Spring break is travel time! In 4 days, we’ll be traveling to visit my family outside Chicago, and I’ll be loading up the car with luggage, kids, toys, pets, and FOOD! Over the years, I have created a list of do’s and don’t’s for packing car snacks. In the spirit of encouraging sane driving among fellow parents driving young kids to distant places, I am sharing my list.
1. DO PACK SNACKS! And keep them in the car – always, else your headache will start when you’re still minutes from home. Seat belts are correlated with hunger, and inevitably, some child will declare s/he is perishing from starvation (it won’t matter that you fed them before you left). Pack the snacks in a plastic box with a lid so the dog won’t eat them.
2. STRATEGICALLY POSITION THE SNACK BOX – Place the snack box next to the eldest child so s/he can pass snacks to the younger ones. If no child is old enough for this responsibility, then keep the box next to the driver’s seat. In this case, pack snacks that make good projectiles so that you can easily fling them to the malnourished child. Aerodynamics needn’t be overly considered. Just adjust your throw to the food type: A light toss backwards over the shoulder for thick, rectangular foods such as granola bars; a sideways flick of the wrist for flat foods like graham crackers. Don’t worry, your aim will improve with practice and meanwhile you’ll amuse your kids.
3. SNACKS SHOULD HAVE A RELATIVELY LONG SHELF LIFE – AT LEAST SEVERAL DAYS TO YEARS. If you pack fragile perishables, you’ll be spending time you don’t have re-stocking your snack box.
4. SUGGESTED FOODS –
- FOODS THAT CONTAIN MINIMAL LIQUID AND RESIST SQUISHING, such as dried fruit, nuts, granola bars, animal crackers, and fruit snacks.
- FOODS THAT CONTAIN MORE PROTEIN THAN SUGAR. When kids eat high-protein, low-carb snack bars they don’t get sugar-buzzed, which means they don’t scream and try to escape from their seats. Plus, the protein keeps them feeling full longer, and aids their growth. Cheese sticks and cheese curds are also good travel snacks, but lose points on the perishable scale.
5. FOODS TO AVOID – Don’t pack the following unless you want to add pattern to the upholstery:
- CRUMBLY FOODS, such as muffins, sugar cookies, croissants, light, flaky crackers or chips, or goldfish (goldfish disintegrate on road-trips)
- FOODS WITH COATINGS, such as cheese popcorn, powdered-sugar donut holes, frosted cookies, anything with sprinkles
- FOODS THAT MELT. Of course, I mean the obvious, like Popsicles and ice cream bars, but even chocolates can be disastrous on a warm day.
Perhaps you are reading this list thinking, “I’d never pack those unhealthy foods. I’m a conscientious parent who only gives children wholesome foods. Plus, I have time to keep my box packed with fresh snacks.” Well, perhaps you do. But let me warn you about fresh fruit.