Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Healthy Eating While on Vacation- A Guide

It's that time of year, time to load up the family and prepare for some crazy holiday travel.  A year ago I would have shuddered at the thought of a vacation with the kids- not because I didn't want to spend some quality time with my kids, but because I would have to figure out how to eat with our dietary needs.

If you've been following my blog, you know we've been on the road a lot lately.  I'm a little worn out and ready to enjoy being in my own home, with my own kitchen!  But I’ve also realized that hiding at home because we eat differently isn’t a realistic (or fun) option.  We’ve had some wonderful vacations over the past couple of months which enabled us to reconnect as a family.  If I had been hiding at home with my vitamix, I wouldn’t have all of those amazing memories.  On the other hand, if I had completely ignored what we normally eat and just let my family eat typical road food, we would all be really sick.

With all of this travelling, I’ve realized it can be challenging to eat well on the road- especially if you aren’t used to it.  Today, I want to share the tips I've learned from my vacations on how to eat whole foods and restricted diets while traveling.  Using these tips, we've been able to take several vacations and keep everyone healthy and happy!

1. Plan a vacation that makes eating healthy easy
What's that you say, you want to spend your entire vacation at the state fair?  Enjoy your double fried Oreos and corn dogs, but don't blame me when everyone is sick.  At this stage in our life, I only plan vacations where I can ensure we eat quality foods for the majority of the trip.  Since we've got allergies, this means a lot of packing food and very little eating out.  This rules out a few vacation options, but nothing we really want to do anyway (i.e. a cruise).

2. Stay somewhere with a kitchen
Not only is this the healthiest thing to do, but you will also save a boatload of money!  Finding healthy food at restaurants is difficult- and pricy. I've found that for the cost of eating 3 quality meals out in one day, I can buy our groceries for a whole week.  This is also the best way to keep your family healthy since you can ensure everyone is getting plenty of nutrient dense foods.

3. Pack your own food
This requires a little preparation on your part, but it makes life so much easier on the road.  There are tons of whole foods snacks that travel well (check out the bottom of this meal plan for a list of what I like to bring) but you won’t find any of them at a gas station or airport magazine shop.  Packing lunches is also easy.  I’ll often just throw sandwich fixings in the cooler and make them at lunch time at our picnic spot.
*A note on air travel- you can bring as much food through security as you want!  The only caveat is you can't bring liquids or jells larger than 3 ounce containers (think jelly, hummus, almond butter, mustard, etc).  If you're traveling with small children, this rule doesn't apply (yippee)!

4. Pack your kitchen essentials
I don't leave home without my Vitamix, garlic press and a good knife.  These are things I don't expect to find wherever we are staying but are staples in my kitchen.  Make sure you bring the things you anticipate needing or using often for meal prep. You’ll also want to pack pantry staples that you won't be able to get at your destination.  I like to bring raw honey, coconut oil, almond flour, etc.

5. Meal plan
This may seem like a pain in the butt since you are supposed to be on vacation but I promise it is worth it.  If you figure out what and where you are going to eat prior to going, you are going to get to spend more time relaxing and less worrying about food!  Even if you don’t normally meal plan, do it for your vacation.  This makes it easier to determine what pantry items you’ll need while away! Decide what meals you can make at home and when you'll be eating out.  Then you can figure out when you'll need restaurants and what groceries you'll need.

6. Research restaurants before you go 
If you've got to eat out for some or all of your trip, you want to be prepared with healthy options.  Waiting until it is time to eat is a bad idea- especially if hungry kids are involved! Search the area for organic, vegetarian, or whole foods restaurants.  These key words will usually find local restaurants that have quality options.  I often search for vegetarian restaurants, not because I don't want meat, but because these options will normally be full of healthy veggies and have dairy free options.

7. Think outside the box (or restaurant)
Restaurants aren't the only place to find some yummy healthy food.  Search for health food stores and farmers markets in the area. Often, these will have healthy prepared food that you can take to-go (bonus for those picnics).

8. Don't stress about eating out!
The fact is, the food you eat out is not likely to be up to your standards.  This is when I invoke the 90/10 rule- especially on vacation.  Eat quality, healthy food 90% of the time and don't stress over the other 10% (I just make sure it’s free from our allergens).  For our last trip, that meant allowing the occasional white bread and introducing my kids to s’mores.  When you are partaking in your 10%, just make sure to give everyone extra probiotics and enzymes!

So go ahead, book that vacation!  And know you can stay healthy and enjoy your trip!


  1. Great suggestions! These are the same guidelines we used (and still are using) as we plan our vacation next month.

    I'm actually excited to seek out local farms in the area we're visiting. Never know what kind of cool variations they'll have!

  2. i really love having my own kitchen when we go places. if its a city or something i always try to book a room or suite with at least a kitchenette so i can saute up some real food in between dining at fantastic restaurants :)

    thank you for sharing with us at the Wednesday Fresh Foods Blog Hop! i hope to see you again this week with more seasonal & real/fresh foods posts. xo, kristy