By Gail O’Connor
No matter what kind of parent you are in the kitchen—an exemplary model of good nutrition who makes fresh meals from scratch, or a shortcut-taker who knows her way around a delivery menu—there’s one great equalizer among us all: the road trip.
When faced with miles of interstate and a hungry child in the backseat, we’re all in the same minivan: looking for convenience, and fast. When it comes to nourishment, “the primary challenges for parents on the road are that toddlers are impatient—they want to get there now—and they have a view of all the temptations from their perch in the car,” says Marilyn Swanson, Ph.D., R.D., an adjunct associate professor of pediatric nutrition at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and USDA National Program Leader for Maternal and Child Health. “They don’t even need to read; they know the golden arches of McDonald’s.”
How can you please the palate of your little one—and keep your nerves from fraying—without immediately braking at the nearest source of French fries (the most consumed “vegetable” by kids)? Try these strategies for feeding your children nutritious fare on the road:
1. Take time to prepare healthy snacks.
Invest 10 minutes in putting together some healthy treats to tide the kids over between meals. “Snacking per se or grazing is not necessarily bad,” says Swanson. “What can be bad is making unwise choices in what you snack on.” One mom of two, an experienced road-tripper, goes for the fresh stuff. “I cut up fruits, put them in Ziploc bags and carry them in a small cooler in the car—pretty much anything for my 5-year-old, and peeled apples for my 21⁄2-year-old,” says Vienna Taylor of Westlake Village, Calif. A bonus: “Having the fruit in the car reduces travel time, since we only need to make potty stops,” she says. As for drinks, Taylor recommends water, which won’t get sticky if it spills.
Next: Map out pit stops…