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The 6 lifesaver NO: how to survive a long drive with toddlers

Avoiding serious consequences:

read this before setting off on a long car journey with your small children.

6 lifesaver rules how to feed your toddlers and chidren to give the best start to your holiday.

Slow cooker lamb stew - family recipe


Happy snacking on the go

As we getting closer to our holiday I dive deeper into planning our journey. As every year, we are going to drive a lot and this is really challenging with two toddlers.
I don’t know how you are but I have experienced that my girls are automatically getting hungry as we set off. Even I prepare lot’s of activity for them for the journey, somehow eating become a kind of entertainment for them. So I had to accept that
– more, smaller healthy snack is better for them on a long journey than 2-3 main meals
– food must be fun.

The surprise box

So I usually prepare 2-3 “surprise box” for each of them what they can open only in the car and they don’t know what’s inside. I usually fill normal sandwich boxes with 3-4 different kind of food which are fun. I use colourful muffin papers to keep them separated and make them more exciting.

healthy snacks for a long journey

This year I will even prepare and hide little visual quizzes for them in the box – in connection to the food inside. But if your children can read, you can hide little cards with jokes, quizzes, poems or even stories inside the box. No worries, it doesn’t need to take up a lot of time, you can cut up a magazine or print out jokes from the internet.

Like these printables in this post:

Kids’ Travel Kit Binder + Over 150 Free Printable Activities


The six NO

#1 No messy food – Avoiding dirty and smelly car

This is a serious rule – mainly because of dad… but there are safety reasons too. Also, when you are going for a holiday you have plenty of stuff in your car and probably the journey is not a pleasure in a messy and smelly car. So, fluid is only water (in drinking bottles), no soup from thermo pots, no saucy food – like ketchup filled sandwiches or pasta sauce. No sticky food and sticky hands (like honey sandwich or sticky fruit pieces like mango cubes.)
This rule is only eating inside the car. Of course, if you would like to stop and have a picnic that’s another case.
And one more note: letting children in the car is always a messy business. Crumbs, spills, rolled little pieces of food are unavoidable at any age.

#2 No low-fibre food – Avoiding constipation

Starting a holiday with constipation is not start. Even children need more fibre on a long journey as they cannot move as much as they usually do. So, they need more fibre to keep their bowel movements regular. Do not forget that after fibre-rich meals we need to drink more fluid. Crisps, chocolate and sweets make the situation even worse. Oat based muesli bars with dried fruit, raisins, fruits like apple and tangerines are better choices .
It is also a good idea to stop more times for a short break to let them have a move/run/dance around to avoid constipation (and visit the toilet).

#3 No sugar – Avoiding mood swings and tantrum

When they are bored during the long drive they love to eat more naughty thing and we want to keep them happy. We probably think it is fine to give them more sugar as a one off treat on the road. This is a mistake. More sugar means more energy – and their physical activity is very much limited in the car. So if you want to keep moving on that is not the right thing to do. Also, as their blood sugar level drops after a lollypop their behaviour change for worse. Then you can hear them complaining, moaning, crying, the driver gets frustrated and distracted and the bad mood poisons already the holiday.

#4 No easily perishable foods – Avoiding food poisoning

For food safety reason we have to be very careful with easily perishable foods on the move like dairy products, boiled/baked eggs, vacuum packed smoked salmon, food made with prawns or other seafood or ham. If you take a cooler box with you than they are okay consumed within 24 hours straight from the cooler box (of course this depends on the performance of your cooler box).
It is also okay to take a few individually wrapped cheese and ham sandwiches if they are consumed in the first hour of the journey (and they are coming cooled from the fridge).
For shorter journey which means less than 3 hours a cooler bag can work perfectly. As we are going to be on the road more than 20 hours a cooler box will be a necessary equipment. (It can be plugged into the cigarette lighter charger, so it’s really cool. But in hot summer weather still not completely the same performance like a proper fridge.)

Get the free pdf file of the

77 Healthy Snacks  


#5 No junk food – Avoiding sleepiness and bad digestion

It would be just so easy to stop at a service and have something lovely and nutritious, but… As I’ve experienced all that you can get close to the motorway is junk food that doesn’t offer any nutritional value neither toddlers nor parents. And when you are on the move with a defined destination and time frame you do not want to make a big detour and spend time hunting for a good restaurant.
Unfortunately in most of the motorway restaurants and shops, even the light options are very saddening… Not to mention the children menu. Salads look a good option but it is very often just an illusion and it doesn’t go well for kids.
This is the main reason why I prepare home-made food for the journey. Maybe extra hassle, I admit, but it is at least safe – and I always schedule my time to prepare the food before departure.

#6 Nothing new – Avoiding unwanted surprises

I learnt this on the hard way: 2 years ago I gave a Weetabix morning drink for my daughter as soon as we set off. She loved it but threw it up straight away. Well, we still had about 20 hours drive ahead in that car… So, it’s the best to stay on the safe side and use familiar products and ingredients.

Snacks for toddlers: the good, the bad and the messy

I list here a few ‘NO-NO’ and ‘YES’ options of mine here, but I am sure you can complete the list. What are your best travel foods for children?
If you shared them in a comment below then that would be very useful for fellow mums 😉


  • ice cream,
  • chocolate,
  • raisins with chocolate or yoghurt coat,
  • sweets,
  • whole nuts,
  • Danish pastry,
  • white bread or bread roll,
  • crisps, boiled egg (which is perfect for a picnic),
  • raspberries, mango, oranges (they are messy and result in sticky hands),
  • yoghurt in pots,
  • salty popcorn or crisps,
  • any kind of food with sauces


  • home-made muesli bars with dried fruit like this recipe,
  • raisins,
  • dried apricots,
  • fruits: apple, banana, grapes, blueberries, firm pears,
  • individually wrapped cheese pieces, yoghurt in pouches (if you have a cooler bag or box),
  • vegetable sticks: cucumber, carrots, celery, bell peppers
  • cheese tubs with bread sticks,
  • crispy wholemeal wrap pieces,
  • slices of this morning loaf (or the dough can be baked in muffin cases)
  • Nakd bars,
  • fruit squeezy pouches,
  • rice cakes,
  • homemade flatbreads like these,
  • Ella’s kitchen snack bars and bites,
  • homemade root vegetable and potato rosti,
  • fruity Ryvita,
  • Nairn’s oatcakes,
  • toddler pretzels,
  • cooked chicken breast and ham (only if you have a cooler box),
  • vegetable frittata fingers (only if you can keep them cooled)
  • cinnamon rolls made with quark (use this Morning Cocoa Roll recipe and substitute cocoa with cinnamon)
  • trail mix


77 Healthy Snacks What You Can Buy in Every Supermarket

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Get the free pdf file of the

77 Healthy Snacks  


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