Road Trip!

girl with dog in car

"Are we there yet?"

"I'm hungry! Can we stop and get something?"

Ah summer, the family loaded into the car, hours ahead until the destination. As long as you're making memories, you might as well make everyone happy, and food can play a pleasant supporting role in your road trip video.

As the director and producer of this vacation memory, it'll fall to you, the parent, to acquire the props, which may include a small cooler. Filled with favorite and healthy treats, the cooler provides a better option when your child wails to stop at the next exit to buy (expensive) potato chips. My mother kept a cooler and a bag of additional goodies at her feet in the front seat. I don't know how she did it, all that food crowding out any space for her long legs, but it gave her the power to hand a snack to me and my sisters in the backseat when boredom or hunger ruled, passing us apple and orange slices, even pouring juice into flimsy little paper cups. As always, I find her a good model. She had some healthy snacks, and since it was vacation, there were certain treats that were associated only with a road trip. Something just for fun, to alleviate whining about "I'm tired of that."

Still, it seems advisable to limit sugar intake to prevent your children from bouncing off the windshield. Keep cherry tomatoes in your cooler, convenient in their bite-size shapes, or individual containers of yogurt. Foods that travel well and aren't messy are preferable: grapes, blueberries, baby carrots or for protein, hard-boiled eggs. What about a delicious and nutrient-dense avocado? (It slices easily with a regular utensil.) No doubt your family has a preferred spread or nut butter to put on whole grain crackers. For hydration, remember that coconut water has a complete array of electrolytes.

There also are plenty of nonperishable snacks. Protein and fat take longer to digest, filling kids up for more miles per snack. Try PCC's selection of jerky, which has no antibiotics or hormones. Nuts offer fiber, protein and other good nutrients. Almonds are rich in calcium for strong bones, walnuts are high in omega 3's and pumpkin seeds have added zinc for the immune system. You can make your own trail mix from the PCC bulk section, choosing your family's favorite nuts and dried fruits. Fresh apples and bananas are standard, convenient companions. If your child craves a juicy peach or nectarine, take along disinfectant wipes, choosing wipes or hand sprays free of chemicals that may be harmful to you or the environment. You might want to keep ginger candy handy too, for that queasy child. If popcorn or chips are allowed for your kids, organic and non-GMO choices make healthier fare. And as an extra treat, those (rare) homemade cookies or muffins will be remembered for years to come.

The cheerful sharing of tasty treats sometimes outshines the scenery and often will smooth the vacation highway!

by Marilyn Walls, M.S., PCC Nutrition Educator

More about: nutrition, PCC Healthy Kids

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Marilyn Walls, M.S.

Marilyn Walls, PCC Cooks instructor

Marilyn Walls, M.S., is a graduate of Bastyr University, where she subsequently taught for three years. She has been a long-time staffer at PCC, where she has created healthy recipes and shared her knowledge about vitamins, supplements, herbs and essential oils. She loves to read, and has written articles for local publications. Marilyn is currently writing a book on Alzheimer’s disease and brain health.