Foreign food and kids don’t always mix well. Our daughter Grace is generally a pretty varied eater for a two-year old. She likes a good mix of fruits, veggies, meats, bread, so for the most part our parenting food philosophy is along the lines of “as long as she usually eats what we eat, an occasional deviation from said philosophy is perfectly acceptable.”
The “occasional deviation” quickly becomes the norm when we travel however, particularly to foreign countries. Really, it has to. I just can’t insist that Grace eat spicy food in Honduras or shellfish in the Caribbean. Nope, not gonna do it.
As much as possible, we try to find familiar as well as new foods Grace will like in the local cuisine. In just about every country you can find some kind of food that appeals to your child, if you know what to look for. Last Thanksgiving in Honduras the hotel kitchen made Grace her own special noodles with white sauce and broccoli most nights. In Argentina we often ordered Grace her own small sides of mashed potatoes and applesauce, both staples in Argentine parilla restaurants. Fruits and breads are widely available just about everywhere, so don’t be afraid to ask for something special for your child, even asking a waiter to recommend what local children eat. You may find your child has a new love for mashed turnips or grilled guniea pig!
Food should be a fun part of travel, not a headache, and it generally doesn’t take long before we find ourselves at a meal where Grace just isn’t digging whatever happens to be available. We always carry a good supply of back-up foods that are easy to pack, nutritious, and we know she likes. A cranky, hungry kid is no fun when traveling and neither is a cranky, frustrated parent.
Clif bars are our #1 travel food of choice for Grace. She will always eat them, no matter what. Clif bars use organic ingredients, are high in fiber, protein and vitamins, and relatively low in fat and sugar (compared to, say, cookies). I find them on sale and buy large quantities with coupons. I avoid the chocolatey/ peanut butter combinations and instead go for fruity varities – blueberry crisp, oatmeal raisin, and once I even bought a whole bunch of carrot cake (woohoo for veggies!). Somehow I feel better giving her the fruity/ veggie flavors, even though the sugar and fat content doesn’t vary much from their chocolate cousins.
Other favorites we pack along include Horizon organic UHT milk (no refrigeration needed), single serve boxes of raisins, organic applesauce packs, Mi-del whole wheat graham crackers, dried blueberries, and peanut butter.
Our hope as parents is that, by introducing Grace to new places, people and, yes, foods as a young child, she will grow up embracing new friends as well as sights, sounds, and tastes. Bringing along a little of the familiar seems to help her feel more at ease and willing to try new things. Plus there have been plenty of times when I’ve been grateful to have her Clif bars along to settle my own rumbling tummy.
What are your favorite travel foods for your kids?