“Savor The Flavor Of Eating Right” is the theme for National Nutrition® Month 2016. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics uses March to promote healthier eating, both at home and away from home. Here are some tips for nutritious meals and snacks when you travel with children with food allergies.
Plan Ahead to Make Travel More Tolerable and Less Worrisome
You probably look forward to getting away from the daily grind just as much as your children. But all parents dread hearing “Are we there yet?” and “I’m hungry!" This is even more true if you have food allergies in the family.
Packing from home is a good way to ensure allergen avoidance and meet everyone’s needs. Have your kids help pack their own travel meal and snack bags so they have what will keep them happy and satisfied. Help guide them to select appropriate allergen-free and nutritious foods.
Here are some ideas for the whole family (substitutions may be necessary to accommodate individual food allergies):
- Choose fresh fruit and vegetables as they are filling, refreshing and nutritious.
- Berries, grapes, cherries, grape tomatoes and baby carrots are easy to eat. Pack them in small plastic bags or containers.
- Wash and pack small, whole fruit such as apples, bananas, pears, peaches and nectarines.
- Freeze tubes of yogurt ahead of time, substituting brands for family members with milk allergies.
- Make sandwiches according to everyone’s preferences. Choose whole grain breads, rolls and wraps to start. Add favorite meat, cheese and spreads.
- Prepare homemade lunch packs in divided containers to include protein, crackers or pretzels, and fruit.
- Water is a good beverage choice and much better than soda or juice drinks that contain sugar. Add slices of fruit or mint leaves to water bottles for flavor.
Most stores have a variety of containers and coolers. Buy containers and ice packs that will keep perishable foods cold for several hours. Children might like containers with divided spaces they can fill with a variety of bite-size snacks. Pack one box per person so each family member has a personal “buffet” to have fun with on the trip.
If You Have to Refill
Healthy choices on the road can be tricky. It's often better to take the extra time to stop at a large grocery store, rather than a small convenience store. This is also a good time to stretch after being in the car for several hours.
Here's what to look for in the store, following your food allergen avoidance strategies:
- Small containers of cut fruit
- Fresh fruit (buy water or fruit wash to clean the fruit before eating it)
- Small cups of yogurt
- Individually wrapped packs of crackers, pretzels, raisins and other snack foods
- Beverages (look for milk substitutes in refrigerated areas as well as in shelf-stable packaging in other aisles)
- Dairy-free cheese (look in the produce section where many vegan items are located)
Stopping at a restaurant to take a break may be a challenge, especially if it's a restaurant you don't know well. Do some homework and check out restaurants along the travel route. Look at the menu on their website and call ahead with any questions. Try to stop at restaurants during less popular meal times. Ask questions and make sure the staff is aware of your need to avoid allergens.
If you plan ahead and make healthy food choices, the whole family will have the energy to have fun and be safe - no matter where you are going!
Deb Indorato, RD, LDN, is a nutrition advisor to Kids With Food Allergies and is a member of the Medical Scientific Council of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. She is a registered dietitian at Approach Nutrition Food Allergy Management LLC. Deb serves on the Adverse Reactions to Food Committee of the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology.