FAMILY ROAD TRIPS
When I think back to summers as a kid, when we were free from responsibility and the sun was blazing hot, I remember the long road trips our family would take. My dad was a teacher and my mom owned her own business so we were fortunate enough to pack up our Volkswagen Vanagon and head across the state or the country for a long period of time. I especially enjoyed the car rides with our tapes in the cassette player blasting some musical number we all knew or some pop music band my older sister liked. It was family time that brought us close together while packed in a van for weeks. It tested our patience and relationships but overall made us stronger as a family. Our destinations were always planned by our parents and they were fun and organized but the journeys along the way were hardly predictable. My parents were fairly health conscious when we ate at home and always packed a cooler full of some staple foods when we traveled. However, while on the road, it was inevitable we would end up having to stop at some restaurants along the way for either a bathroom break or a quick bite.
One memory etched in my brain while traveling from California to Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia was when we stopped at the Cracker Barrel somewhere in Texas. The further away we got from home the more naive we became about the restaurant choices we came across. The menu had items like chicken fried steak with biscuits and gravy. Nothing green or fresh and lots of heavy dense carbs. At the time I am sure it sounded comforting and delicious. We probably ordered a variety of hardy country favorites. I can’t say I even remember if we even though it tasted good. The part I will never forget is what happened about 5 hours later. As we arrived at our hotel for the evening, we all became violently ill. Every single one of us came down with food poisoning. We had to extend our stay for an extra two days. I have no doubt we all just wanted to turn around and go back home after this nightmare but we kept going and eventually made it to Virginia. Overall it was an incredible family vacation.
Looking back on this experience has made me hyper aware of where we eat while traveling as a family. Especially with young kids. You don’t want to ruin a good time with food poisoning or upset stomach.
We pack a large cooler full of easy to eat wholesome foods. We avoid foods with a lot of salt so we aren’t guzzling water and have to make more bathroom stops. We also limit treats with lots of sugar (besides natural fruit sugar) so the kids aren’t super amped up but are forced to sit tight in a car. I believe sugar highs and crashes are the main cause of the fighting and mood swings. Again, while stuck in a car for miles we like to try and keep the peace. Maintaining a steady blood sugar from snacking on healthy foods help keep every one happy along the journey.
Here is what you’ll find in our ice cooler for a trip that will be longer then a few hours:
· Fruits & veggies - always pack in lidded containers pre-cut easy to grab.
· Proteins & good fats - roasted nuts, hard boiled egg (my kids prefer only the whites), nitrate free sliced deli meats and meat sticks,
· Dried Fruit – raisins, cranberries, cherries or apricots (sulfite-free) or all fruit leather
· Crunchy Carbs – gluten free pretzels or low sugar granola bars
· Drinks – Kombucha (to keep our guts happy), boxed almond or coconut milk and of course plenty of water (usually a 2 gallon jug for our resealable water bottles)
Having food like this on hand keeps everyone happy until we can sit down and have a real meal at a good eating establishment. My husband is great at checking the reviews and ratings of restaurants (thanks now to Google Maps and Yelp) before we eat anywhere. It’s well worth the time to do a little research before you eat in an unfamiliar place with no recommendations. We end up finding the best local eateries and markets in town. If we know we’re stopping in a town for lunch or dinner we will also locate a natural food grocery store and refill our cooler for the next leg of the journey. That way we only have to stop for bathroom breaks and can make it to our final destination quicker while everyone stays well.
Use some of my food tips for your next road trip and you will be on you way to a great vacation.