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Anayah Sangodele-Ayoka's picture

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’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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