With summer holidays on the horizon, it's a good time to start thinking about healthy food choices for the road, train, or when you're 40,000 feet in the air. Airport and train station food is often packed with salt, sugar, and saturated fat, with barely a trace of fibre, let alone vitamins and minerals. No wonder the kids (and adults!) can get cranky when travelling! To minimize the risk of meltdown on the tarmac, here are a few top tips for healthy summer travel with kids.
Choose Healthier Whole Grains
Potato chips, granola bars, and even yoghurts marketed at kids are often packed with added sugar that spikes blood glucose levels and causes major energy swings (not to mention mood changes). Don't self-sabotage! Plan ahead by making low-sugar granola bars at home that are sweetened with real fruit like dates, bananas, and berries.
Other great ways to stay on top of hunger include packing pita chips and houmous for a high fibre, high protein snack. Or, chop up veggies like celery, carrots, cucumber, and peppers to make dippable veggie sticks for houmous or a tahini dip that will also help keep you hydrated. The garlic in that houmous will also help support immune function, essential for when you're on a long-haul flight with recirculating air!
Make your own smoothies!
Homemade smoothies are a great way to get even the youngest members of the family involved with travel planning. With everyone able to choose their own ingredients to make a perfectly tailored smoothie for the road, you're presented with an excellent opportunity for educating your brood about nutrition, food economics, and basic culinary skills. And, by using reusable canteens you can skip the plastic packaging and add in a little lesson on environmental stewardship.
If you're flying and can't take your own readymade antioxidant packed drink for mid-flight, green food powders with added fruit and vegetable blends for flavour and colour are an excellent idea.
Make food fun
Let's face it, reaching your destination without someone getting cranky can seem like a minor miracle when you're traveling on a hot summer day with kids. Make your road snacks do double duty by choosing foods that can also be an entertaining challenge.
Some examples include steamed and lightly salted edamame that the kids will need to pop to eat the beans, or podded English peas. Or, how about bringing whole grain cereal O's and liquorice laces and getting the kids to make themselves a necklace or bracelet.
Other fun things to do are to print out food fact cards listing the amount of calories, vitamin C, fibre, calcium, protein, and other key nutrients in a serving size. Get the kids to play, learn, and earn snacks for every card they acquire. Throw in some junk food cards for good measure, helping kids to foster some negative associations with nutrient-poor foods.
Super Simple Quick Snacks for the Road
A packed itinerary and a new environment can make it hard to find the time and place to eat a healthy meal. Keeping everyone on track with satisfied appetites means carrying an array of snacks that are quick to eat, not too messy, and that offer protein, fibre, healthy fats, and sustained energy.
If you're struggling for snack foods on the go, consider preparing and packing:
- Powdered peanut butter or houmous with crackers or veggie crudités
- Fruit jerky or tofu jerky
- Baby food packets (ideal for the whole family!)
- Apple pieces sprinkled with a little lemon juice and sealed in a reusable food bag
- Celery sticks filled with almond butter and raisins (ants on a log!)
- Nuts and bolts (raw nut pieces and whole grain cereal pieces)
- Bananas, satsumas, and other fruit that comes in its own packaging!
Take some time to think about digestive support before travelling. The stress of travel, changes in time zone (and loss of sleep), temperature changes, new foods, and possible food and waterborne pathogens can all upset digestion. Packing travel safe probiotics can help you avoid travellers' diarrhea and have a memorable trip for all the right reasons.