Top tips for getting your little one to eat healthily on holiday
Travelling with young children is great fun and a brilliant way to teach them about the world. Whilst it is lovely to have joint experiences exploring a new place, as a parent or carer it can also be quite stressful! The routine you are used to at home becomes disrupted; you don’t have access to a fridge stocked with your child’s favourite foods and if you are going abroad the change in time zone can also have an impact on how well your child eats and sleeps!
The family nutrition tips I have provided in this article are based on my professional knowledge and also my personal experience – I have tried and tested these tips whilst travelling with my own two children.
Family feeding on holiday can be difficult
When you are travelling it is often difficult to know what and when your next meal will be and we often find ourselves relying on fast food and snacks to get us through. The temptation is to give into the excited pleas for sweets and fizzy drinks in the hope it will keep your child occupied on the journey.
Unfortunately, the calm period during which the sweets are enjoyed is usually followed by several hours of over-excited behaviour and multiple trips to the toilet due to the large amount of liquid consumed!
Holidays are a time to relax and when you arrive at your destination it is tempting to simply allow your child to eat whatever they want. The trouble with this is that it can leave your child feeling bloated, constipated and out of sorts, which can affect their behaviour and sleep patterns. Furthermore, failing to eat nutritious food will have an impact your child’s immune system and make it more likely they will be ill while you are away.
Healthy Eating Top Tips
- Try to maintain some kind of routine to ensure your child is eating meals and snacks at roughly the times they are used to. This will ensure that they don’t have huge gaps between meals where they become over hungry and will make it less tempting to fill them up with whatever food you can lay your hands on.
- Try to think ahead to where you will be at your child’s normal mealtimes and to have packed a picnic of healthy snacks.
- Don’t rely on airlines to feed your child. There is usually a very limited, and not very nutritious, choice of food on flights. This can be a particular problem if you have a fussy eater. Pack a fun and colourful picnic for your children before you fly. You could include some of the following:
- Sandwiches made with seeded bread
- Cut up fruit (sprinkled lightly with lemon juice to stop if from browning)
- Blueberries and raspberries
- Cherry tomatoes cut in half
- Crudités (like carrot batons, chopped up pepper and cucumber) with hummus
- Chopped up cheese
- Dried fruit such as raisins and dried cranberries
- Oat cakes
- Homemade flapjacks or healthy muffins
- Sugar snap peas
- A ripe avocado (bring a plastic knife and spoon – you can cut the avocado in half with the knife and allow your child to scoop out the flesh)
- Pasta salads
- A good trick for entertaining children in the car or on the plane is to fill Tupperware containers with small snacks they enjoy to keep them busy while they are travelling. Dried fruit, blueberries and Cheerios are all good options to try and are a good alternative to crisps.
- When you arrive at your destination go to the local supermarket and stock up with healthy snacks your child will eat. This will save you money and reduce the number of ice-creams and treats you buy throughout the week.
- If you are travelling abroad, try some of the local cuisine of the country that you are visiting before you leave. For example, if you are going to Greece you could make a moussaka at home or visit a Greek restaurant to familiarise your child with the food before you travel.
- When you eat out try to avoid giving your child fizzy drinks and juices. They are full of sugar and tend to be drunk quickly before a meal. This means your child’s stomach is full before they even start eating and means they are more likely not to eat much. If you want to get your child something a bit different to drink you could try fizzy water.
- Try to avoid temptation at the airport or station. Shops often put lots of colourful sweets and treats on show at children’s eye height. If you want to buy them something buy a toy or game rather than sweets
- If you have a fussy eater bring some food from home with you. You can pack snacks in your suitcase so you know you will have something your child will like when you arrive. You can also buy food at the local supermarket to bring as a back up when you go to restaurants in case your child is unhappy about eating what is on offer
- Try to have most of your meals together as a family because children are more likely to eat when they see you eating the same thing as them
- Choosing accommodation with a buffet style meal service is great when you are travelling with children because it means there is usually a fair amount of healthy choice at mealtimes and children can be served very quickly. Bringing your child up to the buffet with you gives them some ownership and control over what they are eating
- If you need to order from a menu and the children’s menu doesn’t have many nutritious options you can always ask for an extra plate and let your child share what you are having, or if you have more than one child, order an adult meal and split it between them
- A good way of encouraging a fussy child to eat is to have a family game that every family member has to try one new thing each day of the holiday. Give the child lots of praise when they do.
- Talk to your child about why healthy eating is important. Emphasise that eating healthy food will make them stronger, faster at running, good at football, cleverer at reading etc.…sometime children are more willing to comply if they understand why you are telling them to eat healthy foods and so they don’t just think you are implementing arbitrary rules.
- The government recommends giving children between 1-5 years old an age appropriate vitamin supplement. There are a number of options available in most chemists and supermarkets. Bring your child’s vitamin supplement with you so they don’t miss out on it while you are away.
With a bit of luck, meal times on holiday will be fun and great way to spend family time together. Talk about the food you are eating when you are on holiday and how it is different from what you usually eat at home. Ask your child what they like, get them to try new things and encourage them to embrace a new culture.
Finally, don’t worry at all about giving your child an occasional treat; after all you are on holiday!
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