One of my favorite things about summer is taking road trips with the kiddos. Whether we’re driving to a state park, beach or a yet-to-be-determined destination, it’s always a fun adventure — as long as we’ve planned ahead by packing snacks and drinks for the ride. If you’ve ever traveled with little ones, you’re probably familiar with the “I’m hungry!” or “I’m thirsty!” complaints coming from the back seat. And if unprepared, a quick drive thru or convenience store stop is inevitable if you’re hoping for a semi-peaceful drive.

To be sure you’re ready for the ride ahead, here are essential planning tips to keep in mind.

Limit sugary items. This is especially important on very long drives, because no one wants to be stuck in the car with a child who’s on a sugar rush. Keep things like candy, pastries, cookies, and sugary beverages like sports drinks, sweetened iced tea and fruit punch at home.

Stock the glove compartment. The key to on-the-go snacking is keeping items such as napkins, wipes and silverware on hand so you’re ready in an instant. When you find yourself with extra pre-packed silverware and napkin packages from ordering take-out, keep them for your car instead of tossing them in the trash.

Bring a cooler. If planning a road trip for the day, pack a small cooler with ice so everything stays nice and cold. It’s also a great way to add to what you’re able to bring along. For example, aseptic milk boxes, yogurt smoothies, string cheese, ham & cheese wraps, and cut melon and berries would be safe, delicious, and portable options. Freezing juice boxes, yogurt tubes, water bottles, and milk boxes before heading out the door is another great idea to keep food and drinks cold.

Pack nutritious offerings. Some of our favorite items to take along for car rides include lower-sugar, higher-fiber granola bars, whole grain crackers, dried fruit, applesauce pouches, nuts, seeds, and individual-sized popcorn and pretzel snack bags. Some other great choices are peanut butter crackers, granola, jerky, canned fruit, and portable produce like bananas, apples and oranges or carrots, celery sticks, and sliced bell peppers.

Next page: DIY Trail Mix

Andrea Luttrell is a registered dietitian nutritionist for the Living Well Eating Smart program at Big Y Foods. She can be reached at livingwell@bigy.com or write Living Well, 2145 Roosevelt Ave, PO Box 7840, Springfield 01102.

Related Article: What does natural really mean?

Do you have a question on nutrition or healthy eating or want more information or ideas on a related topic?

Email editor@baystateparent.com and your suggestion could be featured in an upcoming edition of Dishin’ With the Dietitian.

DIY Trail Mix
Before going on any trip, plan a fun, functional food activity with kids: Have them create their own trail mix in little baggies or small mason jars. Use these ingredients or get creative with what you have in your pantry and let your children make their own yummy combinations.

Ingredient Mix-Ins

Toasted oats cereal

Peanuts

Sunflower seeds

Raisins

Dried cranberries

Soy nuts, pretzels

Mini chocolate chips

Almonds

Pistachios

Pumpkin seeds

Banana chips

Dried pineapple chunks

Puffed rice cereal, popcorn

Mini marshmallows

Dried cherries

Peanut butter chips

Walnuts