On the Road Again

Weight-wise travel strategies.

Despite skyrocketing gas prices, time-honored family road trips are sure to persist. Rather than those fatty, salty and sugary traveling snack staples, parents should offer children healthy travel-friendly fare instead. It’s easier than you may think!

  • Consider these nutritious and easily transportable snacks.
  • Any kind of pre-washed fresh fruit.
  • Popcorn. For added taste, top air-popped popcorn with “butter buds” or light Parmesan cheese.
  • Pretzel sticks.
  • Nuts, including roasted or raw almonds, walnuts and peanuts, rather than oiled or candied varieties.
  • Low-fat string cheese or chunked low-fat cheese.
  • Cereal bars. The first ingredient should be whole grain, and each bar should have less than ten grams of sugar and a maximum of three to four grams of fat.
  • Dried or dehydrated fruit, such as raisins, apricots, pears and apples.
  • Frozen grapes.
  • Bottles of water.
  • Baked chips or healthy Pita Chips. Prepare your own healthful variety for the journey by quartering whole-wheat pitas before seasoning, baking and bagging them to go.

Beyond snacking, families on-the-go should heed this advice on how to avoid “health traps” while traveling.

  • When eating at a restaurant, steer your child toward healthy menu selections. As cooking technique can make all the difference in the nutritional content of meals, help your child to avoid foods that are fried, and order baked, grilled, poached, sautéed or stir-fried in place of calorie-laden preparations. Up the nutritional content of breakfast by adding fruit and low-sugar yogurt if available.
  • If fast food enters the picture, choose a restaurant that offers grilled chicken breasts, or have your child opt for a plain hamburger with relish, onions and mustard. Children should avoid sauces and mayonnaise, which increase the calorie, fat, sugar and sodium content of a meal significantly. Any sub sandwich shop can be a good choice, with lean meat such as turkey breast, roast beef or lean ham on a whole-wheat roll or wrap serving as body-friendly selections. Fixings like lettuce, tomatoes and any other vegetables and even mustard or ketchup jazz up fast food and sandwiches.
  • In a pinch, most hotels have a gift shop or other store that sells healthy items including bottled water, fresh fruit and individual servings of cereal. Because these items are usually high priced, it’s another incentive to prepare snacks ahead of time to assure your child can snack healthy during the vacation. Dedicate a small piece of luggage to edibles.
  • Even though your vacation may be intended to let all family members relax, a good dose of activity does everyone good. Family hikes and walking tours offer quality family time and get children exercising without them even knowing it. If the hotel has a pool, let children who can swim dive in— and challenge them to lap contests.

Along with traveling, summer is also a prime time to get kids moving. And, exercising need not be reserved for the outdoors; there is plenty children can do inside of the house or in a hotel room to get fit. Here are just a few ideas for fun family fitness sessions.

  • Walk or run up and down stairs multiple times. Skip a step for added intensity and effectiveness.
  • Jump rope. For indoor play involving this cherished pastime, just confirm the child has enough clearance from picture frames, vases and other valuables.
  • Encourage kids to dance away those calories. For video game enthusiasts, consider activity-inspired games like Dance, Dance Revolution and Wii Fit games that get players moving.
  • Calisthenics like push ups, sit ups and jumping jacks are easy to do anywhere and can be enjoyable when you hold a friendly competition.
  • Make way to hula hoop. Again, clearance is key here.
  • Research children’s yoga classes, which are great for developing body coordination, focus and balance.
  • Stretch. Flexibility is another sign of a healthy body.
  • Take a walk, jog or hike. If it’s raining, power walk the mall double time.
  • Ride a bike, skateboard or scooter.
  • Roller skate or in-line skate.
  • Catch a pickup game. Basketball, baseball, football, doubles tennis and other group sports get participants’ hearts pumping and muscles working, and often promote teamwork and social skills.
  • Swim. Keep things interesting by motivating kids to see how many laps they can do before tiring. For experienced swimmers, teach new strokes such as butterfly.
  • Seek out community events including fun runs, walk-a-thons and bike-a-thons that accept young children. The emphasis of such events should be on doing one’s best. These events often support good causes, allowing children to learn the value of fundraising and giving to those in need. Let children pick a cause that is important to them. Then find an activity that matches children’s physical abilities and help in raising funds for miles covered to support the designated cause. Families may opt to spend a couple of weekends prior to the event “in training,” getting conditioned and practicing team-building skills.
  • Take advantage of local activity courses. Many parks and schools have physical activity courses that span fields and trails, with exercise stations interspersed throughout. These courses suit all ages and levels of fitness. Consider having your child visit these courses as a weekly event, with each session focusing on a different theme or pace. Children can walk briskly between stations and then attempt to perform given exercises, from doing jumping jacks to treading balance beams, with a parent encouraging kids along the way. Children can set goals such as trying to beat their time from the week prior. Pack a healthy picnic lunch for kids to savor after the workout in the park.
  • Take fitness-oriented lessons. Find an afterschool program or community center that offers physical lessons or activities. To find local classes and activities, visit www.parentguidenews.com/education.html and click on “Programs” in your area. Your options are unlimited, and may include tennis, dance, golf, swimming, rock climbing, yoga, gymnastics, baseball, soccer and self-defense.
  • Take an “extreme” family vacation. Get your children involved in planning a dynamic vacation that has physical activities for everyone. The vacation may be a simple day trip in your neighborhood or something more extravagant. Children can save allowance money for fitness gear or earn money to be used toward the purchase of specialty equipment by achieving physical goals, like getting a yellow belt in karate or completing a season on the swim team. Aiding in the arranging of an active vacation teaches children about preparation and planning, as well as motivates and rewards kids for engaging in healthy activities. Just remember to bring those healthful snacks for the journey!