1. Plan Ahead!
A week or so before our trip I always like to make sure I have plenty of my kid’s favorite whole food, plant-based pancakes ready to go and placed in the freezer in a zip lock bag. The morning of our trip, I pull them out of the freezer and put them in our checked bag and when we arrive at our hotel, I put them in our fridge. This is usually what my kids will eat every morning during the duration of our trip for breakfast, we just pop them in the toaster or microwave to reheat. You can also purchase small packets of nut butter to bring with you to put on the pancakes when you’re ready to eat them or buy a small container of peanut butter when you arrive at the local grocery store.
We also like to make what I call “Pancake Sandwiches” where I use my homemade pancakes as the bread and put peanut butter and jelly inside. This is great to bring on the plane as well or anytime you need food for your kids on the go.
Other pre-made foods that can handle traveling without being kept cold for most of the day that I like to prepare in advance include energy balls, homemade crackers, cookies, bars, mixed nuts/seeds and veggies burgers. I try to make most of the baked items with dates instead of added sugar. You can also pull these items from the freezer the morning of your trip or make them the day before you leave and pack them fresh either on the plane or in your suitcase.
The bean burgers I place in a wrap or whole wheat bun, then top with mustard or other sauce of choice as well as a layer of lettuce. I individually wrap these so we can just grab and eat them cold when we are hungry on the plane. I have also made taco hummus in and past and rolled this in a whole wheat soft shell with lettuce as another lunch or dinner idea that is easy to bring and eat on the plane.
Fruit is another great whole food, plant-based snack to bring on the plane such as bananas, oranges, apples, grapes, and berries.
We also have been able to find some pretty clean vegan packaged snacks that I like to bring with us as well, and I bring enough so I have some left over for the plane ride home.
2. Packaged snacks we love:
- Applesauce/fruit packets
- Any dried fruit with no added sugar or oil such as raisins (best organic), blueberries, apricots and mangoes
- Toasted Oats (or other healthy version of cheerios)-I am able to find some with no added oil and less than 1g added sugar
- Bare (carrot chips, apple chips)
- Love and Chew Superfood cookies
- Whole wheat crackers with cleanest ingredients possible
- Bear real fruit yo-yos
For mom & dad: I like to bring a mix of ground flax seeds, chia seeds, and hemp seeds in a zip lock bag to add to my morning oatmeal. You can also bring oatmeal with or just buy some when you go to the grocery store. If you are staying in a hotel room with no microwave and prefer hot oatmeal, simply buy the oatmeal cups.
Put only water into the hotel coffee maker to get hot water to pour on top of your oats, wait a few min and enjoy warm oats!
3. Find a place to stay with a kitchen or at least a mini fridge and microwave!
It is so helpful to have a fridge and/or microwave if you want to try to eat as many plants as possible during your trip. I like to call ahead and request one or just make sure we are staying somewhere with a full kitchen. We recently stayed at Grove Resort and Waterpark in Orlando which had a full kitchen that included everything you needed to do some basic cooking.
4. Make time on your first day to stop at a grocery store!
I know, who wants to go to the grocery store on vacation, but trust me, if you take the time to find some food that will keep you feeling your best on your trip you will gain that time back. If you have been eating WFPB for a while and totally give it up on your trip, you will feel bad and will likely have a harder time having regular bowel movements and who wants to deal with that!?
On our latest trip I used Instacart so I didn’t even have to shop at the store, I did it all on my phone and it was delivered two hours later.
5. Get creative at restaurants!
Ask for a vegan menu. I have been pleasantly surprised at how many places in larger cities have some plant based or at least vegan options. Now, while they are vegan, they usually are not always what I would call healthy. For example, we went to Disney’s Blizzard Beach Waterpark and they had the impossible burger and brat. The only healthy thing I found was mandarin oranges and apple slices, but I was happy they at least had a vegan option. It was my first time trying the impossible brat after 4 years of eating WFPB because I would not consider the imitation meat products as something one should be eating while WFPB, but that was my only choice, and it was enjoyable. If I were to do it again, I would pack us a lunch instead and bring it in. I’m kind of a rule follower and thought I had read outside food was not allowed but if I were to do it all over again I would have brought it in.
If restaurants do not have vegan options take a look at what they offer on the side. I often will ask for a plate just filled with their sides such as mixed rice, a baked potato, sweet potato fries or mushrooms and onions. Obviously, the fries are not ideal, but when you are out and about especially with kids we do the best we can! I also will look at their menu and ask for something they have listed and ask them to take off all the animal products, ask them to cook it with no added oil and to please add extra veggies and/or beans with the dressing on the side.
Do the best you can!
Traveling with littles is hard. ALL of your time is spent taking care of THEM! I eat a very strict whole foods, plant-based diet at home 99% of the time. When I travel, I try to give myself a bit of grace. Would I prefer that I continue to eat as clean while traveling as I do at home? Yes! But, when you’re taking care of little people you don’t always have the time to pre pack or cook while traveling and I refuse to starve!
Unfortunately, our society has made it the norm to have unhealthy food choices wherever we turn. Don’t let yourself miss out on the beautiful memories that are created on family vacations just because of the food.
Author: Alison Gerrish PA-C, Certified Lifestyle Medicine Professional