Summer just isn't quite summer without a trip to the amusement park. But between the cotton candy, chili cheese fries and nachos, you may think your family is destined for a day of nutritionally empty meals and snacks. Eating well at an amusement park can seem like an impossible feat, but it doesn't have to be. You may be surprised by how many nutritious food and beverage options amusement parks provide.
Scout It Out
While you're walking through the park, keep your eyes open for nutritious options. Go for a grilled chicken breast sandwich with a side salad or corn on the cob. Or, squeeze in a serving or two of veggies with a veggie burger, salad or grilled vegetable skewers.
Just because you'll be at the park from dawn until dusk doesn't mean you have to eat every meal there. Before you leave, serve up a healthy breakfast at home. That way you'll know your family started the day fueled up and ready to go. At the park, fill in with nutritious snacks from home. A few well-planned snacks may help cut down on the number of meals you'll have to buy and the amount of time you spend waiting in line for food. Portable foods such as nuts and fruit make great snacks for both children and parents. If the park you're visiting doesn't allow you to bring in food from outside you can still snack right. Many amusement parks now stock nutritious nibbles such as fresh fruit cups, yogurt, and even carrot and celery sticks.
While fat-free or low-fat milk are great choices, so is water. It's important to drink enough water to prevent dehydration, and remember that you'll need to drink more when it is hot outside. Bring your own refillable bottle from home, if allowed. Or encourage kids to hang on to their empty water bottles and refill them throughout the day rather than tossing them in the trash.
Nothing's more frustrating than listening to your kids nag you for kettle corn, giant pretzels and funnel cake. While there's certainly room for the occasional treat, don't feel that you have to say yes to everything. Establish the eating routine for the day before you leave for the park and be sure to bring or scout out nutritious snack options so kids don't go hungry.
But You Can Indulge a Little
That warning about being overly permissive aside, if most of the day's meals and snacks are healthy, it's completely OK for kids to have a treat. But rather than snacking while walking through the park, encourage your children to sit down and savor their food; they may find they enjoy it more. If you are going to have a treat, try to save it for later in the day. That way you won't feel like your kids stuffed themselves with not-so-nutritious food the minute you got to the park and you can focus on what really matters: the fun.
Karen Ansel, MS, RDN, CDN is a nutrition consultant, journalist and author specializing in nutrition, health and wellness.
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