Healthy travel snacks
Every year for one to two months, my boys and I pack our bags and head for cooler climates. As you can imagine, living in the Middle East and having to get through extreme hot summers is not that easy with two small kids who want to be active all day long. I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to escape the heat with my children since they were around six months old. Now they love to travel and look forward to the new countries we get to visit and spending time with family we don’t see very often. One of the things I find most challenging about travelling with kids, is the food. They either love it, or hate it, but mostly they hate inflight meals (both kids and adult meals). In order to get through long airport and flight journeys, I’ve learnt to pack a few healthy snacks that will not only keep the kids busy but will also keep mood swings at bay.
WHY IS AIRPLANE FOOD SO BAD?
Airplane foods are known to be high in salt to adapt to our taste buds at high altitudes. It’s also either smothered in sauce or lots of spices. The food combinations aren’t very appetising and meals are always prepared in advance. It’s basically fast-food in the sky. If you’re on team healthy, it’s every parents’ worst nightmare. The amount of sugar and awful looking food on the kids food trays is an eyesore. Most of the time I find myself removing all the sugar items otherwise my kids would only eat chocolate muffins and sweet flavoured milk. Even Business kids meals are disappointing.
WHAT CAN WE DO?
You can pack as many of your own healthier snacks as you can fit in your hand luggage. A backpack or trolly bag works well. Keep the snacks very simple, with mostly vegetarian wholefoods and unsweetened dried snacks. Water is the best drink and you can get that in airport or on the plane. I often see parents feed their toddlers sugary snacks and wonder how they don’t see the correlation between moodiness / tantrums and sugar. Yes, they are tired, but sugar just amplifies everything and they are too young to understand why they are feeling the way they do.
If you’re struggling with ideas on which foods to carry with you, these are the kinds of long lasting snacks and meals I carry in my hand luggage. Note that for shorter flights you could add some cooked meat or fresh dairy items but on longer flights stick to foods that won’t spoil quickly.
Raw food: any fruit and vegetables that are easy to eat on-the-go will work. We travel with apples, berries, carrot sticks, clementines, cucumbers, grapes, and cherry tomatoes. I like to add a few pitted olives in their containers for variety. For babies and toddlers, you can also take a ready-to-eat avocado or banana if you have the right sized container.
Cooked food: You can store these in small insulated food containers to keep them warm for a few hours. Your child’s favourite vegetarian pasta, risotto or pilaf works well for long trips as well as steamed vegetables that are easy to hold like broccoli or baby carrots.
Sandwiches: pita pockets filled with vegetarian fillings like peanut butter with a little raw honey or grated cheese.
Dairy-free, unsweetened or long-life dairy: the vegan and healthy trend has brought some interesting nut-based and unsweetened yoghurts in a flexible tube. These are very handy and are small enough to fit into a snack box. I also pack individual portions of long-life organic milks for longer flights.
Dried snacks: raw nuts and seeds, crackers, dried fruit, popcorn.
Choose the foods they love: Even if they do have something sugary, they will get full on healthier options first.