Sunday, July 11, 2004

Travel-savvy snacks keep kids happy

The Arizona Republic

Bringing food with you is the best way to ensure good nutrition and healthy eating for your children while traveling, says Michelle Gorman, a dietitian for the Albertsons supermarket chain. Not only that, Gorman says, snacks are a great way to keep kids occupied on a long trip.

She offers these tips for food safety:

• If you're traveling in the car longer than 30 minutes, place perishable food such as meat, poultry, eggs, cheese and salads in a cooler with ice or freezer packs.

• Pack perishable food directly from the refrigerator or freezer into the cooler. A full cooler will maintain its cold temperature longer than a partially filled one.

• Keep raw meat and poultry wrapped separately and away from cooked food or food meant to be eaten raw, such as fruits and vegetables.

• When carrying drinks, pack them in a separate cooler so the food cooler is not opened as frequently.

• Stow the cooler in the air-conditioned passenger compartment of your car, rather than the hot trunk. Limit the times it is opened, and make it quick.

Suggested snacks

• For toddlers, less is more: a serving size is one-fourth to one-third the size of an adult's. Stick with familiar finger foods, such as unsweetened cereal; cheese sticks or wedges; graham crackers; gingersnaps; whole-grain, low-fat crackers; sliced or hard-boiled eggs; 2 percent milk; and water. Avoid foods that might cause choking: grapes, berries, raisins, nuts, seeds, potato chips, pretzels, dried or unpeeled fruit, chunks of meat and raw vegetables.

• Elementary-age children should have the chance to select, prepare and pack their own travel snacks. These include everything from the toddler list, plus fresh fruit, carrot and celery sticks, applesauce cups, yogurt and pudding tubes, popcorn, pretzels, baked chips, trail mix, 100 percent fruit leathers and tortillas rolled around cheese sticks.

• Children 12 and older are hungry all the time, it seems, and it's important they have foods high in iron and calcium. Get them involved in planning and preparing all the foods on the previous two lists, plus turkey jerky, energy bars, fruit/yogurt shakes, rice cakes, bagel chips and portable peanut butter sticks.

Food is an important component of every vacation. Whether you are traveling in your car or on a plane, plan for the following:

By car

• Take a break every two hours for snacks or meals and to let children run around for exercise and fresh air.

• Pack snacks from at least two food groups, and choose those that are low in added salt, sugar and fat and made from fewer processed ingredients.

• Avoid snacks that melt, crumble, stick or dribble down chins.

By plane

• Call to see if the airline serves kids meals.

• Pack individual snack-lunch bags for children or have them pick, prepare and pack their own.

• Give kids several components (apple slices, peanut butter in a tube and rice cereal for a crunchy apple dipper), to "build" a snack.

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