Kids and Road Trips - Ideas for Natural Foods on the Go
Foods for Peace
There and Back Again...But Changed Forever
My four-month-old son had been up for thirteen straight hours.
Instead of being able to listen to the business speaker I had driven nine hours to hear, I had spent the last two hours walking the floor of the foyer with him, quietly wishing he would just shut up and go to sleep.
A few other moms had attended the business conference, and, like me, had spent the time outside the main room, trying to catch snatches of the presentation through speakers in the ceiling of the foyer. The difference between us was that, while most of their children were peacefully napping or nursing, mine was jabbering, bouncing, and screaming. He alternately froze in sleep, and awoke shrieking, because of his inability to truly rest.
Finally, in the darkness of the drive home, he crashed, and slept deeply for several hours.
What went wrong? Why couldn't my child rest?
I could tell the whole, long, agonizing story, but the essence of it is: He was sugared up.
Bad Snack Choices
Good Snack Choices
A World of Good Foods
Enter Child Protection Services
It wasn't really my choice. I had been compelled by Child Protection Services, two weeks earlier, to stop nursing my baby, and put him on formula. He was said to be experiencing failure to thrive. If only they had looked at the weight history of the family, they would have seen their mistake. He was a thin baby, yes - but was only following in the footsteps of his wiry forebears.
He hated the formula. In order to keep him from being taken away and hospitalized, I resorted to mixing fruit juice with it, which made it palatable to him. Hence, the frustration of his road trip debut. Confined to his car seat, he simply could not figure out what to do with his system's urgent pleas for activity.
My little boy was sugared up for at least four solid months, during a prime growing period, before we shook the surveillance of Social Services enough to switch him to unadulterated goats milk.
Now, my son and I work together to keep him balanced. He knows why I don't dare slip him much sugar, at breakfast or any other time, and, when offered a normal sized serving of something sweet by well-meaning adults, he politely says it's too big. Wise, for a kindergartner. He doesn't like feeling fragmented by hyperactivity any more than I like hearing him act like he's about to vaporize.
My husband and I have therefore come up with many ideas for low-sugar, child-friendly foods, and all feel better for not relying on sugar to keep us "up", or make meals convenient. We have taken many long trips, with two children with varying tastes and opinions, and have never since experienced the level of frustration I did on that first road trip as a mother.
Consider the Length of Your Road Trip
When planning your menu, the first thing to consider is the length of the trip. Is it four hours, or fourteen? If it is relatively short, you will perhaps want to pack larger, more meal-like portions, versus snacks, as the kids will not have as much time to feel bored, and will be more ready to go when you reach your destination if they feel fuller.
Second, how early are you leaving? If you can take time to eat breakfast at home before you start, natural peanut butter toast on whole wheat bread, or eggs, toast, and meat in any combination, should do. If you want your children to feel fuller, longer, be sure to add some potatoes, but prepare them yourself, as many commercial preparations contain unnecessary quantities of sugar. Serve water or milk instead of fruit juice.
If you are leaving before sunup, below are some items we have found work well while on the go.
Eggs Are Good Protein for Many of Us
Ideas For Main Courses for Road Trip Fare
1) Prepare burritos stuffed with beans and cheese, (meat and peppers are optional), then wrap in foil. If you don't like them cold, see if there is enough room in your engine compartment to set them on the intake manifold for a while, while you drive. They should be toasty in an hour or two. Any kind of flatbread or tortilla wrap can be used instead of burritos.
2) Slice or otherwise prepare fresh fruit, and divide servings into baggies.
3) Natural peanut-butter-and-something-besides-jelly sandwiches are always a good standby, provided your child does not have nut allergies. Try bananas, sliced or shredded cheese, or shredded carrots. If peanut or nut allergies are a problem, consider some other sandwich, such as roast beef, cheese, or cucumber and cream cheese. We usually prepare a variety of sandwich fixings, from summer squash to corn chips, then package them handily, and prepare as suits our fancy en route. If you don't mind soggy-sandwich syndrome, you can prepare tuna salad or something similar, and fix portions beforehand. Wraps or pita pockets can be substituted for bread, and you can always package the filling of your choice in a freezer box, and make the meal as you go (provided you are not the sole driver). Whole grain bread, or bagels, are nearly always a better choice than white.
