With the summer holidays approaching very quickly, many of us are getting ready for travel abroad. Traveling with children of all ages presents various challenges, so here are some tips for keeping them (and mom) healthy both during the journey, and throughout the holiday.
Warding off Illness
We don’t usually believe in overloading kids on supplements or using disinfectants, but now is the time to bring them out:
- A daily multivitamin and mineral supplement: Your child is not likely to be eating as well as at home, and complete multi also ensures they will get important immune boosting micronutrients: vitamins C and D, zinc, and selenium. Many forms are available depending on the age of your child and what they will tolerate: drops, powders, capsules, chewables. Choose one with at least 400 IU vitamin D
- Immune boosting supplements to ward off illness, especially on the plane:
- Elderberry syrup, lozenges, or pastilles. Some also contain vitamin C and Zinc
- Oscillococcinum: homeopathic remedy to reduce duration and severity of flu-like symptoms. Take at the first sign of illness.
- Extra vitamin C and D, and zinc may be needed if your child gets sick
- Echinacea: liquid preparations are available for children, sometimes combined with goldenseal. Take at the first sign of illness.
- Probiotics and Saccharomyces Boulardii
- We all know probiotics are good. A healthy gut promotes a healthy immune system, especially when food choices may be poor.
- The increased risk of food borne illness when travelling increases, and Sacchromyces Boulardii can help reduce the severity of traveller’s diarrhea.
- Give your child plain yoghurt with fruits and a little honey.
- Disinfectants: You don’t need to worry about kids playing in the dirt, but it is important to ward off the nasty germs so rampant in airplanes, public restrooms and crowded public places today. There are many brands around today with less toxic wipes, hand sanitizers and sprays.
Healthy Snacks and breakfast mixes for kids (and parents)
During the journey meals may not be regularly available, and available options are often laden with sugar, fat, and salt. Some good snacks to have on hand:
- Fresh fruit that is easily transportable and less perishable: apples, bananas, mandarin oranges
- Dried fruit: apricots, cherries, raisins, cranberries (in limited quantities, without added sugar)
- Home made trail mix: combine nuts, seeds, dried fruit
- Baby carrots, celery and dip
- Homemade healthy muffins (for a long flight, freeze muffins in advance. They keep well, and will be defrosted in time to have on the flight.)
- Homemade popcorn
- Sushi: cucumber, avocado
- Healthy store bought bars (Go Raw)
- Kale chips
If you are traveling to a country that does not allow you to bring in snacks and you still have further travel, try to find healthier items at a convenience store or takeaway counter at the airport:
- Nuts, seeds
- Fresh or dried fruit
- 100% fruit smoothies
- Plain yoghurt
- Cheese sticks or portions
- Whole wheat crackers
- Coconut water
- Better brands of chips: organic corn chips, or baked potato chips without additives
- Whole wheat sandwich or wrap
Watch out for granola bars and energy bars. Some of these have more than 20g sugar per bar (5 teaspoons!). Look for something with less than 5g per bar, and do not choose those with long and complicated ingredient lists.
Breakfast options are not always healthy and your child may end up filling up on sugary pastries or breakfast cereals when traveling. Bring some homemade granola, muesli, or lower sugar cereals (less than 5g per 100g) to have with breakfast. If you will have cooking facilities make up a porridge mix using oats, quinoa flakes, cinnamon and raisins for a quick hot breakfast. This is also a good time to boost the day’s quota of whole grains and fiber.
With the increasing popularity of juices and smoothies, chances are you will come across a shop selling these. This could be a good snack for children as long as they are made with fruits and veggies, and do not contain added sugars. Note that quantities still need to be limited as children can still overdose on sugars with these drinks.
Try to keep scheduled meal or snack times to make sure kids don’t get too hungry, and blood sugar levels stay even. This prevents temper tantrums, overtiredness, and bingeing on unhealthy food. Make sure kids are fed before leaving for the airport and schedule a snack before boarding the plane. If you know your child doesn’t like the food on the plane, bring a packed meal as well as many healthy snacks to keep them going on the flight. Kids meals on the plane are often low quality and contain sugary juices, smoothies, and snacks. Sometimes a special meal, or adult meal could be a better choice for some children.
Hydration is essential on long flights, and children (as well as adults) often do not drink enough while traveling. Try to stick to water, and if they have juice it should be diluted.
Enjoying new foods and treats is part of the experience on holiday, but balance is key. Decide beforehand how often you want your kids to have treats: for example once a day, or 3 times per week. This includes every meal or snack, so if something sugary and sweet is chosen for breakfast the daily quota has been used. Let children know this rule and give them the responsibility to choose when they want to have their treat, so they are not asking for ice cream all day.
For moms, a similar rule can apply. If one meal is overly heavy or rich in refined carbohydrates, choose something healthier for the next meal: lean protein and veggies. Always check if restaurant menus have vegetable side dishes to supplement a meal. If not, ask for extra vegetables.
Encourage Children to Try New Foods
Whether you are visiting a new country, or returning to a familiar destination, holidays are a good time to encourage children to try new foods. Meals are more likely to be taken as a family, and children may want to eat what their parents or older siblings are having instead of the boring options on the children’s menu. Order family style, or let children taste some of your appetizers before they have their kids meal. Always order side dishes of vegetables.
Local markets can be colourful and interesting for children and they may be more likely to try something new.
Finally, enjoy your trip and quality time together with your kids. We are all so busy and stressed during the school year, just trying to keep up with every day life and school. Have faith that everyone will stay healthy and happy, and most likely they will.