Nutrition: Snacks on the go

By Rosie Schwartz, RD on June 13, 2013
Get your motor runnin’. Head out on the highway. While you may sing the lyrics of this song as you pack up, its title, “Born to be Wild”, is the last thing you want happening in your car as you embark on a family road trip.

Being prepared is key, whether it’s a few hours drive or a dayslong adventure to discover new places. As you know, hungry youngsters make for irritable kids, who will argue over every little thing including whose foot is on the wrong side of the car. For some children, being hungry in a car may also boost the chances of motion sickness. Small snacks every few hours may be very helpful.

Pack a cooler of snacks

Keep eats on hand to make healthy eating on the road an easier task. Talk over the menu possibilities with the family ahead of time so that you have everyone’s favourites. Tote along cut up fruits and vegetables and beverages. That way if you’re stopping for a bathroom break between meals, you can avoid the temptation of venturing into the candy shop or fast food restaurant.

Fruits and veggies and other higher-fibre choices, such as whole grain cereal and crackers, can also help both kids and adults alike avoid constipation problems that can accompany sitting in the car for hours on end. Skip the dried fruit when tooth brushing isn’t possible. Even if you’re eating at a roadside restaurant, your snacks can help tame appetites before heading into the eatery.

If you’re staying in a hotel, fill your cooler with ice before you leave. While you may not have food at the time, you never know what seasonal goodies you might fi nd at a fruit stand. In addition, bring along some bottled water, a sharp knife from home and resealable plastic bags and containers. That way washing and peeling fruit or storing leftovers will be a snap.

Packing a palate-pleasing picnic will help you save money, but it can also help you avoid fat and sodium-laden fast food. Save your appetite and calories for the good stuff.

Do your homework before you leave

For longer trips, check out what’s available along the route. Are there parks or play areas where you can stop for a picnic or a little physical activity? Bring a ball or something you can toss around and get the kids running to burn off some pent-up energy. Then enjoy a picnic with the goodies you have in your cooler.

Check out what restaurants and food stops may be on your route. You might come across some appealing and quaint eateries, but if all you see are the same fast food chains that are at home, then go for the picnic.

Don’t forget to keep your return trip in mind. While you’re heading to your destination, scope out the food shops and delis where you can purchase some yummy picnic fixings while you are heading home.

Safe travels, and bon appetit!

Rosie Schwartz is a Toronto-based consulting dietitian and author of The Enlightened Eater’s Whole Foods Guide (Viking Canada). Read more at

Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, July 2013.

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