Family road trips can be challenging for eating healthily. Tourist attractions, airports and road trip stops tend to be heavy on the hotdogs, pizza and soda and light on anything of nutritional value. A little bit of pre trip food planning goes a long way in making your meals and snacks on the go healthier (and it helps with the travel budget too).
Here are the things I like to pack for when we’re on the road:
Leftovers: We make little lunch packs using up the remaining perishable items in the house. This way the food in the fridge at home doesn’t go to waste and the first meal of the trip is guaranteed to be as-good-as-at-home healthy.
Veggie snack packs: The snack packs of veggies from the supermarket are fantastic. The veggies don’t need washing and they are already in bite sized pieces. Cut up veggies from home are fine too, but these bagged veggies will last longer as they are in a sealed pack. Baby tomatoes travel well too but our kids usually end up with tomato seeds all over themselves when we take those. Pack hummus and nut butter if you want added flavour and protein.
Boiled eggs: Another family favourite is boiled eggs. They are high in protein, come in their own natural packaging and super easy to travel with and eat in a park.
Fruit: Oranges, mandarins and bananas are great options because they don’t need refrigeration and don’t need washing since they are in their own natural package. Apples, pears and grapes also convenient to pack. I wash them (and pat them thoroughly dry with a paper towel) before we leave home. Sometimes we take berries but berries aren’t so happy about being pre washed and carried around so plan to eat them quickly.
Sultanas (and other dried fruit): Dried fruit is super easy to travel with, doesn’t require refrigeration, it’s hard to bruise and it still has most of the nutritional value of their former fresh self. The thing about dried fruit is, of course, all it’s water has been taken out. This means it’s concentrated in fruity goodness and fiber, on the flip side it’s also concentrated in sugar so mini sultana boxes are a sweet treat in our travel box, not the main deal. Also, I always check the ingredients on the packet that I’m only buying dried fruit. Watch out for fruits that are infused with a sweetener (especially check cranberries, cherries and blueberries) or candied (often pineapple, ginger and papaya). I stay clear of those products.
Nuts: Both my husband and I are really keen on salted nuts but salted nuts tend to contain very large quantities of, um, salt. So I make my own little nut mixes with a handful of salted nuts to several good sized handfuls of raw nuts and seeds. This way the mix still tastes salty but contains less salt overall. My home made mixes are also absent of anything covered in chocolate, yoghurt or sugar which are commonly found in the pre made versions (If you really want to have something sweet in the mix, add a small amount of dried fruit).
Bars: I’ve packed some Mariani and Larabars in our pack. Both of these are some of the better bars I’ve seen but they aren’t a “healthy” option if they get chowed down at every pit stop. Whilst I applaud both these brands for using simple, real food ingredients (the Sesame Mariani bar contains: sesame, peanuts, honey, raisins, almonds, sunflower kernels, pumpkin seeds and nothing else and the Banana Bread Larabar comprises almonds, dates, unsweetened bananas and nothing else) they are still a concentrated sugar hit. The Mariani Bar has 9gm of sugar (22% of the bar), and the Larabar 20gm (39% of the bar) and these are some of the better flavors. (Some of the Larabar flavors are almost 50% sugar). These are treats. They’re made of good stuff, they contain protein and fiber and no trans fats, but they are treats none-the-less and should be consumed with that in mind.
For the super prepared: If you have time to pre make your own kale chips (wash, dry, rip into chip sized pieces, oil, season and bake); or roasted chick peas (toss in olive oil and seasoning such as cumin and chilli and bake), or Kat’s pancakes (let them cool, sandwich two together with nut butter if you like and you’ve got sandwiches on the go).
Other handy items for the food pack:
- Hand sanitizer to clean hands on the go before eating
- Wipes for sticky hands after eating
- Hand towels for make shift plates or to wipe up any spills
- A fruit knife
- Water bottles
- Lots of plastic bags for rubbish so you can get rid of skins and packets as you go
- An icebox (chilly bin or esky for my down under friends) for anything that needs refrigeration
- A picnic blanket if it’s summer
Other things we do for a healthier holiday:
- We book accommodation with a kitchenette. It allows us to cut down on restaurant meals.
- Picnics are awesome. We take fresh, healthy food from where we are staying (or if we’ve just rocked into town we find a store). The kids can start eating within minutes of the picnic blanket being down and can run around when they’ve finished without annoying other patrons (or us!). The picnic spot is usual prime real estate with ocean or forest views. Vacation lunch time bliss.
- We plan to walk. We stay where we can walk to shops or have hikes close by. Strollers and back packs where the kids can sit on top of the lunch are a road trip essential for us.
- Cooking everything in the hotel is possible, but it’s likely that there will be some eating out too. Often we can find restaurants with an ok menu for us but most kids menus are appalling and so we don’t order from it. Our kids will share whatever we’re having.
- Holiday treats don’t need to come in the form of calories. A holiday treat I’ve organized for the kids is every night they are going to get to open a book which we will all read together at bedtime. Family fun doesn’t have to be centered around junk food.
Healthy and safe travels!