, frozen pizza is a permanent part of our dinner rotation), but we try.

On vacation, however, it can be all too easy to fall into a routine of fast food, extra treats, and lots of candy. Treats and special meals are a great part of travel, of course, but after watching my son sugar crash following a theme park day filled with churros, ice cream, hot dogs, and candy, I’m determined to do better the next time around.

Here, seven ways parents can bring some nutritional sanity back into the family vacation.

1. Help your child make healthier choices at the hotel breakfast buffet. The best choices will include things like hardboiled eggs, yogurt, fruit, whole grain toast, and oatmeal, suggests registered dietician Jill Castle, author of Fearless Feeding: How to Raise Healthy Eaters from High Chair to High School. Try to avoid pastries, doughnuts, whipped cream or sugary fruit toppings (for waffles or pancakes), and anything fried.

2. Give kids ownership of treat decisions. Limit kids to one treat per day, and let them choose in advance what they’d like it to be, advises Castle. For example, ask your children something like, “Would you rather have ice cream after dinner or a milkshake at the pool?” and then remind them of their choice if they request additional treats.

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3. Be prepared. Have a stash of healthy and portable snacks with you to prevent midday hunger attacks, notes Castle. Some great choices include dried fruit, low sugar granola bars, cheese sticks, mini-bagels with peanut butter, or dry cereal.

4. Shoot for three meals a day. On our second day in Florida, my son and I had to get up early to catch the hotel shuttle to a theme park. We were running late, so we skipped breakfast. Once we got to the park we were so busy having fun that it was soon almost 11 a.m. when I finally realized (due to some serious snack-based whining from my son) that I’d totally forgotten to feed him so far that day. No wonder he was drooling at the smell of the popcorn and churro cart. Make sure you have three meals a day, preferably sitting down and not on the run, to avoid snack attacks.


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5. Stock your hotel mini-fridge. After the Day 2 meltdown, I made sure we stopped for food before we went back to the hotel. There wasn’t a grocery store nearby, but I was able to find bottled water, low-fat milk, yogurt, grapes, and string cheese at a nearby gas station. Having these in the room helped with late-night and early-morning hunger attacks.

6. Water, water, water! It can be easy to get dehydrated during the busy days of a vacation, especially if you go somewhere warm or do a lot of outdoor activities. Mild dehydration can make you feel extra hungry, so make sure you and your children all have refillable water bottles that you can keep in your bag.

7. Make the treats count. When on vacation, try to have your treats be something special to the area or something different than you’d have at home. One of our favorite treats ended up being a pineapple whip dessert at a theme park -- something I’d never tried before but that was cool, sweet, and tasty. It was also a much better choice than the overpriced name brand candy bar my son originally wanted.

Next month, my family hits the road again for a water park getaway, and I’m already planning to bring a cooler filled with healthy options.

What healthy snacks do your kids like?

Wendy Robinson is a writer, working mom, and graduate student. Someday she'd like to sleep in again. She also blogs at www.athleticmonkey.com and is on Twitter as @wendyrmonkey.

Image ©iStock.com/WILLSIE

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