Healthy Eating Options While Traveling
Tips to make good choices when on the go with family
Making healthy food and beverage choices when traveling with the family can be particularly challenging. While it’s easy to reach for fast-food and soda, there are plenty of healthy alternatives available to feed you and the kids. Richard Katzenson, a personal chef and location movie caterer for over 25 years, offers his travel tips for eating right when en route to your holiday destination.
Bring your own
“Preparing and bringing your own food is really the best option,” advises Katzenson. “It’s always better than buying it because you know exactly what the ingredients are.” He suggests bringing:
- Simple easy-to-pack finger foods for the family to snack on—like grapes, cut-up fresh fruit, carrot and celery sticks, nuts and granola bars.
- Easy-to-prepare sandwiches: peanut butter and jelly or turkey and cheese.
- Individually packaged unsweetened applesauce cups.
- Whole-grain cereal portioned into plastic bags.
- Homemade snack mix: a combo of whole-wheat pretzels, popcorn, raisins or dried fruit.
- Foods your kids like. If they’re satisfied with what you prepare for them, they’ll be less inclined to clamor for the potato chips when the flight attendant comes around with baskets of them.
- A lightweight cooler pack to keep everything fresh.
What should you avoid bringing?
- Bananas: they get damaged easily and can ooze in your bag.
- Crumbly crackers: they can turn children’s seats into an instant mess.
He cautions to stay away from sodas. “The excess sugar and caffeine can make kids restless and irritable. You want children to be calm when traveling.” Instead of sodas drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. The same goes for packaged juice boxes. It may say juice on the box but these drinks can be loaded with sugar. And like soda can amp up your kid. He adds, “Generally, resist the urge to pacify children with sweets.” They may initially satisfy, but could stimulate them adversely.
What about airline food?
Rallying the family together for a trip can practically resemble a military operation. So preparing travel food can send parents over the edge. “Don’t sweat it,” says Katzenson. “See what the airline offers and make the best choice you can.” While airlines have placed effort into preparing tasty meals, they may not always be the healthiest. He recommends:
- Stay away from entrees with fattening heavy sauces.
- Avoid options with lots of mayonnaise or have an overabundance of cheese. Foods that are too rich can sometimes cause digestive problems, something you want to avoid while traveling.
Eating in terminals
Katzenson says, “Airline and train terminals now have so many types of food available, there’s really no excuse to make bad choices anymore.” However, when hunger comes into play you’re more liable to choose unwisely and find yourself in a fast-food restaurant. He advises:
- Fast-food places now have healthy alternatives. Resist the fried foods and sugary items. But if you already know your children will put up a fuss and clamor for them, stay away from the restaurant if possible.
- Find something with a lean protein and vegetables.
- Hit the salad bar. But go easy on the bacon bits, cheese and dressing.
With a little advance planning and preparation, you can ensure that your family will eat healthfully when traveling. “You’re really at the whim of whatever is available,” says Katzenson about parents unable to bring their own travel food. “So do the best you can and make sure your next meal is a little healthier.”