Thursday, 14 August 2014

Travel-Friendly Food for Children

This post is written by Corsage who blogs at A Dollop of Me. With her two petite travellers, Bubbles (4.5yo) and Bun (2yo), she often has to ensure that their hungry tummies are well-fed on the various short trips that they make - mainly for their well-being, and sometimes, for her sanity. 

Food not only nourishes our young ones but can also serve as a provision of entertainment or a prevention of meltdowns during holidays. We use food to feed hungry tummies, encourage children to sit still and stay safe, stave off home-sicknesses, and attempt to maintain a good balance of nutrients and fiber for healthy functioning bodies.

When I travel with my two young daughters, knowing what food they can eat during the trip is of big importance to me. As children get older, I am pretty sure it gets easier, as they will have been exposed to a wider variety of food, and have developed stronger stomachs and psychological maturity to manage new ones.

For every trip we make, I always take a variety of food along to supplement my girls' meals with. The quantity and type of food depends on our travel destination, but I found that I have unconsciously been making provision for the 5 types of food groups that are outlined in this post!

Most parents would already know what food works for their own kids (we would love to hear what works for your children in the comments!), but here is a list that might just add inspiration for your next trip:

1. The "cure-all" Sweet Treats

What?! Sweets for the kiddos? Believe me, there was a time when I would frown on that too. However, now that I have two children who have been exposed to school and countless birthday parties, it is difficult to completely eradicate candy from their list of foodie wants. I have since chosen the path of using the lure of sweet treats to my benefit!

In our home, more often than not, we have a small stash of "healthy" candies - lollies, gummies, chocolates, yoghurt drops etc that I will also bring along during our travels. I choose options with organic, natural ingredients, with minimal additives and food colouring. We offer dark chocolate, and yoghurt drops, and bring along Vitamin gummies. All these serve as excellent short-term rewards and dare I say it, bribes!

These sweet treats help us through the most difficult of crankiness, potentially dangerous situations, times when we need to consider other people's comfort, or simply to buy a bit of quiet time for us parents (2 minutes spent on gummy chewing can mean 2 minutes of much needed quietness!).

Now that both of my children do not drink from milk bottles, I give them lollipops to suck on during airplane take-offs and landings to help equalize ear pressure.

So, take along sweet treats that you will be ok that your child eats, because if you don't, there could be other candy offered by others during your journey that could contain more nasties than you would like!

My girls eat Yum Earth Organics Gummy Bears, Yum Earth Organics Pops, happyyogis Yoghurt & Fruit Snacks, and a variety of dark chocolate.

2. The Alternatives to Airplane Food

For the longest time, we used to pick flight times to coincide with afternoon naps. This meant that we would feed our girls a meal before the flight, and they would sleep during the journey, skipping food served on the plane. However, as naps faded away, this plan is now a thing of the past.

Many airlines do take special food requests, but I find it simply easier to bring our girls' own food. Things that they will eat and we do not require us to second guess the success of a meal. I also feel that this helps to start a holiday off on the right foot - agreeable children with healthy food in their tummies.

There are of course a whole variety of packed meals that you can bring along. From steaming rice porridge in a Thermos, to hearty sandwiches. We like to bring along hard-boiled eggs as they keep well, and is a whole food that fills the tummy. I also pack along hard vegetables like carrots and broccoli, the former uncooked in bite-sized sticks, and the latter steamed or boiled.

3. The Stuff from Breakfast Buffets

Will you be staying at a hotel or resort that comes with a breakfast buffet? If so, this point is for you! Taking stuff from the buffet to keep for later might seem to be a big no-no, and I certainly am not saying that we should be sweeping food off from the buffet table into our bags! However, if your children are not able to stomach food at that time in the morning, and you know that they will need a late morning snack while you are out sightseeing, packing one or two items for them to eat later, I feel, is understandable.

I recall some trips where I got really frustrated when my daughter would not touch anything at the breakfast buffet in the morning, and then get hungry an hour or so later, when we are out and about. When I thought about it, I realized that seeing a whole array of food can be daunting, and the excitement of being in a new place might also put a young child off food so early in the morning. Also, my children used to have milk first thing in the morning, and that was enough to sustain them for a while.

Once I realized that, I started to pack an item or two to take along with us for them to munch on later. I usually pick a fruit that will carry well, like an apple, orange or a banana. And often pick out breads or pastries, or make a little sandwich with the condiments provided at the buffet. Choose items that are easy to carry along and will keep for a while. And remember, take just enough to fill the little tummies and not any more!

If you do not have a breakfast buffet option, popping by a supermarket to pick up these few items could also save you trouble of having to find food when you need it!

4. The Homesickness Remedies

Packing for a holiday, I always try to include some food and beverage that spell home, and comfort. Being in a new place takes more out of some children than others, and having familiar foods can help to calm nerves and stave off homesickness. Food that fall into this category could include drinks like Milo or Ribena, familiar biscuits, and even frozen homemade stock or vegetable purees. Thinking about it, I do this for myself too, and sometimes pack in spicy cup noodles!

Always check that the country you are visiting will allow these foods in. I used to bring frozen stock to mix into whatever foods we get at our choice of accommodation, for days when nothing on the menu seems to please. I found taking vegetable purees useful for the really young ones as it is often difficult to find vegetables cooked to a familiar tenderness. If you own and prefer to bring your own blender, I know of people who travel with a portable machine like this.

5. The Obligatory Healthy Bites

I have talked about sweets, food for the airplane, stuff to pack from a breakfast buffet, and food cures for homesickness. When looking through food choices for all of the above, I always try to make sure that my children get a good proportion of healthy bites. Oftentimes, one's immunity gets compromised during travel, and having healthy bodies really do help prevent the sickies from taking place!

Besides the fresh fruit and vegetables that were mentioned earlier, I make sure that they get a variety of nuts, dried fruit (with no added sugar if possible), and my daughter's favourite cherry tomatoes. Having these to complement the treats and food we can find on our journey do give me a bit of a peace of mind!

I have just taken you through some of my thought processes when packing travel food for my very own petite travellers. I hope you enjoyed the read and maybe found some of the ideas useful! We know that every child is different, and would love to hear what works for your children in the comments!

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