10 tips for eating healthy when travelling overseas with children
There is a plethora of forums, blogs posts, and online articles outlining tips for flying with young children, apps to download, and how to make travel with children generally more bearable, yet none discuss eating while in another country. While this may seem pretty obvious, it can take planning especially when in a country that has a very different culture and dietary patterns to you. Since Layla was 13 months old, we have done 4 overseas holidays to a total of 7 countries: China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, the Maldives, New Zealand and Germany. The holidays have ranged from 2 to 4.5 weeks. That’s a fairly long time to spend in a country that eats very different food to what we are used to.
Another really important consideration when eating overseas is food safety and the risk of contracting food-borne illnesses, such as typhoid and gastro. This is particularly important when travelling to countries such as China where drinking water is not recommended, as this creates further implications for how you wash fruit and veg etc.
Below are my top 10 tips to help your children eat nutritious food while overseas:
1. Pack snacks for the plane. I always take blueberries because they are small and relatively mess-free, yet still require chewing which can help equalize the ears during take-off and landing. Other snacks I pack for the plane include yoghurt, apples, dried fruit, nuts, nori, home-made muffins and bliss balls. Just remember that each country has different rules on what food items can be bought into the country. Uneaten fresh fruit and opened food packets may need to be thrown out upon arrival.
2. Pack healthy pre-prepared/ sealed snacks for the trip in your suitcase. Some of our favorites are dried fruit, nuts, freeze dried fruit, popcorn, nori, dried chickpeas and fava beans.
3. When possible organize for breakfast to be included in your accommodation. There’s nothing worse than walking around a strange city trying to find food for a hungry, grumpy child first thing in the morning
4. Where possible order a side of veggies that you know your child will eat. We went to a Chinese restaurant in the Maldives and ordered a plate of garlic broccoli as a side. Layla ate more of that than she did of the meat and rice dishes we ordered.
5. Choose healthier alternatives where possible. For example, choose fruit-based gelato that has a lower sugar content. There were also times in China when we were out and had to grab some “fast food” for Layla to eat (she ate all my pre-prepared snacks). Many fast food chains now supply salads, wraps, apple slices, corn on the cob etc.
6. Where possible, choose fresh vegetable juices rather than 100% fruit juices. This will help reduce sugar intake and increase vitamin and mineral intake from additional veggies.
7. Seek out farmer’s markets for fresh produce. This was such a highlight for us in Germany. We often bought fresh bread, meats, cheese, olives, and fruit from different markets to snack on throughout the day.
8. Pack zip lock bags and take some to breakfast with you. Fill them with different food from the breakfast buffet that your child can snack on during the day. I often take sandwiches/ toast, fruit, corn (this was always available at breakfast in China), muffins etc. I know this is going to be a very controversial suggestion, and I only recommend doing this when it’s difficult to get your hands on fresh produce without knowing if it has been washed with contaminated water (when we were in China) or you are on an island and there’s nowhere to get food until lunchtime (when we were at the Maldives).
9. Take re-usable water bottles and drink plenty of water. You are more likely to stay hydrated if you’ve packed a re-usable bottle.
10. Relax and enjoy your holiday. At the end of the day, you can only feed your family what you have access to, and no one wants to spend their whole holiday stressing about finding a fruit cup!
Hi, I’m Aspen, a university qualified teacher and nutritionist. As one of seven kids, a mum and ten years teaching experience, I understand just how challenging mealtimes can be. That’s why I’m so passionate about giving families a range of strategies to reduce fussy eating and make mealtimes an enjoyable family experience. I also work with schools doing incursions, parent information sessions and canteen menu assessment.