Healthy Road Food for Kids Starts with Bringing a Cup: Tips for a Well-Balanced Road Trip

After travelling back and forth on various road trips with the kids over the years, I’ve discovered that the key utensil for healthy car eating is the road cup.  Yes, it’s that simple.

road fruit cupI now always travel with a set of reusable, stackable plastic cups, enough for each passenger in the car (or plane or train).  It makes life so much easier.  The cup is perfect for holding a decent amount of food, managing portion control and has the flexibility of sharing lots of small, healthy bits, without hands flying everywhere and food all over the ground.

Depending on how long of a trip, the kids seem to be hungry practically every hour or 150 km (how is it possible to get that hungry just sitting there?).  This can add up to a lot of calories and junk food, if you’re not careful.  For those long rides, pass out the nutritious treats like a layered cake – just one or two things at a time so they don’t get bored of any one snack, plus you can control the timing and amounts of each layer.

road veggie cupAs an opening strategy, since I’m the one in the passenger’s seat, doling out the snacks, I always start with the cup-o-veggies first.  Like in any meal (even the well-balanced road trip meal), they’re always the toughest sell.  But when you start with the veggies, it gets them out of the way, the kids are at their hungriest so they will complain the least, and, they know that they need to get through that first cup, before they get to the other good stuff.  After this first course, you can relax.  The other snacks can be distributed in almost any order because you know they will get eaten.

The secret to a healthy road trip, and really, any good trip, is just a little prep before you go.  Thinking ahead and doing a little chopping beforehand will go a long way.  Here are some healthy snack ideas that are great for the road, as long as you have that cup:


  • Baby carrots
  • Cut cucumbers, red peppers or celery
  • Hummus for dipping – also good for protein and fiber (bring a spoon for scooping)


  • Berries
  • Apple or peach slices
  • Cut pineapple or melon


  • Cheese strings

Note:  If you’re travelling for more than an hour or so, make sure to keep perishables cold with an ice pack.

Healthy Snack Foods

  • Popcorn
  • Goldfish crackers
  • Pretzels
  • Raisins, dried mangoes or other 100% fruit snacks
  • Nuts


  • Water!!!!

You don’t need to get fancy.  Everyone could use more water to keep hydrated, it won’t spoil, has no sugar or calories and, unlike juice or soft drinks, the kids likely won’t drink it so fast that you have to pull over for pee stops every half hour.  I love the Thermos insulated, stainless steel water bottles.  Add a couple of ice cubes and the water stays cool and refreshing for hours.

Enjoy the ride.


Trials of a Healthy Food Crusader

It’s hard being a healthy food crusader.  It can be a lonely cause.  It would be so easy to say, “Sure, have as much bacon as you want…yes, chocolate chip cookies are a good snack anytime….or no, you don’t need to eat veggies every day.”  Life would be so much easier.

But no, I was born with the curse of being a nutrition-loving foodie, making it my personal goal to turn my children into health-conscious little foodies, too (and anyone else who is willing to listen).  Although most of my articles have talked about food successes with my kids, don’t be fooled – it hasn’t all been easy.  It’s definitely had its ups and downs.  Making the right choice doesn’t always mean the popular choice.

That became all too obvious when last week, my 5 year old son, decided that he wanted to go away for March Break with his dad and sister, without me, so they could eat all the deep-fried hash browns they wanted.   Sure, it sounds funny now (all right, it was even funny then) but surprisingly, that little comment cut me deep.  It put me into a week-long funk of:  why am I working so hard to get good food into them, when it’s so unappreciated?

Unfortunately, in this uninspired week, all I discovered is that the old kids’ saying is true:  it’s not fair.  All the fanfare is for junk food and fast food – it’s fun, easy and cheap to go out for a burger and fries or buy chocolate at the corner store.  Not to mention all the other resources for tasty sugar, fat and salt that healthy food lovers are constantly up against.  So how can we compete?

It just means we need to work a little harder to show them that good food can be delicious and enjoyable, too.  With some commitment from the whole family, we can have some control over ours and our kids’ food future.  It’s taken some time but my husband is starting to actively support this, too.  Historically, his diet has been worse than the kids.  Now recently, his meals have lots more salads and ground up secret veggies.  Definitely, a step forward.

On the kids’ side, some days will be harder than others.  But I strongly believe that if we’re consistent about healthy options, that when we’re not watching, they will make some healthy choices on their own.  Yes, it is possible.  I was at a pizza dinner at my kids’ school this week.  Guess what was beside my son’s chocolate brownie?  A pile of yellow peppers, carrots and cucumbers:  his choice.  I was so proud.

It’s hard to always keep a positive attitude but I’m trying to remember these little victories. Despite the “fried hash brown” setback, if they can inadvertently choose healthier foods, my conviction grows stronger.

And there is strength in numbers.  The more people fight the good food fight, the more it becomes the norm.  There’s more and more involvement from individuals, communities, corporations and governments on the importance of good eating and getting that momentum started at a young age.  It takes time to change people’s perceptions and food prejudices but it can be done.  That may sound cheesy but look at what Jamie Oliver has done for kids’ school lunches in the UK and his food foundation.  Truly inspirational.

So the next time you feel like you can’t steam another head of unloved broccoli, find some solace in knowing that you’re not alone in the healthy food crusade.   We’re making progress.  Keep doing what you’re doing.  It’s for all the right reasons.



Don’t be afraid to sneak that goodness in.  I like putting chopped spinach and flax into their scrambled eggs.  It tastes the same to them and now that I’ve done it for so long, it’s not weird for them to see greens in all sorts of their dishes.