On Memorial Day weekend, my daughters and I took a road trip to visit family in Pennsylvania. My cousin had a party to celebrate her college graduation and we had all planned to spend some quality time together.
When my daughters were toddlers and we would do this 4-hour drive, I used to pack cheese, fruit and Goldfish crackers as a special treat. I knew the crackers were something they would look forward to since we didn’t eat them at home.
I knew it would keep them occupied.
I knew it would make them happy.
But this line of thinking is all wrong.
Keeping kids busy and entertained in the car is a challenge for every parent. You can bring coloring books, games, and the iPad, but chances are your kids will eventually get antsy and ask are we there yet? at least a few times.
But giving them food is about as unhealthy as sitting them down in front of the TV with dinner. Giving them food in the car to keep them busy teaches them that it’s OK to eat when you’re bored. It’s OK to eat to pass the time. It’s OK to eat because it’s a special occasion.
How many times as parents do we do this? I’ll be the first to confess this is one of my own struggles.
Giving my kids Goldfish or any type of processed, packaged, salty snack isn’t what anyone should be eating on a road trip. For starters, there’s only a small amount of protein and fiber, not nearly enough to make them feel satiated. And the simple carbohydrates will cause a nice spike in their blood sugar. Not good for a nation where children with Type-2 diabetes is on the rise.
In recent years, I’ve noticed that the highway rest stops have introduced healthier options. Most of them are still made up of fast-food restaurants, but you can usually find fresh, whole foods in the mini travel mart but you’ll definitely pay more for it.
When it comes to healthy kids’ snacks for summer road trips, here are some ideas that have worked for me.
Store-bought trail mixes are a good idea but be sure to read labels because many are filled with salty nuts, too much dried fruit and chocolate. Since my daughter has food allergies, I like to make my own trail mix with unsalted sunflower seeds, almonds and a handful of raisins.
Cut up celery, carrots or your kid’s favorite vegetables and pair them with hummus, a nut butter or bean dip.
3. Fruit and cheese
Apples, bananas and oranges all travel well but you can bring any kind of fruit. Pair it with a serving of cheese and you have a healthy snack that will hold over your kids until you get to your next destination.
4. Greek yogurt
Many kids’ yogurts are filled with so much added sugar, you might as well give your kids a candy bar. Instead, pack low-sugar yogurt tubes (I like Siggi’s or make ahead individual portions of Greek yogurt and add your own berries, for a delicious, filling snack.
My kids love to eat beans and they’re so delicious and versatile I make them several times a week. Beans, lentils or edamame are all excellent sources of protein and fiber and will keep your kid feeling full for hours.
What are some healthy snacks you pack for summer road trips?