Just because your family vacation is coming up, you do not have to throw in the proverbial nutritional towel. Fast food, junk food, sweets and too much alcohol does not have to be part of your vacation plan.
We have been programmed - to a degree - to think that vacation is synonymous with poor food choices.
Going on vacation has its own challenges - especially when taking a trip with kids. Is it really even a vacation? (Eye roll.)
There’s the planning, packing, costs, transportation, lodging, sightseeing, etc.
I am tired just thinking about it.
Now add to that a hypothetical week’s worth of bad food choices and I am downright downtrodden.
Why Bother Being Healthy on Vacation?
Seriously. As I already said, vacations (especially those with kids) can be challenging enough. Why even work at being healthy when you go away.
Don’t we all just want to eat the funnel cakes and drink the hurricanes and call it a day?
Well, that is certainly one way of thinking about it. Just saying "screw it" and hoping things will work out for the best.
Or, you can “start over” when you get home from that family vacation.
In some extreme health circles, vacations are code for “food failure” where a person goes completely off their program and throws all caution to the wind.
On the other hand, a person may decide to follow a modified healthy eating plan that consists of mainly “healthy junk food” like protein bars, packaged health food items, and processed juices or meal replacement shakes to get by.
Even worse, sometimes the stress of trips can involve both intentional and unintentional caloric restriction, which means your travel diet may not contain the full spectrum of nutrients.
So, even a little bit of effort to “stay healthy” while on your trip has basically backfired and was it even worth it?
No wonder some folks come home from vacation depleted, exhausted and even totally sick. They have just undergone a few days to a few weeks of basic malnutrition, despite needing more nutrients to maintain an increase in brain power, emotional energy and physical activity while away.
Healthy Foodies Take the Road Less Traveled
Imagine this: your whole family can in fact benefit big-time from taking a family vacation with a “Healthy Foodie” mentality.
Healthy Foodies actually go on vacation in search of healthy, fun, quality and interesting FOOD EXPERIENCES to complement their adventure. Say what?!
Yep, Healthy Foodie families actually plan amazing excursions around what and where they will eat. A Healthy Foodie mentality sets you up for success in following your health and nutrition goals.
And, it ensures some extraordinary culinary experiences along the way. Sign me up!
If you are a Healthy Foodie, you happily seek out delicious, local, nourishing fuel while on vacation. Participating in a travel itinerary that includes fresh, organic, whole foods, in the natural forms intended by Mother Nature is the best sightseeing program available in any countryside, city or even on an island!
You and your family may benefit from being on vacation in ways you have not before considered.
- greater sense of vitality and energy, ready to tackle the day’s adventures
- improved sleep (despite unfamiliar beds and lodging)
- water weight loss (most folks gain at least 2-4 pounds of water/fluids alone while on vacation for one week)
- stronger immune system when you get back and are ready to tackle work, school, etc.
- happy functioning of all elimination systems – urinary, digestive, liver, lung and skin
- less fussiness in kiddos + less irritability in parents = happy family time together
How to Plan a Healthy Foodie Family Vacation
If you are planning to go away for a minimum of 2 days, or longer if desired, there is no limit on how accessible healthy culinary experiences can be for you on family vacation.
If your current diet is less than optimal now and includes junk food or fast food, if you have cravings for sweets, reliance on caffeine or alcohol, or consume very few fresh whole foods, it may be difficult to get started on a Healthy Foodie vacation that is essentially 100% good for you and the family.
It will take time to get used to a new way of travel, a new way of eating, and the time and commitment necessary to eat this way (at home and on the road) for the long-run.
A trial weekend trip of being a Healthy Foodie Family helps to jump-start your nutritional health, gives you the motivation to continue, and rewards you with a newfound sense of wellbeing, energy and care for the foods you put into yours and your family’s bodies while on vacation.
After all, family nutrition promotes good eating habits, good health, and time spent together.
Places to Visit or Stay
Some of these lodging options and activities may seem a little far-out at first. But, once you get used to traveling this way, it’s exciting to see how far off the beaten path you can go.
- Farms - you can actually stay on some farms (see VRBO/HomeAway, AirB&B) and included with the price of your room(s), you will likely have access to farm fresh eggs, fruit, veggies, as well as sometimes homemade bread and baked goods. This summer, our family stayed on the Jefferson alpaca farm in southern Colorado and it was a overall amazing experience.
- Farmers’ Markets - just about every town has its central gathering for farmers to bring in the local produce. I have personally visited farmers’ markets in Paris, Costa Rica, the Bay area, Madison, WI, Kauai, HI, Key West, Chicago suburbs, NYC neighborhood markets, Portland, OR, Vancouver, BC, and of course the famous Pike Place market in Seattle (and many more!)
- Distilleries, local breweries and wineries - this is where the fresh, local, delectables of the area are showcased best. Find out which business are partnering to provide a well-rounded food experience with not just their own crafts (like a winery may also feature small plates made from the best local bruschetta selections of goat cheese, heirloom tomatoes and backyard basil - yum!)
