Part II: What My Family Ate On Our Summer Vacation

By: Jodie Shield, MED, RDN

Family road trips – everyone has a story! I remember going on summer vacations with my parents and two brothers. Dad jam-packed everyone into a 98 Osmobile – he refused to buy a station wagon. Keep in mind, there were no SUVs with a GPS back then! My baby brother, John, got to sit in the front because that’s where car seats used to go (can you believe it?!) John now confesses how much he enjoyed his front seat spot because he didn’t have to sit with me or my other brother, Mike, who were usually horsing around – borderline fighting – in the back seat. My dad was famous for saying, “Kids if I have to stop this car and pull over, you two will be sorry!” Ironically, we usually were. Not because we got in trouble, but because of John – he had a knack for getting carsick! My mom use to let us have an orange soda pop as a treat and John use to guzzle it down way too fast. Before you knew it, we were pulling over. Needless to say, my dad never seemed to pull over fast enough!

When you’re on the road, fast food and soda pop are not your family’s only options. Now that I’m a mom, I’ve learned the importance of planning ahead and packing healthy snacks for those long road trips.  Here are some tips and packing ideas for your kid’s meals on the road:

  • Keep your cool.  Fill a cooler with healthy meal and snack choices, such as fresh fruit, fruit cups, packs of ready-to-eat raw veggies (buy prepackaged or make your own), low fat cheese sticks, low-fat yogurt, peanut butter and low-fat crackers, water, pre-made sandwiches on whole grain bread (try lean turkey or ham and low-fat cheese), 100 percent juice, pretzels, animal crackers, and graham crackers.
  • Bring water bottles.  Make sure everyone has his or her own water bottle to sip during the trip.  Bring colored markers and let the kids write their names and draw designs on their bottle for a fun back seat activity.
  • Refuel the car, not your kids, at gas stations.  The stores attached to most gas stations are stocked with high-calories temptations such as candy bars, hot dogs, and soft drinks.  When you gas up, keep the kids in the car and offer a snack from your cooler.
  • Stop at rest areas and stretch!  Steer kids away from vending areas, but let them get out of the car and move around.  Many rest areas even offer playgrounds.

If you’re trying to spend quality time with your kids this summer but are disgusted with your food options, check out my three part blog series: What My Family Ate On Our Summer Vacation.  Last week I covered how to eat healthy at concession stands; next week tips for eating at fast food chains. All of the tips come from my book Healthy Eating, Healthy Weight for Kids and Teens now available as an E-book.

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About Author


Jodie Shield, M.Ed., R.D., L.D.N. Jodie Shield has been a consultant and spokesperson in the field of nutrition for over two decades. A former national media spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association (1989-1995), she has worked extensively with the Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical Center and taught nutrition and medical dietetics at the University of Illinois. Currently she is a complemental faculty member of the College of Health Sciences in the Department of Clinical Nutrition at Rush University in Chicago.

(4) Readers Comments

  1. These are really great tips! It’s not necessary to eat unhealthy during road trips. Many people forget than you can pack your own nutritional meals.

    • Jodie

      Glad you enjoyed the tips. Got any you would like to share?

  2. Love the story about your family trips – I can imagine the scene! My dad said the same thing to me and my sister, Barb, who traveled on top of the luggage in the back of the station wagon, while my older sister, Cindy, was sprawled out on the middle seat getting car sick! We like to pack veggies for road trips — carrots, celery, sugar snap peas — light and refreshing. If I’m organized, I peel and section oranges and put them in ziplocks ahead of time. They hit the spot during a long stretch on the road.

    • Jodie

      Too funny Jean! So many people have shared their family road trips stories. Love the snack ideas too. I’m waiting for my brothers to weigh in on this story!

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