Thursday, November 12, 2009

What to Feed Children on Road Trips

With a 12-hour drive ahead of us (along with stops to get gas, go potty, and eat), obviously one of the major things we needed with us was food. Aaron and I could easily make it from breakfast to lunch and lunch to dinner without eating anything, but Alex needs to eat about every 3 hours, so having snacks for him were essential to our sanity. In fact, Alex did quite well on the trip overall, and most of the time when he complained, it was because he was hungry. Once we gave him something to eat that he wanted, he quieted right down and went to eating.

Normally, I try to feed Alex fairly healthy meals. Just like any child, he balks if I give him plain oatmeal or other unsavory choices, but I try to give him foods that taste good and are nutritious. But for this trip, I didn't worry about that so much. I figured that if giving him some junk food would help him get through the drive happier, it was worth it. It's not like two days of junk food is going to make him unhealthy.

So the first thing I did was to gather dry foods that he could easily eat in the car. These are foods that do not crumble easily, and are easily vacuumed up when the trip is over. They included:

  • Multi-grain Cheerios (they're sweet, so Alex likes them)
  • Cheetos
  • Cinnamon Toast Crunch
  • Wheat Thins
I put them in a sandwich bag and then into a plastic container so the food stayed fresh and the containers helped keep the food from get crushed, but then I could just give Alex the bag with food so he could eat from it (he is much less likely to spill the food when in bags then when in containers). Dry foods I'd avoid include graham crackers, Frosted Mini-Wheats, and Ritz crackers. From my experience, they crumble way too easily and make a big mess.

Of course, along with the dry foods, you do need drinks. Water is the number one choice, since if it's spilled it's not a big deal. I also brought along milk because milk is a great source of protein that helps to fill you up and give the body fuel, and at Alex's age, he drinks a lot of milk (about 3 cups a day, which for his size is a lot). So I brought two bottles filled with milk. I brought along a cooler that had sandwich bags filled with ice, which helped to keep the milk cold. It was a small cooler made for soda cans, so it didn't take up too much room. And let me tell you, there were a few times when resisted all except the milk.

Of course, with milk you have to watch. If the bottle disappears from your child's hands, that means it may be tipped over, and since I still used bottles for Alex's milk, that meant it could be dripping from the bottle if it's landed face down. Also, if you find your child is done drinking the milk, you'll want to immediately stick it back in the cooler so the rest of the milk stays good.

Overall, these snacks worked well to keep Alex happy in between meals, so he was a lot more pleasant on the trip. And it was nice to have something to munch on for us if we needed it.

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