Summer is here, and many of us will soon be off on a vacation of some kind. Whether you are traveling by train, plane or automobile, packing healthy travel snacks is a must for children and teens. The last thing a family wants to do is stop at a gas station or a local convenience store while rushing to get to their destination. Not only does it waste valuable travel time (and money), but it also makes it difficult to make healthy choices.
Sometimes, a little bit of planning can make all the difference. Even if you are unable to plan or need an unexpected snack, many of these snacks can be purchased at the airport, convenience store or gas station.
Consider these tips while creating your healthy snack shopping list
- Look for high fiber and protein snacks: This helps promote satiety, which prevents frequent snacking. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, dairy, and nuts are good choices.
- Use single serving containers: Look for foods in single-serving packaging, or portion them out yourself. Giving a child a multiple-serving snack bag without any portion control is a recipe for disaster. Single-serving snack packs prevent “boredom snacking” and overeating, especially on those lengthy car rides.
- Choose high water content foods: Most often, hydration declines on long trips, which can affect your child’s mood. Stay hydrated by choosing foods with a high water content, such as fruits and vegetables. Don’t forget to provide the family with a refillable water bottle.
- Food safety first: When in doubt, pack snacks that can be safely held at room temperature. Refrigerated foods kept at the “danger zone” (40 – 140 degrees Fahrenheit) can put your child at risk for food poisoning. Remember to pack a cooler or choose shelf-stable snacks.
Here are some healthy snack ideas to try on your upcoming summer vacation
- DIY trail mix: Mix together whole-grain cereal, dried fruit, nuts, pretzels, and a few chocolate chips. Portion out into single-serving baggies or containers. This snack is packed with protein and fiber to keep kids full and happy. Plus, it is fun for the kids to make before their trip.
- Pre-sliced fruits and veggies: Grapes, sliced apples, baby carrots, bananas, celery sticks, broccoli florets, sliced strawberries and blueberries are all good choices. Pair with a homemade or store-bought yogurt dip for some extra flavor. Keep in mind, fruits like oranges, peaches and pears can be rather juicy. You might want to avoid these while traveling to prevent sticky fingers – especially if you have no way of cleaning up the mess.
- Cheese sticks: Pair with whole-grain crackers, almonds or apple slices. Individual cheese sticks are the right portion size and perfect for sharing. Cheese sticks contain protein and bone-building calcium – great for those growing kids.
- Single-serving peanut butter: This snack is packed with protein and healthy fats. Perfect for dipping apple slices, celery or graham crackers. Plus, they can be used for making mini PB&J sandwiches. Even though peanut butter is a good snack choice, it is high in calories and fat, so this is a perfect time to watch portion size.
- Air-popped popcorn: Another high-fiber, whole-grain snack that is a perfect finger food and low in calories and fat. Kids can dress it up with their favorite toppings such as parmesan cheese, chocolate chips, nuts, or a slight sprinkle of cinnamon and sugar. Keep in mind, popcorn most often ends up on the floor, think movie theater, so choose your snack-time locations wisely.
- Greek yogurt cups: Greek yogurt is one of my favorite snacks. Just like other dairy foods, it contains protein and calcium. Protein is one of the biggest selling points here. Greek yogurt can also be dressed up with granola or granola-like cereal, sliced fresh fruit, and a sprinkle of cinnamon. This can be a perfect quick breakfast while heading out the door.
- Almonds or other mixed nuts: Nuts such as almonds, peanuts and cashews contain fiber, protein and healthy fats, which help fight off hunger. Look for an unsalted or lightly salted variety, and most importantly, watch the portion size. Single- or double-serving packages of mixed nuts can be found at airports or convenience stores.
- Applesauce squeezes: Applesauce squeezes are great because they do not require a spoon and they are kid friendly. They are low in calories but high in flavor. Try to choose unsweetened applesauce varieties to limit excess sugar. These can easily fit in backpacks or purses.
- Homemade “Lunchables”/sandwiches: What kid doesn’t love Lunchables? Using whole-grain crackers, low-sodium deli meat and cheese cubes, have kids prepare their own lunchables. Pair the sandwiches with grapes and carrot sticks for a balanced meal. All the protein will keep them satisfied and happy.
Next time your family leaves town, do some snack planning prior to the trip. Your family will thank you!
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