Whenever I hear the phrase “family road trip”, my head goes immediately to the “holiday road” tune from the National Lampoon movie and I think to myself; who really ties their dead great-aunt to the roof of a station wagon? And the answer is, the one and only Clark W. Griswold.
That movie has made families laugh for many years because it perfectly depicts a family road trip…funny experiences are waiting behind every turn with lodging, the car, or the food. I recall road trips from my youth fueled by Twinkies and Ho-Ho’s and McDonalds. My memories are of long days, late nights and a set of parents fried from the four fighting offspring in the back seat.
Fast forward twenty some years and picture my Subaru, the cargo carrier, the cooler, the dog, the backpacks, the books, and the snacks. Road trips still include some late nights, long days and always a set of parents fried from the two offspring in the back seat attempting to make each other as uncomfortable as possible.
Tackling the idea of what to eat on the road seems like a huge mountain to climb, but with a little preparation, I think you’ll be happily surprised. When on the road with kids, having healthy options available is an absolute must to staying out of truck stop and fast food restaurants. Here are a few tips on how to make that happen:
Avoid fast food on your road trips by avoiding these blood sugar crashing empty calorie foods. You don’t want these items taking up precious space in your cooler:
· White flour products (if going with bagels, go whole grain or pumpernickel)
Stock up beforehand with the following (or similar) items:
· Cheese sticks
· Crackers ( whole wheat or gluten free)
· Fresh fruit ( which you can purchase pre-cut at almost any grocery store to save on time)….apples and pears work well as they’re not too messy and can be cut into slices beforehand and sprinkled with lemon juice to keep from browning.
· Fresh produce: mini carrots, celery sticks, bell pepper strips, etc.
· Mini packets of natural peanut butter such as Justin’s
· Whole wheat pita bread holds sandwich contents nicely
· Rice cakes
· Nuts and seeds
· Pre-packaged trail mix packets (Trader Joe’s carries perfectly sized packets for kids)
· Organic Valley milk in aseptic containers, Rice Dream carries small juice-box sized cartons for Rice Milk as well
· If you’re up to it, go ahead and bake some whole grain muffins or cookies as a special treat. Remember to use alternative sweeteners such as applesauce and real maple syrup.
· Air popped popcorn with a little coconut oil and salt make for a tasty treat everyone will enjoy
· Granola bars-home made or purchased. Watch the sugar content here.
· Dried fruit…this will also help keep everyone “on schedule” for potty breaks as you’re limited on activity with long road trips.
Other essentials to pack:
You can use truck stops for one thing, their parking lot. Pack a picnic blanket and a few jump ropes so in the event you can’t find a nice rest stop, you can pull over to a grassy spot after fueling the car, lay out the blanket, break out the cooler and catch a bit of fresh air, sun, activity and good food. You’ll all feel much better when you get back into the car after you’ve raised your heart rates a bit.
- jump ropes ( not JUST for the kids!)
- picnic blanket
- baseball and glove
- chalk (in a corner of the parking lot, draw lines on the asphalt such as for a relay race or sprints and challenge each other for who can run back and forth in the least amount of time!)
A word about treats:
I was a kid once, too, and though I think we had many more treats than we needed, I always take into consideration what treats mean for my kids and when and how to bring them out. Being on the road for long periods of time is tough on everyone, even with exciting scenery, audio stories and DVD players. Sometimes sugar free gum isn’t enough to tide a child over for one more hour. Though bribery is a fine line, we all know when to pull out the tricks needed to bar off one more question of, “are we there yet?” Having a couple things tucked out of view might be a good idea. I might include all natural licorice, sugar & HFCS free lollipops or perhaps a small bag of M&M’s…goodness knows what I’d do for a few peanut M&M’s myself!
It is also good to remember that food doesn’t have to be the only thing we consider treats. Perhaps we’ve downloaded a few extra audio stories or brought home videos of Christmas at grandma’s house to play on the DVD player to buy a little time. Maybe each child gets a new set of crayons or colored pencils, stickers or beeswax to keep little hands busy and voices to a whisper.
You will reap the benefits of a more harmonious road trip by implementing some of these ideas…though sibling rivalry will be what it is…maybe, for a little humor, the parent who drives the longest is granted a special set of ear plugs! Here’s to many happy road trips for you and your family!
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