Planning a family vacation can be an exciting time, but if you have a fussy eater in the family, it can also be a source of stress. The thought of finding suitable food options and ensuring your child eats well while away from home can be daunting. But fear not! As an expert children’s dietitian, I’m here to share my top 10 tips for a happy and healthy vacation with your fussy eater. Let’s dive in!
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1. Plan, Plan, Plan!
Research is key when it comes to ensuring your child’s dietary needs are met on vacation. Look for restaurants and supermarkets at your destination that offer child-friendly options. Check their menus or contact them in advance to inquire about dishes that align with your child’s taste preferences and dietary restrictions. This way, you can have a list of suitable places to dine at without worrying about finding suitable food options on the spot.
2. Pack Familiar Snacks:
Having a selection of your child’s favourite snacks from home can provide a sense of comfort during travel and on-the-go. Pack a variety of snacks that are easy to carry, such as granola bars, trail mix, fruit cups, or yogurt tubes. These familiar options can serve as a backup in case you have trouble finding suitable snacks while exploring your destination.
3. Involve Your Child:
Empower your child by involving them in the decision-making process. Let them have a say in choosing meals and snacks during the trip. Before your vacation, sit down with your child and discuss the destination’s cuisine, local dishes, and new foods they might want to try. This not only gives them a sense of control but also encourages them to be more open to trying new foods because they were part of the decision-making process.
Children are visual eaters, so make mealtime fun and enticing by presenting food in creative ways. Use colourful plates, fun-shaped cutlery, and arrange the food in appealing patterns. For example, you can create smiley faces with fruits or arrange vegetables into animal shapes. These visual cues can capture your child’s attention and make the food more appealing and interesting.
5. Embrace Local Flavours:
One of the joys of traveling is exploring new flavours and cuisines. Encourage your fussy eater to try local dishes and flavours by starting with small portions. Consider ordering family-style meals so everyone can share and taste a variety of dishes. Encourage your child to take a bite or try a small portion of each new food. Gradually introduce them to different flavours, spices, and textures. This gradual exposure can help expand their palate and make trying new foods a fun adventure.
6. Stay Hydrated:
Proper hydration is important for everyone, especially in warm climates or during active vacation activities. Ensure your child drinks plenty of water throughout the day. Dehydration can worsen a child’s mood and appetite, so carry a reusable water bottle and encourage your child to take regular sips. You can also infuse water with slices of fruit or herbs to make it more exciting and appealing.
7. Be Patient:
Remember, it takes time for a child to adjust to new foods. Be patient and avoid pressuring or forcing your child to eat. Offer a variety of options and respect their choices. If they refuse a particular food, try not to make a big deal out of it. Instead, continue to offer a balanced selection of foods and let them decide what and how much they want to eat. By creating a relaxed and positive environment around mealtimes, you can reduce the stress and pressure associated with trying new foods.
8. Let Them Help:
Involving your child in meal preparation while on vacation can make them more invested in the food and more likely to try new things. Give them simple tasks like washing fruits, arranging toppings, or assembling sandwiches. When they have a hand in making the food, they feel a sense of accomplishment and curiosity, which can increase their willingness to try new flavours and ingredients.
9. Explore Local Markets:
Visiting local markets and grocery stores can be an exciting and educational experience for your child. Take the opportunity to explore the vibrant displays of fruits, vegetables, and local snacks. Encourage your child to pick out one or two items that catch their interest. This hands-on experience allows them to learn about different foods, textures, and flavours while also giving them a sense of autonomy in their food choices.
10. Celebrate Small Victories:
Recognise and celebrate your child’s efforts and progress, no matter how small. Whether it’s taking a bite of a new food, trying a local delicacy, or showing curiosity about an unfamiliar ingredient, praise their adventurous spirit and willingness to explore new flavours. Positive reinforcement can boost their confidence and make the experience of trying new foods more enjoyable and rewarding for both of you.
Remember, every child is different, and their food preferences and willingness to try new things can vary. By following these 10 tips, you can create a positive and enjoyable vacation experience for both you and your child. Remember, patience, flexibility, and a positive attitude are key when it comes to helping your child broaden their culinary horizons. These tips provide a general framework, but it’s important to be flexible and adapt them to your child’s individual needs and comfort level. With patience, encouragement, and a positive attitude, you can help your fussy eater discover new tastes and enjoy a stress-free vacation together. Embrace the adventure of exploring new tastes and create lasting memories together. Bon voyage and happy eating!
For personalised support in tackling your fussy eater’s challenges and ensuring a smooth holiday experience, consider booking a 1:1 consultation with our expert team. Let’s make this vacation a delicious adventure for your little one!
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Written by Dr Kirsty Porter