Eating on the Road with Little Ones

let's get this show on the road! - mikaela and sequoia in their car seats, ready to go - _MG_1709Post by Contributing Writer, Nada

No journey should ever begin without a plan. No matter whether it’s a day outing to visit relatives or a three hour drive across your state (or province) to attend a meeting or appointment, you should plan as best you can for the unforseen — potty breaks, spilt sippy cups, cranky tantrums, and random diaper explosions.

I find the most challenging thing to plan when going on a road trip is what to eat. Not just what to have for lunch, but also what to have for snacks. No one wants to hear their little one, strapped in a car seat behind them, screaming because she is hungry. At the same time, however, every parent knows the guilt that sits in the pit of their stomach as they see those golden arches looming ahead, so easy and quick, to remedy the situation.

Vintage Soda Pop Coolers

Photo Credit: Adelle & Justin

But there are some great alternatives! A sturdy cooler, a few ice packs, and some well chosen snacks are all you need to provide a healthy, delicious meal plan for your family on the long drive. Here are some things we used on a recent three hour drive our family took earlier this week.

1. Cut Fruits and Vegetables.

It’s so easy to just slice up a couple fruits and veggies. They’re not a terribly messy snack (don’t choose juicy or sticky fruits) and they stay fresh and delicious if kept in a cold cooler. Try apples, carrot sticks, cucumber slices, pear slices or grapes cut in half.

2. Granola, Nuts and Fruit.

Raisins, homemade dry granola, dried cranberries, and peanuts or almonds (if your children are old enough to eat them) are easy and don’t get sticky. If they get spilled, a quick zoom over later with the vacuum will have them taken care of.

queso fresco

Photo Credit: Jen R

3. Cheese sticks or cubes.

Cheese provides protein and dairy on a long excursion and is a quick and easy take-along treat. Just be sure you have lots of ice to keep it cool, and don’t leave it out in a hot car (or you’ll find a little tupperware container filled with melted cheese and grapes — don’t ask me how I know this).

4. Fruit juice with ice.

The night before, put about half a cup or so of your beverage of choice into an empty water bottle and stick it in the freezer with the top off. In the morning before your trip, fill the rest of the bottle with said beverage. As the water slowly melts the ice, the drink will stay cold and delicious for much longer! (Michele’s note- our family loves taking Coconut Water– often flavored with another juice- as an especially hydrating drink option on a hot day. You can do this trick with just plain water, too, if you prefer; and/or adding in lemon slices.)

For lunch, any of the above can be mixed and matched for on-the-go meals. But if you have the opportunity to stop at a picnic table, here are some other things to consider bringing with you.

5. Hard boiled eggs.

They can be sliced onto a salad, mashed with mayo for a sandwich, or eaten with a sprinkling of real salt as they are! Either way they’re filling and hearty!


Photo Credit: Brian Bennett

6. A thermos of soup.

It will seem more satisfying than various lighter items, even if it’s a light soup. Chicken or vegetable broth with cheese and crackers is a great option, but a creamy tomato soup or a savory butternut squash will do the trick too!

7. Cold chicken or salmon.

Another protein source with lots of variety, chicken can be added to a sandwich or salad, or had on the side of a meal. Salmon is great with a little bit of dill dip and spread on crackers. (And canned salmon travels well; just remember a can opener!)

8. Tortillas.

This is the best way to clear out the fridge before a long trip — pack as much as you can into little baggies, toss them in the cooler, and bring some tortillas. When it’s time for lunch, everyone can mix and match what they like for their own wraps.

Leftover meats, vegetables, sauces, and shredded cheese can be combined in a million different ways to create something quick and easy. And hey! You didn’t waste any food, and you didn’t have to cook anything!

Creativity will definitely go a long way to keeping your family well fed and healthy on the road, and keep your pocketbook from being cracked open when the cranky whining begins after you’ve passed that burger chain for the fourth time. Just keep an eye out for anything that could spill, spread, or stain — those are best left at home.

Top Photo Credit: Sean Dreilinger

Nada is a first-time mom to a delightful little girl and the wife to a wise and wonderful man. With a background in fitness and nutrition, she enjoys healthy cooking, green cleaning and especially writing, and has acquired a vast knowledge of interesting little facts… about everything! She aspires to be a Godly woman that her daughter is proud to call “Mom” and through her blog, miniMOMist, she discusses how attachment parenting, minimalism, simplicity and frugal living help in her everyday mission.

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1 comment to Eating on the Road with Little Ones

  • Thanks for the great ideas! We travel a lot (and live on a boat in the summer, which requires some quick snacks and meals while we’re underway). I LOVED the thermos full of soup. What a great comfort food idea!

    Some of our favorite on-the-go snacks are popcorn, fruit leather, bagels dipped in cream cheese, veggie wraps (spread a tortilla with cream cheese, top with lettuce, and roll it up), and lots of sandwich supplies.


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