Family road trips are memory making moments! But be sure they are happy memories by minimizing melt downs with your back-seat passengers. As a dietitian, I have always focused on food to help keep my family on an even keel during a road trip (considering we were going to spend so much time in a confined space). Here are my 5 favorite tips.
- Keep healthy snacks on hand: Taking a vacation from healthy food choices doesn’t sound like the recipe for a great vacation. While many car snacks are heavy on the carbohydrates, consider building into the cooler protein-rich snacks that will leave your children satisfied until the next meal. String cheese, yogurt, and nuts are excellent choices to build in more protein. Freezing tubes of yogurt makes for a fun frozen snack that will also help keep everything else cold. Consider buying single serve containers of shelf stable milk so that you benefit from the powerhouse of nutrients in milk.
- Improve the fast food stop: Simply swapping out milk for the soda in your fast food meal will add 9 extra nutrients to your meal. As an added bonus, most fast food restaurants now offer milk in single serve containers that will fit perfectly into the cup holder. And if you need a fun, protein packed, pick-me-up treat, head through the drive through and ask for chocolate milk. Whether white or chocolate, you’ll get the same 9 essential nutrients.
- Get the kids involved: Put out bowls of whole grain cereal, nuts, seeds and dried fruit on the table and let the kids put together their own personal trail mix. There won’t be picking out their favorite pieces if they get to design it themselves! An added benefit is that they will be kept busy creating their mix while you scurry around the house getting the car packed.
- Keep a few food surprises up your sleeve: Secretly plan ahead for an ice cream stop and wait for the squeals of joy when the children see you pulling over at an ice cream stand. Better yet, make it an ice cream stand near a dairy farm for the full “farm to cone” experience!
- Be flexible and allow for a few treats along the way: Perhaps each child gets to pick out one treat from the convenience store when making the gas pit stop. Or if you already know their favorite treat, buy it in advance and surprise them in the car. How many treats are okay? Consider the 90:10 rule where 90% of the food your child eats is healthy food that supports their growth and 10% may be fun treats that boost mood more than nutrition.
We wish you safe travels with many happy memory-making moments along the way!