Looking for healthy eating ideas for indoor water parks, but not sure what to have? Here are some plant-based water park snack and meal ideas to help fuel your fun!
If you love playing in the water, there is nothing better than an indoor water park. They are super fun for kids and adults too! There you can enjoy water slides, roller coasters, swimming in a wave pool, and maybe even surfing in mid-80-degree warmth any time of the year!
You may need a lot of energy to enjoy it fully. So get a good night’s sleep and check out these tips when you go.
Energy Needed for Indoor Water Parks
Waterparks are a super fun way to be active. There can be 65 – 100 steps to climb to the top of each ride platform. This can burn a lot of calories: about 10 per minute for a 150 – 160 lb. person. You want to make sure to have a healthy breakfast to keep your energy up for this activity.
Climbing more stairs regularly is even associated with lower stroke risk. You may also be playing water basketball, dodging water spray guns, and swimming and jumping waves in the wave pool. Here is a table of calories burned for more gym and sports activities. Some water park resorts also have gyms and outdoor areas for walking, running, and ropes courses.
Can You Bring Food Inside?
How can you provide the best fuel for all of this activity? Most indoor water parks don’t allow outside food or beverages. Some have standard amusement park foods like pizza, chicken fingers and fries, ice cream, large sodas, and alcoholic drinks, and some have a greater variety of offerings and some healthier options.
It can definitely be part of the fun of a vacation to try different things and enjoy indulgences. However, I think it is better to set aside healthy eating for something that is unusual and of very high quality (chocolate cake, I’m looking at you!).
Here are some ideas for good nutrition without all of that saturated fat and sugar. Some parks may sell salads or garden pizzas. At one I found hummus and fresh fruit also.
Start your day with a good breakfast so your family doesn’t get hungry early in the day. Fiber, protein, and fat are filling: look for heart-healthy unsaturated fats from oils, nuts, or avocados instead of saturated fats.
Here are some ideas you can have at home before setting out, or to eat in the hotel:
- Whole-grain cereal and soy milk with sliced bananas or berries
- Whole-grain bagel with almond butter and fruit juice
- Cashew yogurt (I just had vanilla bean – so good!) berries and granola
- Oatmeal with bananas and walnuts.
- Whole-grain pancakes or French toast: there are lots of easy vegan recipes.
- A whole-grain muffin with melon and coffee or tea: like amazing carrot raisin muffins or easy vegan peanut butter banana muffins.
Healthy Eating at Lunch
If you have a day pass, consider packing a picnic lunch in a cooler which you can eat mid-day, by taking a break from the park. Check if there are any picnic areas or parks nearby. Here are some ideas of convenient things to pack:
- Pre-made wraps with grilled vegetables
- Pasta salad in a vinaigrette dressing
- Yogurt (pre-freeze first),
- Orange quarters
Crunchy ideas for older kids (as per the American Academy of Pediatrics, avoid these foods for children under age 4 due to the risk of choking)
- Sliced bell peppers or cucumbers
- Whole grain crackers with peanut butter
- Baked seasoned chickpeas
- Rice cakes
- Granola bars
- Dried fruit
- Pita chips or crackers
- Hummus with carrot and celery sticks
- Whole-grain tortilla chips with bean dip
Tips for Hotel Room Dining
You will need to book an overnight stay for many indoor water parks. Find out ahead of time if there are refrigerators, microwaves, and coffeemakers in the rooms. With these appliances, it will be easy to bring and make some meals in your hotel room.
You can also check ahead of time for the nearest grocery store. I really like this Thai peanut salad I found at a grocery store. The bag was a convenient two meals for me with crunchy cabbage, carrots, peanuts and a spicy dressing. There is also a good one with green and red cabbage, green onions, sliced almonds, and sesame vinaigrette.
Bringing an extra appliance can open up more options for cooking. But do check the regulations for the hotel firstas this may or may not be allowed. We sometimes bring a toaster, toaster oven, or a small panini grill.
Ideas of Foods to Pack
Pack whole grain bagels, almond butter, bananas, soy milk or non-fat milk, salad greens, tomatoes, salad dressing, yogurt, homemade muffins, bananas, and beans for some easy meals. In addition, frozen homemade soup is a great choice! You can grill seafood or tofu easily on the panini grill. Fajitas are easy to make on this too. If you go out to eat, bring leftovers back to the room to reheat the next day.
Planning ahead and bringing healthy food with you can save a ton of money from overpriced resort restaurants and snack shops. You will also save time compared to going out to eat. Then, you will have more time for enjoying the water park or just relaxing!
Water Park Tips
I would like to share some more tips, as I have enjoyed visiting many outdoor and indoor water parks. Many indoor water parks also have outdoor pools and rides.
- Check the park website before you visit. Look for which rides you want to go on first and check the height and weight requirements. See if towels are provided or not. If they can be checked out but must be returned to avoid a fee, I recommend bringing your own.
- Plan to arrive early. You may be able to beat the crowds and go on a lot of rides quickly. Try to find a comfortable home base area to leave your things. If it’s outside, think about where there will be shade when you are ready to relax in your chair or lounger. You also my want to look for a spot away from loud speakers and the smoking area.
- Consider renting a locker for your valuables. Most importantly, don’t get your car keys wet.
- I like to bring a beach bag. Here are some helpful items to include: sunscreen, sunglasses, lip balm, a ponytail holder, a hat, a book or magazine, a toothbrush and toothpaste, gum or mints, swim diapers if you need them for little one, a waterproof phone case if you have one, and tissues.
My Favorite Indoor Water Park
We used to go to Great Wolf Lodge in the Pocono Mountains, then switched to Kalahari when they opened. At the time it was the second-largest indoor water park in North America, but is now #4.
More Healthy Eating and Travel Tips
- 21 Healthy Beach Snack Ideas
- Healthy Snacks on Your Summer Road Trip
- How to Enjoy Healthy Eating on Cruises
- Healthy Choices from Free Breakfasts at Hotels
Please share in the comments if you tried any of these tips for healthy eating at indoor water parks and how they worked for you!
Originally published 1/13/18. Updated 6/12/23.