Spring break season is here, and whether you’re headed to the ski resorts or tropical beaches, if you don’t plan, all the healthy eating habits you’ve worked so hard to instill in your family could be headed out the car window. Here are some tips on how to plan healthy lunches that don’t require a lot of work. If you’re staying at a condo or a hotel with a kitchenette, it’s not only economical to make your own lunch, but you’re more likely to eat healthier if you do so.
While many ski resorts now have healthy options like quinoa salads (a major step up from 15 years ago when beef chili was the healthiest thing on the menu), it seems like the healthier the menu option, the more expensive it is. So be sure to stop at the grocery store the day before and plan out the week’s lunches. You can make these the night before and then carry them in a hydration pack such as a Camelbak or backpack. Pass out snacks to the family to store in their pockets. Here’s a sample day:
- Water: Hydration packs are excellent for making sure you stay hydrated, critical especially if you want to avoid altitude sickness if that’s a potential issue. It’s an excellent investment and they come in kid sizes, too. Most of them have room for carrying food, which is great—so you don’t have to be the parent lugging it all for everyone.
- Energy drinks. Find the smallest size of energy drink that can fit in your pocket or a small backpack. Electrolytes can provide you with a fast pick-me-up if you start to feel dehydrated or tired.
- Apple slices (covered in cinnamon so they don’t discolor) and small oranges. Wait to peel orange till you’re ready to eat them. These provide a good shot of water and energy.
- Crispy Fruit: Especially if you’re a banana lover, Crispy Bananas are the only way to carry this fruit around without it bruising from the cold. All flavors are excellent snacks on the mountain.
- Carrot, cucumber or broccoli slices (lunch-size container of hummus)
- Deconstructed Sandwiches: (Choose whole wheat flatbreads or sturdy bread that won’t smoosh. I’ve thrown out more than my share of flattened bread sandwiches the kids refuse to eat.) Separately pack cheese, meat and lettuce and assemble in the lodge. Try throwing a sturdier green like kale in the mix, which won’t get smooshed as you’re leaning back on the chairlift. Many of the ski lodges on the mountain offer free condiments there you can apply.
- Tuna packets: Tuna now comes in convenient packets with a spoon. It’s a great protein snack and very portable.
- Granola and nuts are great afternoon snacks
- Dark chocolate covered cherries or sturdy oatmeal cookies or treat of your choice. Don’t deny your family a treat. They’ll be expending a lot of energy skiing and if you don’t reward them, they’ll end up guilting you into buying them a plateful of sinful French fries or one of those ginormous monster brownies or Rice Krispies Treats the resorts are known for. You might even succumb anyway, but at least, you’ll cut down the treats to 1 or 2 a week vs. everyday!
- Hot chocolate packets: Instead of buying a pricey cup of it, bring your own packets of hot cocoa or tea from home. Most resorts will either give you a free cup for the hot water or charge a minimal fee for the cup. Then you can not only get a cup of it for a few cents, you can also control how much sugar goes into each cup by splitting the packets. If your kids are begging for it (and they will), you’re giving in but on your terms.
Many of the above lunch tips equally apply to the beach, but instead of hot chocolate packets, you’ll be inserting ice packs.
- Water bottles for all! How many times has one family member grabbed another’s water bottle? Clearly marked bottles for each member of the family, full of clean fresh water will go a long way to preventing germs from being shared and that everyone stays hydrated in the heat.
- Keep to simple foods that don’t need refrigeration in case your cooler isn’t as cool as you thought.
- Cut up fruit and veggies, tuna packs, nut butter sandwiches are all your friend in the heat.
- Whole grain pretzels: If sodium isn’t an issue with you, a little salt will help the family from becoming dehydrated.
- Lemonade: See hot chocolate above. In addition to water, try bringing an insulated container of lemonade or herbal ice tea sweetened with stevia. If you bring your own, you control the sugar level! Otherwise, your family might be tempted to buy bottles of teas or soda from the snack stand.
- Treats: See Ginormous brownies above. Try to bring your own—which you’ve made or hand-selected because you know what’s in them. If they fill up on your food, they’ll be less likely to continually beg you for ice cream.
Ultimately, it’s about not letting the “We’re on vacation,” motto become a way to justify a junk food bonanza the entire week. With a little planning, it’s possible to have an enjoyable vacation with balance and healthy food. And the family will still love you, too!