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With summer upon us, many families are gearing up for fun summer road trips. My family loves traveling, and we tend to travel by car. Living in the Boston area, we can drive to so many great places without the need to buy airplane tickets. From Quebec to the Jersey shore, Cape Cod to the Berkshires, the mountains of Vermont to the Adirondacks, we’re able to appreciate so many types of natural beauty. When we go on vacation, I appreciate the freedom of having our car with us and being on our own schedule.
Our food philosophy relaxes a bit when we’re traveling. We end up eating more treats and processed food on vacation. However, I still like to find plenty of nourishing food for my family while on vacation. We want to feel good while we’re away, and if we eat nothing but junk our bodies won’t be happy with us. I tend to do a lot of food research and planning before we leave home so I can be relaxed about our food decisions while we’re away. Hopefully these ten tips will help you to find some great real food on the road.
Pack real food snacks.
Whole foods that don’t require a recipe, such as fruit and nuts, are great snacks to bring along. We eat lots of muffins and quick breads at home, but I generally avoid preparing muffins for a road trip because they don’t have great longevity in a hot car. Here are some easy snacks you can prepare before you leave that will keep you going along the way:
Find out where the farmers’ markets are.
Plan a picnic at a pretty outdoor space one day, and fill your basket with goodies from the farmers’ market. One of my favorite vacation stops was a visit to Montreal’s Jean Talon Market, an outdoor market featuring beautiful, affordable produce from all over Quebec. We bought savory crepes at their crepe stand and enjoyed them with local mixed berries and apple cider. If you do visit a farmers’ market on vacation, ask around to find out if they sell their produce to local restaurants.
Research restaurants that focus on local food.
Come up with a restaurant plan. I don’t know about you, but for me there’s nothing worse than wandering around a city at dinnertime looking for a restaurant when I’m hungry. This is the antithesis of a “relaxing vacation” for me, which is why I fully research restaurant options and menus ahead of time and plan our days around where we’re eating. Check out the Eat Well Guide to search for restaurants at your destination that include local, sustainable, and organic offerings. Edible Magazine is also a good resource available in many states.
Order carefully at restaurants.
When ordering at restaurants, consider the specials first. These are more likely to be made with seasonal ingredients. I usually ask for dressing and cheese on the side so I can limit the quantity I eat. Avoid meals from the kids’ menu and try to find a better option on the adult menu for your children. Also, unless the restaurant specifies that the meat is grass-fed and humanely raised, it typically isn’t.
Look for food trucks.
If you’re traveling to an urban destination, search for food trucks that operate in that area. Food trucks often serve unique, specialized food that can be better than what you’d find in a restaurant. For example, Compliments Food Truck in Boston is dedicated to local farms and fresh food.
Shop at natural food stores.
Find out where there’s a Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, or natural food store where you’re going. Even mainstream grocery stores can be a better place to get healthy food on the road than a restaurant. Buy some whole grain bread or crackers, cheese, nuts, and fruit for a simple meal.
Search for agritourism opportunities.
You may find the opportunity to pick produce on a vegetable farm, make cheese on a dairy farm, get involved in the maple sugaring process, or even work and sleep at a farm for an extended period of time. This is a nice way to connect the food values you’re teaching at home with your experience on vacation.
Consider B&B’s for lodging.
Look for bed and breakfasts instead of hotels for a more local, homemade dining experience while you’re away. The unique experience of a B&B may be more fun for the whole family than a hotel chain would be.
Look for festivals taking place during your visit.
Check out the events calendar for your destination during the time you’ll be there. In the spring, summer, and fall, you can often find food festivals and produce-picking events that your family would enjoy. For example, if you travel to Boston in the fall you could visit the Boston Local Food Festival as well as pumpkin and apple festivals at area farms.
Take a deep breath.
Don’t be stressed out about food while you’re on vacation. Do as much advanced planning as you can, and then relax. Eat dessert once in a while and enjoy the break from your home kitchen.
I have a Pinterest board with lots of other great tips for real food travel. And you can visit my Real Food Travel Gallery to see healthy restaurants suggestions for many different family-friendly travel destinations.
Please share your tips for healthy eating on the road in the comments.