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Keeping Fare Healthy on Family Road Trips

Posted on Apr 04, 2012 by Guest Writer

It's spring break and for many families that means road trips!

Road trips are a deeply embedded part of American culture, preserved in the minds and itineraries of the nostalgic and carried out almost as an act of patriotism by hundreds of thousands of families every year.  But the long, scenic drives, full as they are of inventive games and good conversation, are more often than not excuses to mindlessly graze on all manner of snacks, treats, and anything else that even remotely resembles food. 

Take inventory of even the most health-conscious family's road trip cooler and you will be appalled to see the kinds of highly processed, incredibly preserved snacks they bring to keep hunger at bay: Twinkies, Doritos, Ho-Ho's, Oreos.  Snacks so nutritionally inconsequential and superfluous they don't even have real names. 

And yet, this is the kind of food we rely on when traveling.  Aside from the obvious dietary dangers of foods like that, choosing unhealthy snacks for road trips also teaches children poor snacking and planning habits.  Plus, by falling back on pre-packaged foods for trips, parents miss a great opportunity to teach their children how to creatively put together snack options. 

 Plan Healthier

A common pretense for buying unhealthy foods for road trips is that they are more convenient than other, healthier foods.  Easy as it may be to give in to that misconception, the truth is that there are dozens of equally convenient foods that are also much better for you, for example:

  • Low-fat yogurt
  • String cheese
  • Oranges
  • Apples
  • Grapes
  • Carrot sticks
  • Celery with peanut butter and raisins (Ants on a Log; another classic American tradition)
  • Hard-boiled eggs

Of these snacks, only the celery and eggs require any kind of preparation, and there are many others that make fine, easy snacks. 

Include Children

Of course, any child will jump at the chance to gorge on salty, sweet, fatty snacks when that is all that's available, but a child's open-mindedness often will impress and amaze parents, especially when it comes to food — as long as the parents include children in the planning.

Rather than suggesting chips or cookies as possible snack choices, parents could easily turn food planning into a game that challenges children to think creatively and healthily about food.  Parents can:

  • Make homemade trail-mix and ask children what to put it in, letting them pour and mix
  • Look for recipes together with children to decide on some new ideas
  • Arrange stops along the route to pick up local fruits or other produce, like nuts, letting children navigate or draw the route on the map.

Don't Allow Bored Eating

People, children included, will turn to eating when there is nothing else to do.  On long, uneventful stretches of road, eating can be a way to past the time, but it is important to stress some other kind of activity, and always keep portions in mind when traveling. 

Bring games and books; tell stories where each person in the car has a turn to add to the narrative; make up social ways to pass the time; anything other than the constant feeding that so frequently happens on road trips. 

It might take a little more coordination and planning to make healthy choices while on the road, but the reward — better family bonding and nutrition — is well worth the effort.


Alvina Lopez is a freelance writer and blog junkie, who blogs about accredited online colleges. She welcomes your comments at her email Id: alvina.lopez 




Wednesday, Apr 04, 2012 @ 09:49 PM

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Good that my son does not have a tendency to eat when he is bored. Although I know that this might happen when he's older. Right now he's too busy playing. Les... <a href="">LPN Salary</a>
Monday, Apr 09, 2012 @ 12:44 PM

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You are so right and your list of healthy snacks is great! It is so tempting to stop off at a fast food restaurant but that isn't he best choice because the food is completely unhealthy.

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