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How to Handle Picky Eaters on the Road

by Susan Finch

May 20, 2018

Rawpixelimages | Dreamstime.com

Travel Tips

You’ve spent months figuring out the painstaking logistics of your family vacation, from where to stay to where to play. But you conveniently let it slip your mind your child won’t budge on eating anything outside of their own internal pre-set menu ranging from applesauce pouches to cheeseburgers.


You may have tricks up your sleeve that work at home, like threats of bedtime at 3 p.m. or hiding more fruits and veggies in smoothies, but it’s difficult to orchestrate that same kind of camouflage on the road. That’s why you need a game plan to cover your bases and make sure your kids come home reasonably well-fed. Here’s how to handle picky eaters on the road.


Hit the Grocery Store

Local grocery stores are your friend when it comes to traveling with kids. Even hotels offer enough flexibility for a little grocery shopping, from warming up soups in the microwave to baked potatoes with butter and sour cream stashed in the refrigerator. Bonus points if you’re staying in an Airbnb and can cook up some of your kids’ favorite meals.


Eat Before the Restaurant

eating pasta in indoors restaurant

© Marysmn | Dreamstime.com

It’s not always possible, or desirable, to eat at your hotel or accommodations on a family vacation. Besides, eating out is allegedly part of the adventure. You may not be able to convince your kids to eat something new, but you can feed them some raw veggies like carrots and celery sticks before you ever leave your hotel. Then compromise they can order the fries or coveted chicken fingers after finishing up their healthy snack. Not only will you ensure they’re getting some nutrition, but you’ll also save money at the restaurant.


Just Eat Healthy Snacks for Dinner

Don’t worry if your kids just flat-out refuse to eat meals on the road that involve anything that doesn’t resemble their favorite hot dogs and hamburgers cooked to their precise specifications. Just let them eat healthy snacks for dinner and call it a day. Load up on fresh veggies, fruits, nuts, cheese and maybe a little peanut butter for a semi-healthy indulgence.


Work Up an Appetite

Lessen much of your picky eating woes simply by letting your kids work up an appetite. Get your kids outdoors at the beach, climbing at a playground or spend a few hours hiking before heading to the restaurant for dinner. The idea is your kids will be hungry enough to actually eat something that stretches beyond their comfort zone. Of course, there’s a delicate balance between hungry and “hangry” (hungry-angry) so tread lightly on this tip.


Offer a Bribe

Most kids will respond to a little bribe, whether it’s dessert or a small toy for trying something new. Let your kids know you would be happy to indulge in their coveted item if they try the dish you want them to eat and consume at least half of it or whatever a reasonable amount is to you. But remember to let them know this is a one-time only deal and a special family vacation occasion. Otherwise they might request the same bribe the next time you make broccoli at home they’re just not interested in eating.


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