Healthy Food Ideas For Traveling With Kids

Chow on 07.08.11
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Summer is such a great time to travel but, when kids are involved, the packing tends to be a bit more intensive. You have to pack all the kid-friendly extras like toys, books, car/plane activities, lovies, baby monitors, etc. etc. etc. Check out these helpful packing tips here and here. But one of the most important items to remember to pack is a giant bag of food. And because kids eat up to 6 times per day depending on age, packing snacks and food is essential for keeping the kids happy. (And keeping your wallet in check!)

As a registered dietitian with a toddler, one of the most frequent questions I get asked is, "What healthy foods can I take with me on a trip?"  My family has taken many long car trips and plane rides, so I know first hand that the healthy options for eating out on the road or in the airport are slim to nil - just take a look at Kelly's excellent piece on why eating out can be a nutritional minefield. A great resource to use on the road is the Healthy Dining Finder.  The site has a team of dietitians that work with food establishments to find healthy menu items. You simply enter your zip code, or city and state, and it will show you restaurants and menu items with their nutritional content. 

As a general rule, I think it is a good idea to avoid giving children snacks in the car. First of all, eating in the car can lead to chokinifg - and it would be very difficult to preform the heimlich maneuver from the driver's seat. Also, when you constantly give kids snacks in the car they come to expect them. It makes breaking the habit very difficult and there may be several tantrums on future car rides. I do recommend stopping and having a rest stop picnic whenever possible. Nevertheless, when on long road trips eating in the car is sometimes unavoidable. My best advice is to pack a large bag and cooler with healthy options that can keep the kids energized, and avoid the stress of finding healthy foods on the road or in the airport terminal.

Healthy Snacks to Pack When Traveling

1. Fruit and Veggies:

  • Make a fruit salad with melon and berries ahead of time and keep it in the cooler. Bring toothpicks to make it fun to eat
  • Bananas and apples are the perfect pre-wrapped snack
  • Rasins, banana chips, or dried fruit
  • Peas and edamame are super tasty cold and fun to eat with fingers
  • Carrot, zucchini, and celery sticks pre-cut with peanut butter or hummus are great to dip
  • Crunchy dried soybean, pea, and chickpea snacks

2. Breakfast, Lunch, or Dinner

  • Sandwiches: Peanut butter and honey (for kids over 1 year), hummus and cheese, turkey and avocado, ham and cheese
  • Pasta or bean salad with veggies and an herb vinaigrette
  • Soft meats cut into strips

3. Packaged Foods

These healthy food ideas should keep hunger at bay while traveling.  My family recently took a 10 hour trip to the midwest and we packed several of the above foods. It was so nice to have these foods at our fingertips instead of trying to find the right restaurant to stop in at the right time. Now we just have to convince our daughter that she is not owed rasins every time we drive to the library...

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