Updated: Aug 3, 2021
Let's face it - trying to eat healthy on the road can be challenging just for yourself. Throw in kids, a husband and even the family pet? It can seem nearly impossible.
My husband and I took our son and 8 year old rescued lab to Cape Cod, MA for a long weekend, and I have found throughout the years some hacks that have helped my family and I stay healthy while traveling.
Eating well on vacation will never be perfect because it is hard to control the quality of food around you. Depending on where you travel you may also want to try the main cuisine or specialty food of the area (and I say go for it! You only live once #sorrynotsorry).
This article is not meant to limit you or add to the stress of "eating perfectly" (is there even such a thing??) but to expand ideas on how you can vacation, order food or pack for a trip differently so you don't have to rely on the endless (or should I say relentless) fast food chains or less than ideal restaurants during your travels.
Where Will You Stay:
3. Hotel with a Kitchenette
We were blessed with family to accomodate us this last trip to the Cape, but if you don't have family or friends in the area (or prefer to stay elsewhere) try looking up an airbnb or a hotel with a kitchenette. This will make it much easier to bring your own food staples and perhaps cook more meals (or the very least be sure to get a hotel room with a mini-fridge so you can store some great healthy on-the-go snacks and beverages).
Camping? No problem - you need to bring your own food anyways and most tips below won't be that relatable (separate post coming soon this summer, promise). You can scroll down to travel hacks and real food inspiration for some helpful tips though!
1. Plan your family's needs with food (food restrictions/allergies, easiest meals for group, favorite snacks, etc.)
2. Look up local grocery stores, farmer's markets and farm-to-table restaurants around your destination.
3. Decide which meals can be made conveniently using real food ingredients.
Hey momma, I know there is so much to think about in regards to packing for a trip with the family - I get it! However, it is so important to also think ahead regarding your meals, snacks and beverages too. I was forced to do this early on because my son Gavin had food allergies and sensitivities at such a young age. In the end, I found it less stressful while out on vacation if I personally prepared and thought ahead.
Planning food for your trip can obviously differ depending on method of travel, weather or destination. For most, it is easy to pack some healthy breakfast options and snacks, while opting for restaurants or cooking for lunch and dinner meals.
Try looking up the area where you will be traveling for close grocery stores and plan a pitstop before or after you arrive to your destination (depending on the kiddos/travel). This will relieve a lot of stress about packing a lot of food for the trip if you have a health-food store nearby (local or a chain like Whole Foods or Trader Joe's).
Alternatively, if the area you are traveling has farmer's markets or farm-stands nearby, I definitely recommend checking them out. You can search ahead of time by entering the US zip code on localharvest.org or searching this site or www.buyfreshbuylocal.org. If you are visiting Cape Cod, the direct site I used (and pictured brochure) is https://www.buyfreshbuylocalcapecod.org/.
Lastly, definitely look up any great "farm-to-table" restaurants, that way you know you are getting as fresh and local as possible. If there are none in the area, call some restaurants that look interesting to you and ask if they will accommodate any food restrictions (i.e. gluten free, dairy free, food allergies).
I understand that the thought of meal planning may seem like you aren't on a vacation at all (or whatever you call watching your kids in a different place...haha) but if you prepare ahead of time trust me it will make the trip a lot less stressful when you arrive. And, honestly, if you don't want to deal and just order out the entire time - go for it - you are on vacation! However, just know you won't be able to control the quality of foods in a restaurant versus if you purchased and cooked yourself.
Real Food Travel Hacks:
Collagen Packets - great to make smoothies on the go! Most juice or smoothie places will be happy to add your collagen packet to your smoothie order - or you can make your own smoothie (see next). Collagen dissolves in cold or hot liquid and is tasteless so you can also add to any coffee, tea, soups or beverages. You can feel rest assured you and family are getting some quality protein, amino acids and nutrients into the diet just by adding this in!
Nutribullet or High Speed Blender - if your destination doesn't have a blender I highly recommend bringing your own. If you eat out the entire time but make healthy fruit and veggie smoothies daily - that would be one amazing, real food hack to be proud of momma! There are even travel blenders with a USB charger available like this one.
