Anayah Sangodele-Ayoka

    How Not to Fall Off the Healthy Eating Wagon While Traveling – with Children

    Posted December 21st, 2012 by

    The thing about holiday travel is that no matter how fabulous or ordinary your destination you’re probably uprooting yourself from your normal foodscape. It won’t be as convenient to plan your family’s meals as it is on daily basis. Add to that the food personalities of your family members. There may be a toddler with their particular nutritional needs and “selective” palates (our 2.5 year old has declared this a bread week). Perhaps there’s a breastfeeding or pumping mother to consider. Your surroundings may change, but your commitment to nurturing your family with healthful meals will not.

    Healthy School Lunch Meals

    Photo credit: USDA

    One fast-food meal at an airport food court won’t be a total tragedy. However, I find that when we start making exceptions, it becomes easier and easier to do so. Think about it: Those same fast food restaurants in the food court are ubiquitous and are always marketing to you. So, that “one-time” may feel negligible to you, but it’s only the beginning for children. Consider this: a recent report released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Trust for America’s Health projects that the national obesity rate will be over 44% by 2030. That projected increase includes today’s children.

    I like to think that here in New York City, we’re always doing our part to ward off obesity by walking miles a day just to navigate our behemoth subway system. We’ve even worked to improve the food children eat everyday. This fall, our school meals just like most in the nation were overhauled to provide more whole grains, fruits and vegetables as an attempt to stem the growing obesity crisis. The truth is: our state’s obesity rate is at a whopping 29% now, but it will be over 50% by the year 2030 without a serious reverse of course. That increase also signifies the risk of a large increase in type 2 diabetes, hypertension and heart disease. As an African-American mother this is critical to me as these diseases already disproportionately affect my community. It’s almost never-ending work, but we have to be vigilant about protecting our children with access to healthy foods, food and product literacy and encouraging a habit of physical movement now.

    You may have to eat at chain restaurant…it’s OK! But, here are some tips you can use to prepare for your travels and hopefully minimize those occurrences – and save some money:

    Delicious & Healthy Snacks

    Photo credit: Sarah Gilbert

    Snack Packing: Think prepared sandwiches, avocados, cold salads (like chickpear or tuna), crackers, raisins, coconut shreds, avocados, seaweed chips (kids love ‘em!), popcorn or nut & dried fruit mixes. TSA may consider yogurt, hummus, applesauce, etc. as liquids so you have to follow the 3 oz. rules for those.

    Plan Your Transgressions: If you know you won’t be able to pack food ahead of time or find that your plans are falling apart, have some idea of which restaurants in the area have menu items that won’t make you feel guilty – or queezy – later. Look at menus online or on a phone app ahead of time. Places that serve items from other parts of the world will usually have a varied selection of vegetable dishes and non-fried foods.

    Indian & Chinese Cuisine @ an airport

    Photo credit: Janne Moren

    Make Substitutions: Maybe you end up at a rest stop or strip mall with no grocery store nearby. The menu may present a bland salad, but you can have the chef class it up with more color: spinach, sauteed mushrooms, purple onions, carrots. It may not be on the menu, but they’ve got a whole kitchen back there to work with! You can do this with other menu items, too.


    Protect Pumping Time: A breastfeeding mothers who pumps will need her pumping and storage supplies, as well as the time and comfortable space to make it happen. This post from the CDC has great tips on pumping and breastfeeding while traveling, including where to find advisement along the way.

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    Posted Under: Nutrition & Food


    August 5, 2013 at 12:15 pm by sonia

    I try to stay on the healthy food wagon most of the time. But, traveling takes a heavy toll. With limited options and limited budget we tend to make do with MacDonald burgers. Very wrong of us I know. Your article is an eye opener. The next time we are going to be wiser and choose more healthy options.


    December 21, 2012 at 11:28 am by Kim Hampton

    My daughter’s a teen now, and I’m really proud of the choices she makes. Even her airport “junk” food tends to be Sun Chips or mixed nuts and fruit. I’d like to think I had something to do with that. I bought miniature tupperware in fun colors when she was small to make carrots and dried cranberries seem as colorful and enticing as some of the kiosks in gas stations or at airports. This article is full of wonderful advice. Thank you!


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