Paul chopping vegetables on vacation

158: What to Do About Healthy Eating on Vacation

Traveling for spring break? Love to get away from home for the summer?

What’s a healthy eating family to do?

We all know that eating out is rarely full of nutrients, often makes people feel sluggish, is difficult for allergy/food sensitivity fams AND is hellooooooo expensive!

I’m excited to share how many times we ate out when we traveled 6 weeks straight (minivan, not RV) a few years ago and what family trips to Disney are like…because I think we strike a good balance, and our kids are establishing their “normal” as we do it.

3 tips include:

  1. WHAT to eat to keep it “real food”
  2. How to THINK about it when you don’t
  3. How to STRESS (or not) about it and why

Grab some strategies, enjoy the fun photos I share, and head off on your next vacation with some new ideas for nourishment!

Can’t see the video? Watch Healthy Eating on Vacation here on YouTube!

No time for the video? Here are the notes!

Healthy Food on Vacation

  • 0:05: We are unexpectedly heading to Florida next week so I’m planning what food we’re going to bring, what we can prep ahead, and what needs to be frozen. I don’t want to feel yucky on vacation and eating out gets expensive quickly with a family of 6!
  • 1:30: In 2019 we traveled for 6 weeks straight. Every few days we switched locations ranging from staying with friends and family to a few hotels and some Airbnb houses. I calculate that to be 126 meals and we only ate out 15 times in that 6 weeks!

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  • 2:17: Here’s an example of an on-the-go lunch we might bring on a hike. We prepped easy food, but real food. 
  • 2:49: When we did make the choice to eat out it was because we wanted to and it was an intentional choice rather than because we didn’t have another option. For example, when we went to New Orleans we wanted to experience the local food. 

Kimball's eating in New Orleans

  • 3:52: We used our Instant Pot in hotels several times. We even made mayonnaise from scratch while we were gone! Airbnbs are of course the easiest for cooking healthy on vacation because you can get a house with a full kitchen. Here are my tips for using an Instant Pot in a hotel.

If I want my kids to value real food, I take it with me on vacation to show them it's important. -Katie Kimball

Why Would You Bring Real Food on Vacation?

  • 4:50: We determine what is normal for our kids. If we value healthy eating, we show them it’s important by doing it at home and on vacation. We can do the same thing in other areas of life as well, when we travel we still go to mass even if we have to drive 45 minutes one way (which we’ve done before!)
  • 6:18: We try to go to Disney every few years for a day. Lots of people think you can’t take food to Disney but you can. We always bring our own food on day-long outings to the zoo, a park, or a museum. Here’s my post on how we do food at Disney.

healthy food at Disney

  • 8:13: On the first day of vacation we go to the grocery store. I always have a meal plan and my list ready. We choose simple meals and often get some more healthy convenience food that we might not choose at home, but it’s still healthier and cheaper than eating out.
  • 8:52: The last time we were in Florida my daughter took it upon herself to make all our breakfasts, and she had so much fun with it! If you enjoy cooking, vacation is a great time to spend extra time in the kitchen and try something fun!

Chemicals in Pajamas?

Kids spend about half their time in bed and pajamas. Most kids PJs are laced with toxic flame-retardant chemicals or made with fabrics that will melt when exposed to flames and we say “No thank you!” to those in our house!

kimball family in non-toxic jammies

It’s tricky to find non-toxic pajamas, but I’ve got you covered! Some of our favorite brands of non-toxic PJs:

Read more about why to choose organic, non-toxic pajamas.

  • 10:10: When you travel, plan ahead and consider how you can make your real food values happen away from home
  • 10:22: If cooking on vacation totally ruins the vacation feel for you then look for more healthy convenience foods or how to make healthier choices at a restaurant. 

Practical Tips for Healthy Eating on Vacation

  • 11:25: Let’s get into three practical tips for healthy eating on vacation.
  • 11:32: First is to plan ahead. Will you have an Airbnb with a kitchen or are you using an Instant Pot in a hotel room? What nourishing snacks can you bring? Here’s my review of Paleovalley meat sticks, a favorite on-the-go lunch/snack component.

cooking in an Instant Pot on vacation

  • 12:27: Be really intentional about when you choose to break your real food routine and talk about it with your kids. This is a great opportunity for them to understand why you do what you do. How do you feel when you eat out? How’s your energy when you’re eating more sugar on vacation?

Parents worry they’ll lose their food routines on vacation. Make sure you point out to your kids that you are off your routines, but you’ll get back to it when you’re home. -Katie Kimball

  • 15:56: Don’t stress about it! Make an intentional decision for your vacation, own it, and then don’t worry about it. If you’re not bringing your own food, then enjoy it without stressing about what you’re eating. If you do bring food, try not to stress about doing everything perfectly.
  • 16:51: I share a fun story about smoothies on vacation and how we used this teaching opportunity to share our values for health and money with our kids.

Kimball kids with smoothies

Resources I Mentioned for Healthy Eating on Vacation

Eating real food on vacation

What You Should Do Next:

1. Subscribe to The Healthy Parenting Connector

I interview experts about kids’ health every week – stay in the loop with a quick Saturday morning email:

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2. Try a Free Preview of my Cooking Class for Kids

Our members’ favorite lesson is always our 10-minute knife skills and safety class, teaching techniques with unique & memorable phrases from butter knives to chef’s knives (ages 2-teen). Take a peek here and try it out with your kids.

3. Enroll in the Online Cooking Course for Kids:

Enroll now in the Wall Street Journal’s #1 recommended online cooking class for kids (also rated 5 stars on Facebook). See what fits your family best HERE.

About Katie Kimball

Katie Kimball, CSME, creator of Kids Cook Real Food and CEO of Kitchen Stewardship, LLC, is passionate about connecting families around healthy food. As a trusted educator and author of 8 real food cookbooks, she’s been featured on media outlets like ABC, NBC and First for Women magazine and contributes periodically on the FOX Network.

Since 2009, busy moms have looked to Katie as a trusted authority and advocate for children’s health, and she often partners with health experts and medical practitioners to stay on the cutting edge. In 2016 she created the Wall Street Journal recommended best online kids cooking course, Kids Cook Real Food, helping thousands of families around the world learn to cook. She is actively masterminding the Kids’ Meal Revolution, with a goal of every child learning to cook.

A mom of 4 kids from Michigan, she is also a Certified Stress Mastery Educator, member of the American Institute of Stress and trained speaker through Bo Eason’s Personal Story Power.

Unless otherwise credited, photos are owned by the author or used with a license from Canva or Deposit Photos.

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