Philip J. Goscienski, M.D.
"Are we there yet?" "I gotta go." "I'm hungry!"
Parent-travelers have probably been hearing those kiddie laments ever since the first Stone Age family went looking for a new hunting ground.
First, everyone in the family should have a good meal before the trip begins. If you're traveling by plane it may be the most nourishing meal your family will have all day. Forget the sweets and soft drinks unless you want to hear those first two phrases even earlier than you're prepared for. Sweets, including pastry and soft drinks, induce a dramatic drop in blood sugar when insulin production overshoots. Hunger returns, sometimes with poor concentration and irritability. That's the last thing parents need as the family sits in barely-moving traffic or stews in an airport because of weather delays.
A whole-grain breakfast cereal with whole milk, topped with berries or sliced fruit, provides a good start. An alternative might be a veggie omelet plus a serving of fresh fruit. These are simple to prepare at home and just as easy at a motel with kitchen facilities.
The best snacks follow these same guidelines: no refined sugar or flour, and lots of fiber and protein. Nuts, protein bars, fresh fruit and low-fat trail mix are easy to store when traveling and don't require refrigeration.
Provide 2 bottles of water for each soft drink. The limit should be 2 soft drinks a day, including those taken at mealtimes. I usually recommend that children, including teenagers, have no more than one sweetened soft drink or fruit juice a day but heck — this is a vacation!
It's tempting to stop at a fast food place with a familiar name. It's also quicker and probably more convenient than a traditional restaurant but you'll most likely fall into the cheeseburger/fries/soft drink mode. A traditional sit-down restaurant will not only give you more and better choices but it's likely to be more relaxing and restful than the bright, noisy burger place with plastic seats. The kids might not care but you will.
Get even the youngest children involved and help them pick the snacks for the trip. Maybe then they won't complain as much.
Philip J. Goscienski, M.D. is the author of Health Secrets of the Stone Age, Better Life Publishers 2005. Contact him at email@example.com.