Getting your kids to all their practices, games, tournaments, competitions, lessons and meetings is one thing, but what about fueling them up with healthy food? When faced with the challenge of feeding my kids in the car on the way to that day’s scheduled extracurricular activities, I find myself wondering: “What on earth do other moms do?”
To answer this question, I've assembled a panel of real, experienced moms to share their real-life secrets, tricks and tips for feeding kids on the go.
All the moms agreed on the importance of meal planning, cooking in large batches, and freezing individual servings. These efforts mean that a last-minute drive-thru stop is a rare exception rather than the norm.
“I keep pre-washed, pre-cut veggies in containers in the fridge, ready to go. We also have a bowl in the pantry with easy-to-grab snacks like granola bars or raisins.”
“I cook up a bunch of chicken breasts and freeze them, to be paired with rice or pasta noodles. The goal is to choose something simple, versatile, filling, healthy and easy on their stomachs.”
“A lot of thought goes into the pre-game meal, but don’t forget that they will likely want something to eat afterwards, too. In anticipation of this, I set aside extra snacks for the return trip. It also saves time when you get home and they need to get to bed.”
On Food Choices:
The winner by a mile for “most portable snack” was energy bites (or “power pellets,” as Liz’s family calls them). These homemade balls of goodness are often a combination of nut butter, oats, coconut, and chocolate chips – although the ingredients can be easily customized to suit your kids’ tastes or allergy requirements.
“For an in-car meal, I’ll place silicone muffin cups in a container to separate the four components – cut-up fruit, veggies, protein, and something fun like a cookie or mini muffin. Usually the items are similar for a week based on the groceries I’ve bought, then I change it up the next week.”
“When we’re away at a tournament and breakfast is not included at the hotel, I’ll bring my egg sandwich maker or waffle iron. If I don’t have time to pack the ingredients, I’ll pick them up at the local grocery store.”
“My best tip for sports or activity days is to serve dinner food for lunch and lunch food for dinner. This means they’re eating a larger meal at a table (at school, home, or camp) and a simpler meal in the car. It’s okay to give them a sandwich and raw veggies for supper when they had stir-fry for lunch.”
“Smoothies are the best, because I can hide anything in them! The trick is to use an opaque travel mug (and reusable straw, of course) so the kids can’t see if the concoction is green from spinach, yellow from a hint of vanilla protein powder or purple from blueberries. It’s a nutritious option for the morning drive or after practice.”
On Feeding Accessories:
When eating in the car, presentation gives way to practicality. You’re going to need food storage gear that keeps snacks fresh and provides easy access.
“Eco-friendly school lunch boxes with compartments are equally handy for eating in the car. They divide things up (for kids who don’t want things touching each other) and help ensure we’re covering all the food groups. They seal nicely, are easy to handle and wash like a dream. No looking for a million lids!”
“We’re trying to move away from plastics, so it helps to have lots of freezable and reheatable glass containers. When travelling, we use cheap cutlery from the thrift store so that if it goes missing, it doesn’t matter.”
“I like to have enough water bottles and bento-style boxes for two days of lunches and snacks, so I’m not constantly doing dishes to get the right container for that night or the next morning.”
Eating in the car is bound to get messy. How can spills be prevented – especially on their nice clean uniform? Here’s the scoop.
“If I’m serving something potentially drippy like watermelon, I cut it up into cubes and have them eat it with a fork.”
“I try to pack clean foods that typically won’t stain, like apples, pears and bananas – never raspberries or tomatoes. If there’s meat, it’s plain with no sauce. Gooey chocolate chips can be tricky if the items are freshly baked.”
“We just bought a new car, so I’m not taking any chances. In the morning, I leave a large plastic bin on my kitchen counter with a towel for her lap, napkins, a full water bottle, cutlery, and anything that doesn’t need to be refrigerated. Then I race home after work, grab her dinner from the fridge, microwave it if necessary, add it to the bin, and away we go.”
With a little proactive planning and organization, your family vehicle can also double as a dining car. Good luck trying some of these “go-to” strategies for your next “to-go” meal!