My almost ten-year-old daughter and I recently traveled to Italy. It was the first time I had traveled internationally with a child, and amongst the normal anxieties of travel, food was an additional stress.
In her kindergarten year, my daughter chose to be a vegetarian. I’m a vegetarian, her best friend was a vegetarian, and her teacher was a vegan. I have always supported her choice, as my parents did when I made the same one at sixteen; however, she is kind of dogmatic about eating organic food.
For her, one lesson of travel I tried to prepare her for was to be flexible in food consumption. I am pleased to report that not once was food an issue. Here are five tips I learned from our adventures in Italy.
- Learn the word vegetarian in the native tongue: In Italian, it is “vegetariano”. Fortunately, it is close enough to the English version that even when mispronounced, we were understood. Even if I thought something on a menu was vegetarian, I would double check with the server to ease my daughter’s anxiety. If you fear pronunciation, then simply write on an index card the word to show at each restaurant.
- Pack snacks from home: We packed almost a whole daypack full of snacks from home. These were great for in between meals and provided a little comfort. The [amazon_link id=”B000HVX6NK” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]seaweed snacks[/amazon_link] were an especially nice respite from all of the pasta and pizza of Italy.
- Share meals when eating out: Every meal, we shared a dish. It was plenty of food, saved money, and took the pressure off of my daughter in choosing a dish all to herself. We would select together, compromise, and enjoy. There was group culpability if something was too cheesy and rich, and very little was wasted.
- Order dessert! There are very few desserts that are not vegetarian, and as a result of sharing meals, we were never overstuffed without room for a sweet ending.
- Hydrate: With jet lag and the excitement of being in a foreign land, it is easy to get very tired. When children get tired, they get cranky. One easy way to combat that is to drink lots and lots of water. My motto the whole trip was “hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!”.
Of course, all of this would have been a lot more challenging had we been vegan but not impossible. We had some wonderful meals in Italy, but we relieved to be home to an abundant garden and avoiding all those carbohydrates for awhile.