5 rules for eating well on vacation with kids

With these tips, you can ensure your child eats delicious and nutritious meals during your vacation.

By Yuki Hayashi

5 rules for eating well on vacation with kids
Photography by Michael Alberstat, Styling by Andrea Karr, Shirt, skirt and sandals from Old Navy, Headbands model's own, Sunglasses from Children's Place.

Believe it or not, it is possible to eat healthfully on summer vacation. A little planning can go a long way toward avoiding fast food, all-you-can-eat buffets and convenience stores. Here are five expert-approved ways to help your family enjoy nutritious, delicious meals away from home.

1. Book a room with a kitchen

"When choosing holiday accommodations, we always try to source hotels that offer kitchen facilities. Even a small kitchen can allow for some breakfast and light meal preparation, giving you more control over what your family is eating," says Vancouver-based blogger Claudia Laroye of TheTravellingMom.ca.

2. Pack smart snacks

"Packing your own snacks allows you to keep stomach growling at bay, ensure healthy choices, and maintain your trip schedule," says Laroye.

Non-perishable snacks worth packing include:
• Salmon or beef jerky
• Trail mix
• Mixed nuts
• Air-popped popcorn
• Real fruit leather (not artificial fruit rolls)
• Dried fruit
• Whole grain cereal or crackers
• Nori (Yes: seaweed! A lot of kids love wholesome dried seaweed sheets for their crunchy texture.)

And don't forget the H2O! Refillable water bottles keep your family hydrated while saving money and reducing waste.

3. B.Y.O.C. (Bring your own cooler)
Your new road trip must-have? A plug-in car cooler for keeping perishables cold and fresh. "Some of our favourite road-trip items include cut up fruits and vegetables in containers, baguette sandwiches, and cheese and crackers," says Laroye. Convenient single-serving yogurts or fruit purées are also healthy kid-pleasers.

As you deplete your stash, restock from roadside fruit stands and local food shops.

4. Learn to navigate the buffet

"All-you-can-eat buffets should be your last choice, if at all possible," says Toronto-based registered nutritionist Theresa Albert. But don't panic if you've booked yourself into an all-inclusive with buffets at every meal. (And let's be honest: buffets can be a harried parent's best friend.)

Albert's tips for getting the most nutritional bang for your buck:
• Learn "plate math" and teach it to your kids. "Fill half your plate with green vegetables, ¼ with starchy vegetables like carrots or squash, and ¼ with lean protein," says Albert.
• Use side plates, not big entrée plates. Studies show this helps reduce overeating.
• Finally, "avoid anything deep-fried," says Albert. Barring that, minimize the damage by ensuring kids fill up on healthy veggies and lean protein before indulging in nuggets or fries.

5. Eat local
Avoid the fast-food trap by doing basic reconnaissance—smart-phone-savvy tweens or teens can help!—to find independent and family-owned restaurants along your route. Laroye favours CAA, Yelp, Urbanspoon and Around Me for recommendations. "Local or homemade food choices are part of the fun," she says.

While not every mom-and-pop diner features healthy meals, locavore and farm-to-table cuisine is becoming easier to find. And lucky you: summer and fall road trips are ideal times to discover the seasonal bounty of Canada's green belts.

Cultivate healty eaters by getting your kids in the kitchen! Get those little sous chefs cracking with these age-appropriate cooking tasks.

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