Food, Recipes

Top 5 Simple Snacks for Traveling Kids & Families

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Chloe double fists this snack on the beach in Mexico.  YEAH.  As if she's a afraid we'll never feed her again.
Chloe double fists this snack on the beach in Mexico. As though she's a afraid we'll never feed her again.

Toddlers get many of their daily calories from snacks, whether at home or on the road.  And snacks are the WMD in the parent's arsenal for maintaining peace. Did you get a booboo? You know what'll make that feel better?  A kiss and a .... can you guess?  Yeah!  A fruity snack!

A snack is an essential member of most parent's 'bag of tricks,' especially during the times when families are on the go.  Snacks extend the time between sit-down meals, and like it or not, they can be used diplomatically as a source of bribery.  We try to use snacks that keep the tiny tummies full for a longer time and that fill in some gaps in nutrition that little grazers may not get during the main family meals of the day.  After some deliberation, we've narrowed down our favorite snacks in the Stephens' household to the best 5 simple snacks for traveling kids, some homemade, some store-bought.

Make-and-Take Snacks for traveling

  1. Celery sticks with peanut butter.  This is the messiest snack on our list, so have a pack of wipes around for this one.  This tasty snack has a lot of bang for the buck.  Celery is a great source of Vitamins A, B6, K, calcium, and dietary fiber.  And peanut butter makes good-for-you foods much more worth eating!  One tip is to portion out the peanut butter into a reusable bowl (with a lid) so your child can enjoy dipping the sticks herself.  Or, prepare the sticks with peanut butter ahead of time and place in a sealable plastic sandwich baggie.  An extension to this snack is "Ants-on-a-log," which is peanut butter in the celery (log) with raisins on the top (ants).  It's not only nutritious, but it's sure to make your little ones giggle!

  2. Home made granola with dried rasperriesHome Made Granola.  Make it yourself, and it won't have as much fat or sweeteners as the store-bought kind.  Combine 3 cups of cooking oats, 1 cup of sliced almonds, 1 cup sesame (or sunflower) seeds in a bowl with a little cinnamon, all-spice, brown sugar (no more than 2 tbsp), and a few tbsp of maple syrup.  Add dried cranberries, dried blueberries, or raisins.  Toast for 30 min. on a baking sheet at 315, turning several times until golden brown.  After granola is cooled, you may add chocolate chips (dark chocolate is great with the raspberries) if desired.  This snack is a source of whole grains, iron, protein, and Vitamin E. It's full of flavor, which makes it fun to eat.  It can also be used for a quick breakfast if you pour low-fat milk over the top.  Yummy.

Grab-and-Go Snacks for traveling

  1. Go-gurt yogurt is perfect for a camping snack and road trip snackGo-gurt.  This lowfat yogurt made by Yoplait comes in a handy portable tube.  You can pick up a box of 8 Go-gurts for about $2.50 at any grocery store-- which is about the price you'd pay for one milkshake from Burger King.  There are 70 calories per tube, which is 5x fewer than that milkshake I mentioned.  Your kids will like the colorful packaging and the squeezy action needed to push the yogurt out the top.  You will like the dose of calcium, Vitamin D, and Vitamin A they get.  And as an extension, for older traveling children, freeze a few of these and serve them as "frozen" yogurt.  It makes a winning snack even cooler.

  2. Gummy fruit snacks are not just tasty but also highly nutritiousGummy fruit snacks.  This is Mark's go-to snack to bribe Chloe into her carseat after he picks her up from Grandma's house.  For the healthiest option, look for brands that say "all natural" (such as Motts), or at least ones that are made with real fruit.  You can find these snacks at any grocery market and they come in a variety of fun shapes.  Scooby Doo?  Mickey Mouse Clubhouse?  Zoo animals?  You can find them all.  Typically, the pouches are a good serving size for kids (80 calories each), and each one packs a generous dose of vitamin C.  Good for little immune systems and sure to keep the backseat quiet for a good 10 minutes.

