Extension and Ag Research News


Prairie Fare: How to snack smart on family road trips

Healthful snacks can help fill nutrition gaps while on the road.

“Mom, I don’t need to go along on long road trips anymore,” my son remarked.

He was about 17 at the time. He had other activities that were more interesting than sitting in the backseat of a van near his two younger sisters.

The end of the “road trip era” made me a little sad. We had traveled to Kansas, Indiana, South Dakota, Utah, Wyoming, Illinois, Colorado, Texas and other states along the way on our long road trips.

“I don’t even remember these places!” our youngest child exclaimed.

She is about eight years and five years younger than her brother and sister, respectively.

“You’re in the pictures,” I said. “You’re smiling.”

“That doesn’t count,” she retorted. “I don’t remember it.”

We bought a van many years ago with a built-in DVD player and wireless headsets. Our kids watched a lot of movies and TV series along the way. They would laugh loudly and I’d careen my neck from the front bucket seat to try to see what was so humorous.

When they grew tired of videos, I tried other road games such as counting cows and horses in the fields. They were bored by counting animals. We looked for license plates from other states.

I encouraged napping and healthful snacks to occupy their time.

They liked eating in the van. We also stopped frequently to look at various scenery.

Later, they had phones and hand-held games to occupy the hours in the van.

At this time of the year, families are enjoying their final vacations before fall activities begin.

Family vacations can be budget friendly with some planning. We had certain amenities we looked for along the way, such as hotels with a free hot breakfast and a heated pool.

They especially liked to open the hotel room door with the card key. I would vary who had room-opening privileges.

Family vacations can be fairly inexpensive, depending on where you choose to go. Flying a family of five to a resort is costly. One year, I splurged and we flew to a resort with lots of rides. Our kids thought seeing manatees (sea cows) in the “wild” was more interesting.

You can save some dollars by bringing your own snacks. Bring at least one cooler with cold beverages and/or perishable snacks. We always stopped at grocery stores to replenish our snacks.  Our vacation dollars were stretched by shopping the sales.

I tried to keep the “mess factor” in mind, so our vehicle did not look like animals were residents. We always had plenty of paper towels and wet wipes to clean up, along with a trash bag.

When traveling, be sure to pack appealing and healthful snacks for the road trip. Our kids always enjoyed mozzarella cheese sticks, which need to be kept cold. Yogurt and sliced fruit was another perishable pick-me-up snack. Cut fruit and vegetables are perishable items that require cold storage.

Granola bars, cereal-based snacks, dried fruit and fruit leather, prepackaged applesauce or fruit cups, shelled peanuts and seeds, crackers, hummus, nut butters, and whole fruit such as apples and oranges are examples of nonperishable snacks.

If you are packing foods and beverages for children or adults with food allergies or intolerances, you will need to adjust your selections accordingly.

Think of snacks as “mini meals” that can help fill nutrition gaps. Most kids and adults do not meet the daily recommendation of 4 ½ cups of vitamin- and fiber-rich fruits and vegetables. Try packing small plastic bags of carrot and celery sticks, colorful grapes and other easy-to-eat foods to take on a road trip.

Check out “Now You’re Cookin’: Nutritious After-school Snacks” at https://www.ndsu.edu/agriculture/extension/publications/now-youre-cookin-nutritious-after-school-snacks for recipes that will appeal to adults and kids. See www.ag.ndsu.edu and explore the “Food Preservation” area to learn how to make your own dried fruit and fruit leathers from summertime produce.

Here’s a snack that you can make at home and personalize to your preferences.

No-bake Snack Mix

8 cups cereal squares
2½ cups small crisp snack cracker squares
2½ cups bite-sized cheddar cheese crackers
3 tablespoons canola oil or your favorite cooking oil
½ envelope (0.5 ounce) ranch salad dressing mix

Combine cereal and crackers in large bowl. Drizzle with oil and stir gently. Sprinkle with dressing mix and stir gently. Package in zip-top plastic bags for portion-controlled, ready-to-eat snacks.

Makes 26 (½-cup) servings. Each serving has 120 calories, 4 grams (g) of fat, 2 g of protein, 16 g of carbohydrate, 2 g of fiber and 140 milligrams of sodium.

(Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., R.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension food and nutrition specialist and professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.)

NDSU Agriculture Communication – Aug. 10, 2023

Source: Julie Garden-Robinson, 701-231-7187, julie.garden-robinson@ndsu.edu

Editor: Elizabeth Cronin, 701-231-7881, elizabeth.cronin@ndsu.edu

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