Road Trip – Eating Healthy (er)

Just for the record, I don’t always eat super-healthy.  I have to admit that my littlest guy and I tend to stop at Mickey D’s about twice a month for lunch after doing errands and grocery shopping.  When you’re three and Mommy drags you from store to store all morning, sometimes you just need a “special” lunch for being such a great little helper.

My motto is “Moderation in all things” so while we have really been gearing our family meals toward more whole foods, I’ve decided not to feel too guilty about a couple of hamburgers and some chicken nuggets once in a while.  Also, we try not to get french fries or soda which can add major calories and fat to the meal.

When it comes to road trips though, it’s a totally different story.  It’s REALLY HARD to eat well on long car trips.  For some reason, carrot sticks and apple slices just don’t sound good to us when we’re on the road and good intentions turn into wasted food and junk food stops.  This trip I determined that we would not be hitting fast food all day long.  That always makes us feel gross and sluggish and everyone gets kind of cranky.

Before starting out, I made a list of healthy snacks that we would actually eat on a trip.  Making the list was easy.  Finding the time to make and package food before hand was a little trickier as I was also packing clothes and essentials for the family.  Thus, please excuse my pictures.  The quality is not as good as I usually strive for because I was also frantically trying to get everything done.

Here’s a few ideas of what worked for us:

  • Yogurt-covered Raisins – we normally do not buy the yogurt-covered kind so they have become an exciting treat on the road or on a plane.  Also they are a great source of fiber.
  • Homemade Larabars (Look for the recipe below)  The dates provide a LOT of fiber to fight “on-the-road constipation”.  You know what I’m talking about.  Also, they’re DELICIOUS!
  • Hummus Wraps (Spread hummus on a tortilla – then we usually like to sprinkle on spinach, olives, black  beans and tomatoes  – and then roll up and cut.  Choose your own favorite toppings/veggies.  These keep well in baggies in a cooler.  Just keep on top so they don’t get smashed!)
  • Homemade Cranberry Cinnamon Chex Mix (see recipe below)
  • Sliced Cucumbers and Cherry Tomatoes with Ranch Dressing – cucumbers and tomatoes are so refreshing that they make great car snacks.  We’ve really gotten on board with the yogurt dressings too and my guilty love for Ranch is now guilt-free.  Condoning a dipping bowl of Ranch dressing in the car is an entirely different matter.  You must decide for yourself if you can handle the consequences if a child knocks it over.  Because it’s really only a matter of time. . . .
  • Cheez-its – I know, I know, this is NOT a healthy snack but I think it must be better than McDonald’s french fries and it takes away some of the salty snack craving.  The secret is to portion it ahead of time into snack-size baggies.
  • Sandwich fixin’s
  • Grapes
  • Granola
  • Go-gurt – as much as I love homemade yogurt, I have to bow to the convenience of Go-gurt.

Here’s what didn’t work:

  • Cucumber boats (They tasted great but they got way too watery and smushy to properly enjoy in the car.  I tried packing them in a Foodsaver bag with the air removed so they wouldn’t fall apart but the results just weren’t great.  I HIGHLY recommend them for a party or appetizer at home though.  They’re quite tasty!)

While we did end up stopping for fast food a couple of times, we found that we weren’t getting all the fatty/salty/sugary sides that we normally tend to get with the sandwich.  We would grab a roast beef sandwich (I adore Arby’s but don’t have any where we live, so I get my fix on the road) and then drink our juice or water we had in the car and eat one of our snacks from home.  Not only did we save money but we felt much better after our four-day trip than usual.  No tummy complaints!  Happier kids!  Happier Mommy!  I call this trip a success and will certainly be preparing more of these snacks for our equally long trip home.

Emily’s version of  Cranberry Cinnamon Chex Mix

6 cups Rice Chex Mix

1 cup of lightly chopped cashews

1 tsp Cinnamon

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup orange juice (or orange juice concentrate)

1 Tbs. dried orange peel or orange zest

2 Tbs. vegetable oil

1/2 cup dried cranberries

-Mix together the Chex Mix, cashews, and cinnamon in a large microwave-safe bowl.

-In a small microwave-safe bowl, combine brown sugar, orange juice, orange peel, and vegetable oil.  Stir together.

-Heat liquids for 1 minute.  Stir.  Heat for 1 more minute, stirring after 30 seconds.

-Pour orange juice mixture onto Chex mix and stir until evenly coated.

-Heat in microwave (uncovered) for 5 minutes, stirring every 2 minutes.  This is where your kitchen begins to smell very, very good.

-Stir in cranberries.

-Spread onto waxed paper and allow to cool.  

-Pack into an airtight container or into personal size snacking bags.

Homemade Cashew Cookie Larabars

4 cups whole, pitted dates (moist instead of dried works best)

3 1/2 cups cashews

That’s it.  Really.

**DISCLAIMER**  You need a pretty hefty food processor for this recipe!!!  It gets quite thick and gooey and can burn out the motor on lesser food processors and blenders.  Even with the Vitamix (which you know I adore), the motor had to do it’s emergency shut-off to keep from burning out the motor because it was working so hard.  Twice.

-First, line a 9×9 square pan with waxed paper.

-Then, process your cashews until they are crumbled but don’t overdo it.  You don’t want a paste.  Dump them into a large bowl and set aside.

-Throw your half of the dates into the food processor and grind down into a paste-like substance.  This is where it starts to get thick and gooey.  If you’re confident in your processor, go ahead and add in half of the ground cashews.  Mix it together and then press the substance into a pan.  Your hands will most likely get sticky.

-Repeat with remaining dates and cashews.  If you don’t think your blender/food processor will handle the load, mix the ground cashews and pureed dates together by hand in a bowl.  You might get a work out and your hands will definitely get sticky.

-Once you’ve pressed everything into the pan, cover with waxed paper and smooth the surface flat.

-Place in the fridge to set up for a couple of hours.

-Cut into bars and serve or package individually for trips.  It’s amazing how great these taste with such a small list of ingredients.

**I realized that I forgot to photograph the finished product of these larabars in my haste to get my family out the door and on the road.  If you’d like to check out approximately what they will look like and see another variation of larabars, head over to Foodie With Family.  These bars are also wonderfully delicious!)**

  1. Oh my gosh, we just took a family trip. Going there was fine, but because we ate out a number of times while we were there, by the time we were coming back, the kids actually asked if we could stop at a grocery store instead of grabbing something else. We picked up grapes, oranges, good lemonade, nuts, cheese….everyone felt sooooo much better the rest of the trip. Your body can only take so much!

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