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June 16, 2022

Staying Healthy on the Road

ThedaCare Certified Dietitian Offers Tips and Healthy Snack Ideas for the Family Summer Vacation

Many families will be hitting the road for summer break. A lot of prepping and planning goes into long, and even short, travels for a family adventure to enjoy the warmer summer weather. 

Sometimes road trips can easily lead to making unhealthy decisions along the way to your destination. Some simple planning ahead can help make the trip a little healthier and even more affordable. 

“The key to healthy snacking is to make smart choices about what you’re eating,” said Ashley Krautkramer, clinical dietitian, certified diabetes care and education specialist, and board-certified specialist in obesity and weight management for ThedaCare. “We understand that when families are on trips, that may not always be easy, so be flexible with yourself and your family, do the best you can, and that is great.” 

Some healthy options to take along include:

  • Fruits (apples, pears, bananas, or grapes) 
  • Vegetables 
  • Whole-wheat bagel with a smear of low-fat cream cheese 
  • Fat-free or low-fat muffin 
  • Pretzels  
  • Rice cakes 
  • String cheese 
  • Unsalted, raw nuts or seeds (homemade trail mix) 
  • Low-fat granola bars 
  • Whole-grain crackers and graham crackers 
  • Low-fat and unsalted microwave popcorn  

Some high-fat choices to try to avoid include:  

  • Donuts 
  • Snack cakes and cupcakes 
  • Chips and crackers 
  • Chocolate bars 
  • Cream-filled cookies 

“While it’s important to build a positive attitude around healthy eating, keeping a neutral attitude about junk food helps prevent kids from wanting the unhealthy foods more,” Krautkramer said. 

If you find that your family is constantly snacking during a trip, Krautkramer said it can be helpful to set boundaries. 

“Try planning designated snack and meal times,” she said. “If you are driving and will need to stop for gas, maybe that’s when you try to plan a snack time. Or you could put the cooler and food in your trunk to avoid eating out of boredom.”  

For airline travel, many of the above prep tips work well if you plan ahead. Pack healthy snacks that you can carry through security. Most of the items listed above can be packed in your carry-on bag. If you are not able to pack your own snacks, look for healthy options at the terminal and bring it on the plane. In most airports, you can find whole-grain sandwiches, pre-made salads, fruit cups, pre-cut veggies, cheese sticks and fat-free lattes. Many airlines offer peanuts or pretzels. These are already pre-portioned to limit your serving. Pretzels have fewer calories, but peanuts have protein and healthy fats that may satisfy your hunger longer.  

Be smart when choosing what to drink on the flight. Always have lots of water to drink and try low-fat milk, vegetable juice, or whole fruit juice instead of soda, alcohol, or caffeinated drinks. Limit the amount of alcohol you drink on the plane. Alcohol has calories with no nutrients and it can make you hungry and dehydrated.  

When it comes to meals on longer trips, it may be more challenging. There are some healthier options at convenience and grocery stores. 

“If you can find a grocery store not too far from your travel plan or destination, you can make a stop,” she said. “Many stores sell prepackaged salads or have a salad, soup and sandwich bar.”  

Krautkramer added that if your family will be eating at a fast food restaurant, encourage everyone to choose healthy options. Instead of fried foods, try grilled meats like chicken and fish. Look for baked potatoes topped with vegetables or salads. Try ordering low-fat milk or water instead of soda. 

“Places that offer customization are really helpful when it comes to eating healthy,” explained Krautkramer. “If you’re on that longer trip and you’re planning to stop for a meal, there are some fast food restaurants where you can customize your meal. You can get a salad or a bowl versus something deep-fried.” 

With children, it might be difficult for them to give up some of their favorite foods on the go. If your child is not ready to replace French Fries as a side, try getting just one serving for all to share. This gives everyone a taste without making them the center of the meal.  

Kids watch how and what parents eat so it’s important to lead by example.  

“Remember, you’re on vacation,” she said. “If you want to celebrate with a little unhealthy eating, it is perfectly fine to treat the family in moderation. Talking through healthy options is also important, get the kids involved and ask what they think is best. In the end, you want to enjoy the time you spend together, which is truly the most important part of any family vacation.”

About ThedaCare

For more than 110 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to improving the health of the communities it serves in northeast and central Wisconsin. The organization delivers care to more than 600,000 residents in 17 counties and employs approximately 7,000 health care professionals. ThedaCare has 180 points of care, including seven hospitals. As an organization committed to being a leader in Population Health, team members are dedicated to empowering people to live their best lives through easy access to individualized care, supporting each person’s own health and wellbeing. ThedaCare also partners with communities to understand unique needs, finding solutions together, and encouraging health awareness and action. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a not-for-profit health system with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs, as well as primary care.