As a dietitian, I know that eating in the car is not always the optimal place to get a nutritious meal. But as a parent of school-aged children, I realize that it is often unavoidable.
Whether you are running your kids to sports practices, play practices, music lessons, or after-school clubs, they are often hungry and there is not enough time to stop at home. However, with a little planning, an on-the-go snack can provide good nutrition.
Planning ahead is the key. Look at your kids’ schedules and determine what days they may need a snack or meal in the car. I recommend including your children in the planning process to ensure that they will eat it. Please keep in mind that the dairy and meat ideas will need a cooler and ice packs.
Home-Prepared On-The-Go Snack Ideas:
- Sandwiches on whole grain bread, filled with lean lunch meat, nut butters, hummus and vegetables, egg salad, tuna, or shredded chicken
- Low-fat yogurt tubes or drinks (less messy in the car!). Look for flavored yogurt with 10 grams or less of sugar per serving
- Cheese sticks or slices with whole grain crackers; or wrap a piece of lean lunch meat around the cheese
- Fresh vegetables with hummus
- Fresh fruit: apples, bananas, oranges, grapes, berries, etc
- Whole grain muffins or quick breads
- Whole grain bagels with cream cheese or peanut butter
- Nuts or seeds mixed with dried fruit for a trail mix
- Hard boiled eggs
These snacks can be prepped the night before or in the morning and sent with your children to school or available at pickup.
If you find yourself stuck in the car with a “hangry” kid before an activity and you don’t have a pre-made snack with you, here are some good choices that can be bought at a store or drive-through.
Store-Bought and Drive-Through Snack Ideas:
- Whole grain crackers
- Granola bars that have 10 grams of sugar or less
- Pre-packaged, single servings of fresh fruit
- Individual serving of low-fat milk
- Packages of nuts or seeds
- Cheese sticks
- Pre-packaged smoothies (look for fruit as the first ingredient)
- Individual containers of peanut butter paired with an apple or pretzels for dipping
- Small containers of yogurt (many fast food restaurants offer this as a side to the kids menu)
- A small sandwich, which you may have the option to add vegetables
Eating on the go is often unavoidable with our kids’ jam-packed schedules. However, planning ahead of time will hopefully save you a trip through the drive-through and give your children the nutrition they need to fuel those after-school activities!