It’s easy to grab the first thing to hand when you need to eat on the go, but that can mean hours of snacks or fatty meals that leave you feeling even more sluggish after a day’s tiresome travel. Here Richard Katzenson shares his insights for improvising when you want to refuel your family.
1. ‘Preparing and bringing your own food is really the best option,’ advises Katzenson. ‘It’s always better than buying it because you know exactly what the ingredients are.’ He suggests using a lightweight cooler to keep everything fresh and packing:
• Simple easy-to-pack finger foods for the family to snack on, like grapes, chopped fresh fruit, carrot and celery sticks, nuts and granola bars.
• Easy-to-prepare sandwiches: peanut butter, chicken or cheese. (Try to avoid too many ingredients that might mush together in transit.)
• Homemade snack mix, eg wholewheat pretzels, popcorn, raisins or dried fruit.
TIP Pick foods you know your kids like – if they’re satisfied with what you prepare for them, they’ll be less likely to nag you for crisps or fries.
2. Katzenson advises avoiding fizzy sugary drinks. ‘The excess sugar and caffeine can make kids restless and irritable. You want children to be calm when traveling.’ Instead drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. Also worth avoiding:
• Bananas – they get damaged easily and can ooze in your bag.
• Crumbly crackers – they can turn children’s seats into an instant mess.
• Sweets – ‘Generally, resist the urge to pacify children with sweets,’ he says. They may initially satisfy, but can stimulate your kids too much.
TIP Don’t forget that juice boxes can be loaded with sugar just like fizzy drinks.
3. If you want to eat while you wait, go online to find out what cafes and restaurants are open at the airport or terminal you’re going to be travelling from or waiting at for your connection. Katzenson says, ‘Airline and train terminals now have so many types of food available, there’s really no excuse to make bad choices anymore.’ He advises:
• Many fast food outlets offer healthier options now, seek out the ones with salad bars.
• Resist the fried foods and sugary item on a menu, or, if you know your children will put up a fuss when they see those things on the menu, skip that restaurant altogether.
• Look for dishes on the menu that include lean protein and vegetables.
• Hit the salad bar. But go easy on the bacon bits, cheese and dressing.
TIP ‘You’re really at the whim of whatever is available,’ says Katzenson. ‘So do the best you can or at least make sure your next meal is a little healthier.’
4. As for airline food, Katzenson says it can be worth choosing to eat on the plane if it saves you hassle when you’re packing. ‘Don’t sweat it,’ says Katzenson. ‘See what the airline offers and make the best choice you can.’ While airlines have placed effort into preparing tasty meals, they may not always be the healthiest. He recommends:
• Stay away from main dishes with fattening heavy sauces.
• Avoid options with lots of mayonnaise or too much cheese.
• Foods that are too rich can sometimes cause digestive problems, something you want to avoid while traveling.
TIP It’s easy to just eat out of boredom, especially on long haul flights. Eat when you’re genuinely hungry.
Easy to make, less soggy than sandwiches and packed with energy-boosting protein, here’s a recipe for a snack the whole family can enjoy when you’re heading from A to B.
Ingredients (serves 4 people)
• Roast chicken, diced
• four pitta pockets
• handful of chopped lettuce leaves
• two tomatoes, chopped
• cubed feta
• half thinly sliced red onion (to taste)
• thinly sliced peeled cucumber
• 3 tbsp olive oil
• 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
• salt and pepper to taste
1. Cut the pitta pockets in half. Divide the fillings between the pockets.
2. Wrap individually or store in plastic containers.
3. Whisk together the olive oil, red wine vinegar, oregano and salt and pepper to taste and pour this into a small plastic container.
4. When you’re ready to eat, drizzle a little of the vinaigrette into each pitta pocket and tuck in!