by Melissa Powell
In a few weeks, I will be traveling out of state with another family for one week. There will be seven children, ages 6 months to 7 years old, and 4 adults. Today we found out our hotel does not have a refrigerator. Now the other mom and I are on a mission to feed our kids without compromising good nutrition and wise spending habits. I have been a registered dietitian nutritionist for over 15 years and real life scenarios like this one still test me. The fact is, the Standard American Diet, or SAD for short, makes this task difficult. Challenge accepted!
Like any good American mom, my first step was to Google “unrefrigerated healthy meals” and found out I had a lot of options if I wanted to feed my kids in space, on a boat, or in the wilderness. There are actually some really great ready to eat meals that don’t compromise good nutrition. Go Picnic was one brand that caught my attention. However, this may not be an option for picky eaters or families on a tight budget.
Step two: consider foods within each group that doesn’t require refrigeration. Fruits, like apples, oranges, and bananas; grains, like whole wheat bread and crackers; and, proteins, like seeds, nuts, and nut butters all came to mind quite easily. Vegetables were more of a challenge. The food pouches that have become popular may be a good option for this food group, and worth the extra dollars for the sake of ease of travel and some extra vitamins. Another option is to load up on the veggies during the first few days when we have coolers. Peppers, celery, cucumbers, and snap peas all make for great snacking options.
Step three: consider foods for each meal and snack. Breakfast will likely consist of an oatmeal bar or cookie and fresh fruit. There are some wonderful recipes for hearty, healthy oatmeal or granola bars online. Lunch may include a veggie pouch with either a peanut butter sandwich or crackers and jerky. A seed, nut, dried fruit mix will make great snacks. Again, online recipes abound for snack mixes. And children make great chefs when it comes to these types of recipes. So, this will be their job, while I pack the car.
The reminder for us all with this challenge is that planning will make all the difference, in keeping within a budget and filling up on healthy, great-tasting foods. Taking a few extra minutes to plan a menu and a shopping list will save us time, money, and energy (literally, we will have more energy from the real foods chosen, rather than processed or fast foods that often leave us tired and rundown). So, wherever you travel this summer, I hope you will accept the challenge to plan and choose nutritious foods.
Melissa Powell Contact
Melissa is a registered dietitian and lecturer in the Health and Human Performance Department’s Dietetics Program at UT Chattanooga. She and her husband, Chris, are the proud parents of their 7-year-old son, Craig. She enjoys time with her church family, taming her lab mutts–Mabel and Moses—wine with neighbors and traveling south for a beach vacation or visit with her nieces. Her favorite subjects are faith, food, farming, family, friends and football. She earned a bachelor’s degree in nutrition from Samford University, a master’s degree in health education from UTC, and is working on her doctorate in UTC’s LEAD Program.