Whether you travel by plane, train or automobile, summer
is the time many of you take a break from your routine. Yet, can
you still keep the family reasonably nourished? The answer is yes.
- Pack a variety of finger foods. Pack
nutritious finger foods for children who are able to feed
themselves. Containers filled with sandwich triangles, cheese cubes
and cut-up fruits and vegetables easily can be pulled out of a
cooler. Make sure they're cut up into small enough pieces to
prevent choking. Soft food such as berries, bananas and cooked
vegetables are safest for children 5 and under.
- Involve the kids. "Grade school-age children
can participate in the packing of healthy meals and snacks for the
car ride," says Kelly Sierra, a registered dietitian from
Clarendon Hills and mother of three. "Give each child his own set
of containers to fill with food such as cheese, yogurt, vegetables
and dips such as hummus or guacamole. Label each container with the
- Give each child his own food bag. Help your
child pack whole grain crackers and cereals, trail mix and whole or
cut-up fruit that can be packed into his own bag. Each child can
graze as he wishes during the car ride. Just ¼ cup of California
raisins counts as a serving of fruit and is a tasty way to help
meet recommended daily fruit servings.
- Pack sandwiches. Sierra, who has a private
practice offering in-home nutrition counseling to families and
individuals, recommends sandwiches for road trips. "They hold up
well, can be made in advance and store flat in a cooler."
- Comply with TSA regulations. Packing snacks
and meals for air travel can be tricky because of restrictions on
food and liquids. Snack foods and sandwiches must be wrapped
properly and scanned in the X-ray machine. Liquids greater than 3
ounces are not permitted except for baby formula, breast milk and
juice. Jarred baby food is permitted. For more info, visit tsa.gov.
- Fill up the backpacks. School-age children can
use their backpacks to hold individual healthy snacks and
meals. String cheese, whole or cut-up fruits and vegetables,
sandwiches and little containers of canned fruit easily can be
- Buy a meal before you fly. It may be easier to
buy a meal in the airport shortly before you board. Look for
restaurants that offer subs, sandwiches and bagels instead of fried
Keeping food safe
However you travel, keep food safety in mind. A rule of
thumb is to keep food stored at between 40 and 90 degrees for less
than two hours. If the temperature is 90 degrees or hotter, this
time limit changes to less than one hour. When traveling by car,
the coolest place is where people sit and not in the trunk or back
of an SUV. For more on food safety, see foodsafety.gov/keep/events/summervacations.
In spite of the food and nutrition challenges, you can
provide your family with some semblance of healthy eats while still
enjoying good summertime food. Bon voyage!
Christine M. Palumbo, RD, is the 2011 Illinois Dietetic Association Outstanding Dietetics Educator of the Year. She is also consultant to the California Raisin Marketing Board. Follow her on Facebook at Christine Palumbo Nutrition.