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Healthy Traveling with Kids: It’s Possible!

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Healthy Traveling with Kids: It's Possible!

Here’s how to pack healthy food for kids when traveling.

The time for your vacation has finally arrived! Whether you’re going away for a day or a week and traveling by car or by plane, we’ve got you covered. These food-savvy tips will help satisfy and keep the “I’m hungry” whines to a minimum.

Food for Car Rides 

If you plan ahead, it’s easy to ignore all those fast food joints flagging you down along the road. For shorter rides, pack some dry, easy-to-eat snacks like pretzels and string cheese, sliced fruit like strawberries and bananas, or a homemade trail mix (dried apricots, raisins, cashews). For longer trips, it’s important that cold food stays cold to keep your kids healthy (nobody likes a tummy ache on the road). Grab a cooler and ice packs, and plan a picnic. Some healthy cooler-packing ideas:

  • Sandwiches – almond butter sandwiches – almond butter & jelly, turkey & cheese, hummus & cheese
  • Fresh fruit (grapes, apples, bananas, tangerines, clemintines)
  • Cheese sticks or yogurt
  • Carrot sticks, bell pepper slices, cucumber slices
  • 100% juice boxes and bottles of water
  • Shelve stable milk boxes

Don’t forget to include a treat – a few cookies or a single-serving pudding should be enough to ward off the kids’ sweet cravings and avoid a gas station candy raid.

Food for Flying

Let’s face it: airports and planes are challenging with expensive food terrains. With no included meals and limited space in your carry-on, smart planning is essential. For shorter flights (under four hours), bring dry snacks from home (trail mix, dry cereal, bite-sized crackers, mini boxes of raisins), or pick up these snacks, usually available in the airport:

  • Fresh fruit (apples and bananas are available nearly everywhere)
  • Small bags of nuts or dried fruit
  • Turkey and cheese sandwich
  • Pretzels
  • Yogurt

Healthy Food Tips for Long Flights

For longer travel, expand your food options by using a small cooler or an insulated lunch bag – you can fold it up when you’re finished and re-stock it for the ride home. Avoid packing foods with strong odors such as salami and tuna -strong smells and confined spaces are not a good combination. Food spoils quickly when out of the fridge, so put some ice in plastic baggies and store it with food. Once you arrive at the airport, you’ll need to dump the ice and restock it from one of the vendors after you’re through security. Toss out any leftovers upon landing.

Stay hydrated When Traveling with the Kids

It’s easy to dehydrate on the plane. Before boarding, as long as the flight is not international, you’re allowed to buy a few bottles of water after passing through security. Don’t forget to pack a sippy cup to refill during the flight – it will help avoid the dreaded spills (and clothing changes). Also, bring some games to keep your kids occupied – coloring books or pages, sticker books, and other activities help keep them from eating when they aren’t necessarily hungry.

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About the Author

Picture of Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN

Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN

Toby is a registered dietitian and a Certified Dietitian Nutritionist with over 15 years of experience in the food and nutrition industry. Toby is the founder of Toby Amidor Nutrition where she provides nutrition and food safety consulting services for various entities. She is a nutrition expert for where she writes for their Healthy Eating Blog and helps develop content and analyze the nutrition information for recipes. Toby is also the nutrition advisor for Sears’ FitStudio where she oversees the nutrition content and contributes nutrition articles to the FitStudio community. Toby has also written extensively, appeared on a variety of media oulets, counseled both in person and online, and has a great deal of teaching experience. Toby has written extensively and her publications list includes The All New Joy of Cooking (under Know Your Ingredients), where she helped compile information on over 300 foods. She was also a reviewer of the Jewish cultural food section of the web-based Nutrition Care Manual, which is compiled by The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics to help guide practitioners and Cultural Food Practices also published by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Other writing samples can be viewed here. She has appeared in a variety of media outlets including The Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Woman’s World Magazine, Today’s Dietitian Magazine,, Good Morning America Health, Good Day New York (WNYW Fox5 NY), Self Magazine, Us Weekly Magazine, WebMD, Pregnancy & Newborn Magazine, Working Mother Magazine, The New York Daily News, Fitness Magazine, and several articles published on Scripps Howard Foundation Wire. - See more at:

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