Coconut Oil - you can buy individual packets or just bring one small container or jar. This is a great cooking oil and healthy fat for coffees, teas or smoothies. You can even use as a body/face moisturizer, shaving cream or relief from an itch/rash.
French Press - make your own coffee or tea by just adding hot water and steeping your favorite beverage of choice! Some companies make cool travel ones like these or you can just bring an original style.
Organic Chicken Bone Broth Powder - bring your bone broth on the go without having to worry about storage or refrigeration. Add to homemade meals, smoothies or even great to add to soups or stews while dining out! It is easy to add to boiling water while cooking pasta for an extra nutrient boost too. PS great for adding to dog bowls too ;)
Real Food Inspiration:
Pack with you or buy when you get there. Individual/single size packs are great while traveling to or from your destination (and even for vacation adventures while out around town). If you have a kitchen where you are staying you can purchase larger containers or serving sizes for the whole family. The below list is mostly snack ideas but some items can easily be made into a simple breakfast or lunch too!
Grain-free or sprouted granola
Organic fruit (apples, pears, bananas, and clementines travel well)
Nut, seed or coconut butter (individual packets for convenience)
Sourdough crackers or grain-free crackers
Beef or Turkey Jerky (from grass-fed animals like these)
Sprouted nuts or seeds (or an organic trail-mix)
Trader Joe's everything seasoning spice (add to eggs, toast, avocado)
Cinnamon or pumpkin spice (add to coffee, tea, smoothies)
Chia Squeeze travel packs (for the kiddos!)
Coyo organic coconut yogurt (non-dairy)
Uncured, nitrate-free cold cuts, breakfast sausage and/or bacon (Applegate brand is usually everywhere)
Raw, aged cheeses
Full-fat organic milk yogurt (plain, unsweetened, from grass-fed cows, sheep or goats)
Raw, local honey
Guacamole or hummus dip.
Organic celery, carrots, snap peas (easy to travel with or for group snacking)
Travel instant organic coffee - just add hot water; great for flights or hikes (don't forget to bring your own ground, organic coffee with your french press too!)
Traditional Medicinal organic herbal teas (lemon balm, red raspberry leaf and chamomile are great choices). If you normally purchase loose tea leaves, bring with you for the french press!
So of course eating at a restaurant is inevitable right? Here are some tips to make the best choices you possibly can:
Farm-to-Table Restaurants. Eating at a locally and sustainably sourced restaurant will not only have some guaranteed dishes you can eat, but you are also supporting local business, farmers and agriculture.
DO NOT Order From the Kid's Menu. You can easily find a course on the main menu for your kiddos to share or you can share with your little one (depending on age and how many children you have). Macaroni and cheese, chicken nuggets and pizza are not going to cut it anymore. We need to take back this idea that there are only 3-5 items kids will eat. Yes, I understand some kids are picky or have phases - give yourself grace too with this but try to find a little variety if you can along with some familiar foods your children like to eat.
Avoid the Fried Foods. I know it is tempting but try to avoid the fried food appetizers and meals. Opt for a cold plate appetizer, roasted veggies, salad or the soup de jour.
Grilled/Broiled Meat or Seafood. The meat will most likely not be organic or pasture-raised, unless it is a local farm-to-table establishment. Ask for a simple grilled or broiled meat or seafood with some lemon slices on the side (or perhaps cooked in butter and fresh herbs). Try not to have it breaded, fried or with a complicated sauce with too many ingredients.
Load Up on Vegetables. Add those veggies in whenever you can or ask for them instead of fries! Ask for a side of avocado whenever available for you and the kiddos to get those healthy fats in! If veggies are sauteed with garlic and oil, ask what kind of oil (if it is vegetable oil, ask for butter instead or just go for steamed). Yes it's okay to have one slice of pizza with lots and lots of veggies! It's vacation, you CAN relax a bit :-)
All in all, I hope you find one or two things above that you can incorporate into your next adventure. Remember no one is perfect (in diet or in life) and to just relax and have fun with food. It should never add to stress; it should be an integral part of your trip with lasting memories. I encourage you and the family to try some new cuisine wherever you travel. Wishing you and your family real food adventures!