Eat Healthy on Vacation


Don’t leave good habits at home

If life normally runs at warp speed, you’ll probably welcome the slower pace of summer. If you’re planning a long vacation or making a day trip to the ball game, don’t let an ice cream cone, concession stand hot dog or interstate gas station stop turn into a summer-long bad eating binge.

Common pitfalls

Avoid road trip traps. Gas station convenience stores tempt your tweens and teens. While you tank up, they’ll get out to stretch and beeline for the snacks. Sara Haas RDN, LDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist based in Chicago, IL. advises setting healthy parameters. 

Pre-trip detective work will help you eat healthy en route. “Plan out where you’re going to stay, and choose restaurants ahead of time,” Haas says, “Instead of scrambling at the last minute and opting for fast food, you’ll already have a list of restaurants serving healthy options.” 

No time to plan? Rely on smartphone apps (such as Around Me, Feed or Yelp) for nearby eateries based on your current location. 

Avoid sugary drinks. Once you’ve located healthy options, be prepared for a common trap: free drink refills. “Kids fill up on bottomless glasses of soda, juice or even milk, but they’re loading up on liquid calories, not nutritious food,” warns Haas. “Instead, order water and ask the server to bring out slices of oranges, lemons and limes.” Fruit will add a burst of flavor without the empty calories.

Eat well while away

You’ve finally arrived — now what? One perk of vacation is exploring new places, including local restaurants. 

Tips for eating well: 

Share small bits of high-calorie food instead of avoiding it entirely. 

Restaurants serve large portions; ask for extra plates to split orders. 

Set meal times and stick to them, to avoid “grazing” during the day.


Locate farmer’s markets near or on the way to your destination, and visit them first to stock up on healthy staples. Elizabeth Coover, RD, CSP, LDN of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) suggests that you “Introduce your family to new produce by visiting an area farm.” Several growers in the Philadelphia region offer “summer festivals and pick-your-own fruits and vegetables” where it’s fun to explore indigenous favorites.

Eat in more than eating out. Rent a condo with a kitchen or bring a small cooler for perishable foods. Head to a grocery store to purchase a week’s worth of milk, cereal, bread, fresh fruit, vegetables and canned tuna or chicken. One or two meals each day prepared in your home-away-from-home will also save money.


Food safety on the road

Ensure perishable food doesn’t sit unrefrigerated for more than two hours. During a car ride, place coolers and lunch bags in the shaded back seat instead of the hot trunk to keep those healthy snack and meal options accessible.

Encourage healthy habits

To increase the chance that your kids will eat healthy snacks, Haas suggests letting them pack their own snack bags and include stickers that encourage healthy choices. 

Pack your own picnic. Some places — like zoos, theme parks and water parks — allow you to bring your own food or have picnic areas. Take advantage of that option to save money and control what your family eats. 

Don’t hype the treat. A round of frozen lemonades or ice cream cones is a fun splurge. “When on vacation or visiting special places or events, we tend to think, ‘Oh, let’s just treat ourselves because we never do this,’ says Haas. It’s better, especially if you have kids, to not talk it up so much.

Smart hydration strategies 

High-calorie drinks beckon at your “points of sweat” — the beach, golf course or theme park. Downing these beverages adds up to plenty of empty calories that won’t satisfy your appetite. A solution? If the venue allows it, take refillable water bottles with you for a sugar-free, zero-calorie thirst-quencher to stay hydrated. 

With these solid strategies, you can keep your family eating healthy on the road and away from home this summer. 

Lisa Beach is a freelance writer, humor blogger, and mother of two teenagers. Check out her website at Lisa Beach Writes.



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