  3. Goldfish cheese crackers aren't the highest in nutrition, but they're not bad either.  And they make little messGoldfish.  "The snack that smiles back" made by Pepperidge Farm gets high marks by most moms of toddlers I know - You know why? It's the only snack, so far, that doesn't crumb its way into the disgusting crannies of the car seat. These smiling fish-shaped cheese-flavored crackers are far better than most potato chips because they're baked, not fried, and available in bags, boxes, and most recently 100-calorie snack packs.  You can fool picky nibblers with styles more geared for these  with pretzel or pizza flavored Goldfish.  Nutritional benefits of Goldfish are comparable to other crackers: they are a source of whole grain, iron, and calcium.  This snack has a higher fat and sodium content, but eaten in moderation it can be part of a balanced meal and snack routine.  So, smile for the smiling fish.  Just be prepared to cut him off after one bowl, because he's sure to ask, "more fish, please?"

Honorable mention:

fruit juice that is healthy for kids

You've got to have something to wash it all down.  With no high fructose corn syrup and organic ingredients, Honest Kids pouch drinks win.  Each pouch has 40 calories and 100% daily vitamin C.  Pretty cool, huh?

They're not easy to find, though.  We're hoping these will become more popular and in-demand.


Harald Hansen
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# Harald Hansen 2010-02-23 00:49
Hello from Norway! I just found your site through Expedition Portal, and it looks interesting!

Re: snacks. We try to limit the snack intake, but when we really need to, the kids usually get some kind of biscuit or cracker. Yes, there are crumbs everywhere, but crumbs are easier to get rid of than chocolate melted into upholstery and whatnot. In Europe many service stations have coin operated vacuum cleaners, and one parent can give the interior a once-over while the other takes the wee ones for a bathroom run.
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Mark Stephens
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# Mark Stephens 2010-02-23 08:11
Oh, yes, must limit the snacks as best you can. And when you must pull one out, the ultimate quest, Harald, is to find the perfect balance in a snack that's
  • Healthy
  • Mess-free or crumbless
  • Tasty enough that the child craves it!

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+2 / 0
# Shaun 2010-07-22 15:42
Pretty similar list to ours. I personaly like carrot sticks and peanute butter. We bring apples or apple slices, mandarin oranges most times from the can (low syrup or 100% juice) or the pre-made cups, and since my son makes a mess with Go-Gurts we substitute the yogurt drinks instead.

I am enjoying reading through your site! Great job.
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+1 / 0
# Aimee 2011-02-09 11:25
We are full-on bring your own food people. We don't just bring snacks, we bring lunch! We often make turkey pinwheels, soft tacos, sandwiches made with German fitness bread. Apple slices, carrot sticks and I like TLC crackers. For a drink, we just give her water in her steel water bottle.
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# Kevin 2011-02-10 13:42
Another thing worth getting is mini water bottles with 'disposable' tops. We clean and reuse the 'Bug Juice" bottles from 7-eleven and put a Gerber Spill-proof water spout on top (LINK). They are only 'disposable' in the sense that if one gets lost or otherwise deemed unusable (long story about fresh pasture-patties from the buffalo) it’s a big deal.
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+2 / 0
# Kevin 2011-02-10 13:44
It can be hard getting little ones to drink enough water which is why we put a couple drops of Sweet Leaf liquid stevia drops (LINK) into the water bottles. It is a natural sugar alternative. My kids love the lemon-drop, the grape, the rootbeer, and the vanilla-creme.
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Lia Keller kel
+2 / 0
# Lia Keller kel 2011-06-22 19:59
I know this is an older post, but we love the peanut butter in a tube like barney butter!
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0 / 0
# Mark 2011-07-01 13:43
Yum yum....
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# Sarah 2011-10-15 18:54
I know this is older, but Larabars are my favorite. I keep them for ONLY when we are going out on special trips (since they can get expensive for everyday use) but my kid loves them. If you combine coupons and grocery sales, you can get them decently cheap and stock up...
And yeah, I totally use them for bribery. Although my favorite thing about them is how simple they are (dates, fruit and nuts...that's it usually...maybe some spices)
They wouldn't work for nut allergies though....
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