Top Tips for Food and Family Travel
When going on holiday it seems that any kind of healthy eating goes out the window, but it doesn’t have to. Miriam from Mimi’s Bowls gives her top tips on how to keep your family eating well when on holiday.
As a children’s food-blogger I get asked a lot of questions about healthy eating with kids on holiday. What’s my advice? What do my children eat? What do I pack? After travelling with my own children (I am a mum of two), some very public meltdowns, never-ending taxi trips to find snacks locally and “hangry” scenes at the airport.... I soon came to realise that holiday food required some pre-planning. With my daughter (nearly 4 years old) holiday food is now much less of an issue. However, I remember my anxiety before travelling with her at around 7 months old. The thought of not having access to my kitchen, or any kitchen, left me in a state of “babyfood panic”. So here is everything I wish I had known about holiday food and kids.
Firstly, it is always advisable to carry supplies that are quick to prepare: whether you are in a hotel or staying in rented accommodation. For small children easy foods like baby porridge, baby pasta shapes and oat cakes (no added salt) are filling and can be the basis of a good meal. I have always been lucky that the hotels we have stayed in have been child-friendly. But, most hotels will provide toast which you can top with mashed banana, or avocado, a plain yogurt which you can swirl fruit puree through, or grilled white fish. When my daughter was little I would mix the fresh fish into ready-made vegetable purees: as she got bigger I would order fish with some steamed vegetables and then mash everything together with a fork. Always request food is prepared with no salt: babies under 1 year should not have any salt added to their food as this can strain immature kidneys and cause dehydration.
If you are staying in rented accommodation and you do have access to a holiday kitchen take a trusty mini-cooking kit with you: a hand blender and multiportion freezer tray. You can then easily prep some fresh purées for the duration of your stay. All you need to do is plan a family outing to your local market and stock up on fresh produce. I blog about recipes that work for the whole family, so if you are cooking for everyone on holiday choose simple and easy recipes that can be adapted for everyone.
Despite being a home cook blogging about healthy baby and toddler food, I do take packets of pre-prepared baby food on holiday with me. They aren’t something I would necessarily use at home, but I find they are invaluable when you are on-the-go or travelling with small children. Choose a good quality brand, with a simple ingredient list, minus any additives. I still use packets of fruit purée for my 4-year-old daughter, as a standby snack for flights and long journeys: convenient and ingeniously mess free.
There is nothing worse than scouring local shops for specific baby brands, when you could be relaxing and enjoying your break. For babies, or children with special dietary requirements: from milk feeds, to exclusion diets, take pre-packaged food supplies with you; or check the availability of suitable products at your destination. Pack what you need, then you can switch off.
All parents will tell you the key tip to travelling with small children is to pack lots of snacks. You can literally never have too many snacks. Not only will they keep your kids sustained but they are brilliant for distracting during landing, or take-off, throughout a flight, long drive, or train journey etc… In the event of any delays (truly every parent’s worst nightmare) you can ensure everyone is well fed. I pack a combination of bought and homemade snacks in my hand luggage: reasonable amounts of food stored in clear plastic bags. I would always advise you to stick to favourite snacks which are familiar: travelling is not the time to get creative and experiment with new food ideas. Picnic style foods really do work best: big heavy meals are not a great option for kids on the move...
Other essential packing items are a few food containers: that you can fill with fresh fruit, or vegetables (cut into sticks). Take them out on day trips with you, just as you would at home. I recommend stainless steel containers as they won’t break and are light to transport. Also pack a couple of drinking cups: it is really important for small children to stay hydrated. Paediatric dietician Bianca Parau advises that children are more prone to dehydration; especially when they may also be adjusting to a hotter holiday climate (they may need more water than usual). She also recommends that when travelling to destinations where the water is not safe to drink parents should opt for mineral water, with the lowest mineral content. Both as drinking water and for preparing formula feeds.
You should now be ready and prepared, happy holidays everyone.
- Take basic food supplies with you: porridge, pasta, oat cakes to be the basis of healthier meals
- For small children find a good quality baby food brand you like: convenient for when you are travelling and airports
- Ask for their food be prepared with no salt for small children
- Take a mini cooking kit, if you have access to a kitchen
- For special milk feeds, or exclusion diets take suitable foods with you, or check availability at your destination
- Snacks, snacks, snacks and picnic style food
- Pack food containers and drinking cups
- Make up formula feeds with water at your destination and if the water is not safe to drink opt for mineral water with lowest mineral content
Written by mum Miriam Cooper, in consultation with paediatric dietician Bianca Parau at https://www.lavie-nutrition.com
Miriam is the founder of Mimi’s Bowl. She cooks modern baby and toddler recipes from her home in West London. She is mum to one little girl, 3 ½ years old, and a new born baby boy. Sharing her honest view of cooking at home whilst offering tips, recipes and ideas; she is on a mission is to end what she calls “baby food panic”. Miriam blogs and posts daily what they eat at home, via her Instagram feed; she is well worth a follow for parent-friendly recipes and ideas.
“I wanted to reach out to other parents, who felt as I did. Firstly, to put an end to “baby food panic” by talking about it and secondly, to really rethink baby food and family food for a busy modern parent. There are so few relatable parent voices out there, and even less tried and tested parent friendly recipes. Only a parent, who has been there, understands the determined rejection given by your baby, toddler, or child, when they repulse at the sight of food, you have lovingly made for them. I would personally challenge any professional chef not to quake at the very thought of a baby, or toddler diner, sitting at one of their tables!”