- Artisan food cooperatives and food halls - this is where the best local goods and foods are sampled, for sale and a central attraction. In these co-ops, you can meet the locals, see where they shop, pick up their favorite treats and start your own family traditions with fresh new finds. I could walk around in these places for hours and usually find not just amazing local food treats (cheese, wines, fruits, baguettes, etc.) but also can pick up gifts to bring back home. My kids love to find their “souvenirs” in these kinds of places - like organic salt-water taffy from the east coast.
- Local, mom-and-pop health food shops - there are hidden gems anywhere you go. Even the smallest towns will have a health food store tucked away on a side street. The locals know where to find the good stuff - just Google “health foods near me” and you will find something pop up even if you have to go out of your way a bit. This happened to us in the mountain town of Buena Vista last summer while on a 10-day camping/road trip. We found The Lettucehead Food Company and stocked up on all the camping essentials for under $100. I was so happy to have lots of healthy, yummy goodies to put in our cooler for the next week full of destinations.
- Farm to table dining establishments - this is really becoming a “thing.” In Denver, I swear, it’s almost a contest among the new foodie establishments to see who can outdo the competition with the most “local” and “close to the farm” food offerings on their menu. There are also farms who partner with restaurants to do tasting events and will offer a 5-course meal with all the goodies from the farmer for patrons to revel in for a whole evening. Our Colorado favorites:
- Picnics - complete with goodies you collect along your route. Seriously, why stop at the local grocery and just get a box of sub-par sandwiches, a bag of chips and a 2-liter of soda when you can make the journey and food selection part of the experience? A day-trip to Rocky Mountain National Park might route you through Boulder, Colorado, and its farmers markets, food co-ops, farm-to-table dining establishments and more. Pick up goodies along the way to take to your hike or picnic spot.
Foods to Consume While on Vacation
By all means, this is a simplified list. There are so many healthy and fun foods to find on your journey. But, stick to local, high-quality, close to the way Mother Nature intends us to eat, and fresh, fresh, fresh - you won’t be sorry!
- Organic/pasture-raised chicken and turkey
- Grass fed beef, bison and lamb - and products made from these meats like summer sausage, jerky, etc.
- Wild caught cold water fish like salmon, halibut and mackerel - especially when you are visiting a coastal or island area
- Wild game like venison, elk, ostrich and rabbit - if the locals eat it, try it out!
- Pasture-raised eggs from local farms; turkey, quail and goose eggs too!
- Organic fresh fruits and vegetables, preferably those in season and grown locally
- Probiotic drinks like kombucha, found at most health food stores and on tap in some brewhouses
- Baked goods, naturally-sweetened treats, local raw honey, fresh-tapped maple syrup, artisanal chocolates and more...
Sample Day of a Healthy Foodie Family Vacation
Breakfast On a Farm = local peaches and cherries; grilled elk sausage; two poached farm fresh eggs; herbal tea or coffee to drink.
Morning Snack On the Road = chocolate zucchini bread purchased from the farmer’s market in town; local ginger raspberry kombucha
Lunch Picnic from the Local Health Food Store = Hummus, fresh salad greens and sliced deli turkey on local ciabatta bread; homemade kettle chips; a pint of fresh strawberry ice cream from a local ice cream maker
Afternoon Snack = wedge of local soft-ripened sheep’s milk cheese and flaxseed crackers
Dinner in a Brewery = flatbread pizzas made on crusts with artisanal/local flours with wild foraged mushrooms, arugula, pancetta and crushed red pepper; local IPA to drink
Bedtime = 1 piece of homemade dark chocolate bar from the local chocolate/candy shop
10 Tips for Happy Healthy Foodie Family Vacations
- The whole trip does not have to be a foodie affair - pick one meal or snack per day to commit to a foodie adventure.
- If you are hungry – please eat! You do not have to wait until you find the perfect healthy or local or fresh food.
- Drink plenty of water. Add fresh organic lemon wedges to your water for added flavor and staying hydrated while on your vacation.
- Get lots of sleep. Make rest part of your Healthy Foodie vacation - naps, siestas, hammock time, beach loungers, cozy book nooks - all good options.
- Exercise with enjoyment - if you are walking 10,000 steps or more per day on your sightseeing adventures, you don’t also need to hit the gym.
- Focus on slowing down a little, nurturing both you and your spouse, and your kids, and tuning in to your basic needs and comforts instead of feeling like you “must” do something productive or adventurous.
- Eliminate “toxins” from your life - social media, negative news stories, saying “yes” when you really want to say “no”... you are on vacation after all.
- Spend time outside in nature! Take a walk, a hike, a swim, or just lay in the grass and enjoy some sunshine.
- Enlist the whole family to help plan the itinerary and look for the fun, off the beaten path local foodie places; this is a Healthy Foodie family vacation for your kids and partner as well!
- Have fun!