By Guest Dietitian, Dr Joanna McMillan
Aside from “Are we there yet?” my kids’ favourite thing to say when we’re in the car is, “Mum, I’m hungry.” Not only does sitting in the back of the family car and not being able to move around create stir-crazy kids – it also seems to create kids that are endlessly hungry.
All the iPods, screens and license plate games in the world cannot prevent the inevitable boredom that will undoubtedly take over when you’re on a road trip. Quite often, kids translate this boredom into hunger. Yet with a little planning, you can stock up on healthy snacks that will stop the hunger and make the car ride a little more bearable.
If your kids are older and past all the soft foods, baby formula and nappies, packing food for a road trip is essential if you’re going to be in the car for more than two hours. Try to avoid stopping at the petrol station and buying junk food – the last thing you need is a restless child with a sugar high. Follow these food-packing tips on your next road trip for a (nearly) nag-free journey.
Designate a food prep person
This should be the parent or other adult in the passenger seat. Leave the driver to concentrate on the road. Pack a cooler-type bag (a soft one is easier to fit at your feet) and throw in an ice pack to keep things fresh.
Pack a rubbish bag
Apple cores, crusts that aren’t eaten, stuff that falls on the ground – all of this will need to go somewhere. Be sure to pack an empty plastic bag into your cooler so you can fill it up with garbage.
Take paper towels
You’ll need something to clean those drips, crumbs and sticky fingers – some paper towels and a packet of baby wipes will do just the trick.
Sandwiches are a great snack for the car, but if you choose rolls or bread covered in seeds, you’ll have them flying all over the backseat. Choose a dark, whole-wheat bread and leave the seeds off for now.
Pre-slice your ingredients
Adding tomato, cucumber or other wet ingredients to your sandwich can result in the dreaded soggy sambo. Rather, pre-slice your ingredients at home and store them in a little plastic container to be added to the sandwich by the designated food prep person.
Choose a simple protein
I’m not a huge fan of ham – it’s salty and processed. Yet, for a car ride it’s less messy than egg salad or tuna. Sliced chicken breast is another good option. Of course, peanut butter is another healthy and less messy ingredient.
Toss in some fruit
Fruit is always a good option for a car ride. A few apples, bananas or mandarins are simple to eat and don’t need to be sliced or diced. Of course, you will be stuck with peels and cores and possibly some spat-out seeds. The garbage bag you packed will come in handy.
You’ll need snacks
If you’re in the car for more than just a couple of hours, you will need a supply of snacks to get you through. Try to provide healthy, filling snacks that don’t need to be kept cool or warmed. A few muesli bars are ideal such as the Freedom Foods Crunchola bars or the new Crafted Blends bars (we also now have XO and Rainbow Crunchers available as snack packs – ideal for the kids). You could also make up your own Ziploc bags with a mix of mixed nuts, dried fruit and perhaps a few chunks of dark chocolate.
Don’t forget drinks
Make sure each child in the backseat is armed with his or her own water bottle. They can keep it near them and reach for it whenever they feel thirsty. Avoid poppers, soda or juice that are full of added sugar and are more likely to lead to upset tummies.
Go for a walk when you arrive
Once you’ve arrived, you’ll probably want to unpack and settle in. Make time for a walk around the neighbourhood, too. Your kids (and yourself) will need to stretch your legs, get the circulation moving and run off some energy.