ROAD TRIP LUNCHES by BentOn Better Lunches

BonBon Break

It’s summertime! I don’t need to pack a lunch! Well, not a school lunch anyways… there are still day camps, trips to the park, picnics on the beach… and family vacations, which means… road trips!

Eating in the car is not something I usually allow, but I make an exception on long road trips. It’s harder to find healthy eating options along the highway than it is to vacuum the crumbs from the van, and stopping for lunch makes the trip longer too. Instead, I pack snack-type things we can graze on throughout the trip. Munching seems to help with boredom too.

5 things I keep in mind when choosing food to pack for a road trip :

  1. Can it be eaten with one hand? (So the other can hold the container)
  2. Can it be eaten without utensils? I go for finger foods.
  3. Is it sticky? If something sticky hits the floor, the 5 second
    rule goes out the window.
  4. Will it stay safe to eat without being kept heated or
    refrigerated? An ice pack should be cold enough.
  5. Will the flavours complement each other if they are going to be
    touching in the container?

In general, my kids don’t like their foods to touch, so containers with divided sections, like EasyLunchboxes, are perfect for our lunches to go. I also use silicone baking cups to separate them, and the little cups can double as snack bowls in my vehicle’s drink holders. If I do pack anything that needs to be kept cold  I make sure to pack the container in an insulated cooler bag and store it out of direct sunlight until we are ready to eat it. I line the bottom of the tote with an ice pack, and sometimes add frozen reusable ice cubes right in the container with the food, for good measure.

I try to avoid packing foods that are likely to make a mess; besides the obvious not wanting to clean the car, I also don’t want to arrive at our destination with messy kids. Finger foods with thick dips are a good choice for neat eating.  Even though they are using their hands, somehow my kids make less mess than they do when they bite into sandwiches, getting food on their faces, or granola bars,  dropping crumbs all over. Picking up and dipping little nibbly bits takes more time too, and anything that keeps those little hands and mouths occupied on a long car ride is a plus!

Some of our favourite foods to dip are:

  • fruits like strawberries, grapes, & apple wedges
  • veggies like baby carrots, broccoli spears, & celery sticks
  • crackers, bagel chips & pretzel sticks
  • graham crackers (they break along the lines into little rectangles)

and to dip them in, we like:

  • peanut butter & nutella
  • greek yogurt  (it’s thicker than regular, and less likely to drip)
My kids are picky though, the list of possible dips and dippers is only limited to your family’s tastes!

Skewering foods on party picks is an easy way to keep the lunchbox organized, and for smaller pieces of food, the pick makes a handy dipping utensil. Drink stirrers are great for kids kebabs since they don’t have pointy ends. Bite sized sandwiches on a stick are fun to eat!

2 more factors I consider when packing lunches for the road are are the budget and the trash. Single-serving pre-packaged snack foods are convenient, but they cost more, and make more waste.  And my kids often need help opening little pouches and packets. By buying full sized packages and whole fruits and vegetables then taking a few minutes to prepare them I drastically cut my food costs, and by filling my own reusable containers I eliminate the hassle and trash that comes with individual packaged snacks.

Yep, for long road trips, eating in the car is a go!  Full mouths are quiet mouths, fingers busy filling those mouths aren’t poking their siblings, and full tummies make for happier travelers.


About Cristi: Cristi Messersmith is a busy military wife, and mum to 5 picky sproutlets, 1 with autism. In her spare time she enjoys… oh, who are we kidding, she doesn’t have any spare time! Her blog chronicles her efforts to provide her family with nutritious, affordable, fun trash-free lunches for school and work. Find Cristi on Facebook and Twitter.