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The best travel snacks

Children react very differently to long journeys by car or train. Some will happily look at picture books, watch the passing scenery and listen to story CDs and nursery rhymes; others are easily bored and frustrated, and dislike the confinement of the car seat.

One thing which all children have in common, however, is the need for food and drinks on these occasions. Mealtimes on the road can be fun, and do help to pass the time, but they require careful planning. It can be all too easy to end up serving endless packets of crisps and brightly-wrapped chocolate bars, if you haven't thought about your child's requirements.

Transport tips

  • For a long car or train journey with children, you will need to take plenty of snacks that are nutritious, interesting, easy to eat and, crucially, easy to transport.
  • If you and your child are often out and about, it is worth investing in a selection of plastic containers in a range of sizes, in which to pack your food. Make sure that your boxes have reliable, leak-proof lids.
  • Children like to have their own individual container of little sandwiches. As well as acting as a crumb collector, this will save you handing out each sandwich across a crowded train carriage, and will limit the opportunity for sandwiches getting stuck under the seats of your car.

Food to go

  • Mini finger sandwiches are more appealing and manageable for little hands, and your child will probably want to eat little and often on a journey. Choose fillings that will stick the sandwich together, such as peanut butter, hummus, cream cheese or marmite. Remember that marmite is high in salt, so only use a tiny amount. Select cream cheese carefully, too, as some varieties are higher in salt than others.
  • Dry snacks like race cakes, breadsticks or oatcakes are always useful. Oatcakes come in convenient sachets within the box - keep a pack in your bag or car's glove compartment.
  • If your child likes salad, it may be easier to serve this in a separate little box as lettuce, tomato and cucumber are notorious for falling out of sandwiches.
  • Decant small amounts of hummus or other savoury dips into tiny pots and take along another tub of crudités to dunk in the dips, such as carrots, celery, red and yellow peppers, cucumber and breadsticks.
  • Pots of chopped-up fruit are a welcome, thirst-quenching snack. Give each child a colourful selection of fruit to keep their interest.
  • Fresh fruit is nutritious and can while away a little time. Choose easily transportable fruit such as small apples, bananas, grapes and satsumas.
  • Flapjacks or mini-muffins individually wrapped in greaseproof paper or tin foil will seem exciting and provide energy to flagging children.
  • If you do take ready-made sweet snacks, choose cereal-type bars. Although these still contain a lot of sugar, the oats (or grains) and fruit in them will provide more energy and nutrition than a chocolate biscuit bar - and make a lot less mess.

Drinks

  • It is important to provide plenty of fluids for long journeys to prevent your child becoming dehydrated.
  • You can buy children's drinks bottles with anti-spill sports lids, which can be filled with water or diluted fruit juice.
  • Bottles of still water are the best option - again, look for the ones with easy-to-use sports tops to cut down on spillages.
  • Individual cartons of healthy fruit juice with a straw make a welcome change, but do avoid carbonated drinks and fruit drinks laden with sugar (or sweetener).

Travel essentials

The more thoroughly you prepare for all eventualities, the more enjoyable the journey will be.
  • A pack of wet wipes or a damp flannel in a zip-lock plastic bag is invaluable for wiping sticky fingers and faces.
  • A supply of kitchen towels can be useful for clearing up any spills that are likely to happen.
  • A change of clothes in case of any larger spillages.
  • A bag of picture books for children to look at will while away the time.
  • A selection of small toys or a drawing book and a packet of crayons is invaluable if you are on a train with a table in front of you.
  • A few CDs of stories and songs can provide a useful distraction. It may be worth investing in a child's personal CD player if you are frequent train travellers.
Taken from Feeding Made Easy by Gina Ford


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