4) Because we also avoid preservatives, we prefer to make our own egg McMuffin-type sandwiches. Half-wheat baking powder biscuits with hard-fried eggs, cheese, and meat (your choice) are delicious, and can be wrapped in foil and heated the same as burritos. Other options for easy-to-use egg ideas are egg salads or deviled eggs (experiment at home with your preferred ingredients and combinations).
5) Cold pizza. Some varieties go over better cold than others, but most ingredients stick fairly well, assuring less mess than hot pizza, and tend to keep tummies full for a reasonable length of time.
Trail Mixes Should Have More Protein Than Sugar
Ideas for Snacks
When choosing snacks, consider your children's mental as well as their physical needs. Things that crunch can be very comforting, and fruit can be emotionally stimulating, inducing joyous moods. Don't underestimate the value of things that take a while to eat, such as jerky, or trail mixes with many interesting ingredients, as these give your children something to do, and may be just the ticket as you enter Hour Four of your 10-hour road trip.
1) Sliced cheese and crackers, divided into servings and slipped into baggies
2) Lobster tails or crawdads (crayfish), wrapped in foil for heating
3) Non-sugary crackers (think garden or cheese variety, not Teddy Grahams)
4) Carefully chosen trail mixes
5) Popcorn with oil or butter, herbs and spices (instead of caramel or food coloring Red #40).
6) Veggie sticks or bites (carrots, celery, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, sweet or pickled peppers, etc.). Something different, such as bright yellow or red carrots, purple cauliflower, or star-shaped summer squash slices can be helpful.
7) Fruits, cut small or in interesting shapes. Slicing apples with the "stars" showing can make a world of difference to a child. I only recommend fresh bananas for children four and over, as they are highly squishable.
8) Beef jerky or beef sticks
9) Dried fruit or veggies. You are better off to prepare these yourself, if you can, as many commercially dried fruits have sugar added (and sulfur). Besides, you may be able to offer a greater variety than your supermarket, and some kids love zucchini chips and wild plum nuggets.
10) Deviled or hard-boiled eggs (in a plastic freezer box).
11) Breadsticks, plain or with add-ins such as herbs, spices, seeds, cheese, vegetables, or raisins.
12) Yogurt or kefir, in appropriate sized cups or bottles (if not making your own, read labels and research companies).
13) Plain water, as opposed to fruit-flavored, as the fruit-flavored will tempt children to drink it faster, inducing more rest-area stops.
Final Thoughts on Quality Foods for You and Your Kids
Most types of foods, with forethought, can be turned into good road trip meals or snacks. If you are willing to prepare them yourself, even many normally high-sugar items can be made suitable for sweetener-sensitive people, by adjusting either the amounts or the kinds of sweeteners used. Some people, who normally go bonkers if they sniff sugar, do not react adversely to honey, molasses, pure maple syrup, or stevia. Avoid corn-syrup altogether (easier said than done).
As a responsible parent, just be sure to play the game fairly, and don't insist that your children eat celery while you have a donut or snack bar.
If your children are used to having sugar throughout the day, don't expect to be able to cut their diet back all at once. Sugar cravings are a real addiction, and sudden removal can result in actual withdrawal symptoms, including headache and malaise. The brain functions differently without a constant supply of sugar, and, given time, you will see a happy difference in yourself and your children.
"Test drive" any foods that your children are not used to, before the Big Day. This will allow you to smooth out any problems, or change your game plan.
But mostly, enjoy the scenery, and never forget the paper towels!
Dr. Price's Research - Life-Changing Foundation of Nourishing Traditions
© 2009 Joilene Rasmussen