Children hyped up with high-energy foods can turn a road-trip into a nightmare. Here is your checklist to ensure smooth sailing.
Before you can say “Bloemfontein” your kids have scoffed the Smarties they begged you to buy at the quick-stop when you paused to fill the car. Minutes later, they turn into blue-and-orange-tongued monsters, bouncing on the back seat of your car, despite being strapped in with seat belts.
What you didn’t remember is that they’d finished a packet of biscuits not long before. Oh, and they had take-away burgers, chips and Coke for lunch. On a major sugar high, their energy is oozing with nowhere to go but the confines of the car – and your road trip flips instantly from a laid-back getaway to travel torture.
FROM BELLY TO BOUNCE
Refined carbohydrates and sugar-filled snacks convert very quickly into glucose for energy. They create a high-blood-sugar-level rush, which is fine if your child wants to win the 100-metre sprint, but far from fine if he or she has to sit quietly in a car with a long road ahead.
While the sugar connection seems more obvious with chocolates, sweets and biscuits, they’re not the only ones to blame. Refined carbohydrates (made with white flour) have a high glycaemic load (GL), which means, just like sugar, they result in a high-energy spike, instead of slow-release, sustained and moderate energy.
When combined with trans-fats, as in most junk-food take always, you have a recipe for behavioural wobbles and long-term health issues.
Even if your kids are used to eating a healthy, wholesome, fresh-food diet at home, the temptation is to let that slide while you’re on holiday. It may also prove a lot easier than trying to find somewhere to buy healthy alternatives.
However, if you want to choose calm over frazzled and healthy over not, the secret is to be prepared.
The answer to the frequent “Mom, I’m hungry” complaint is to pack a cooler box with picnic food and healthy snacks so your children can nibble often, which helps keep blood sugar levels constant. For drinks, fill and freeze bottles of water or diluted fruit juice the night before you leave so they can double up as “cooler bags” and, as they thaw, substitute for fizzy, sugar-charged cool drinks.
Falafels are easy to prepare – baked is better than fried (to avoid those trans fats) while whole wheat bread sandwiches with tasty fillings such as peanut butter (no added sugar or salt) and banana; avo, rocket and feta cheese; tuna and sweetcorn mayo; or cheese are always popular. You could also use whole-wheat pita bread stuffed with deliciously healthy fillings.
If you’re into salads try chickpea/bean combination with lots of veggies, or a brown rice salad with at least half made up of salad veg.
Turn a tossed salad into a main dish by adding proteins such as beans (pinto, black or white) or a boneless skinless chicken breast grilled and diced before leaving home, or roast veggies in the oven beforehand and wrap them up to go.
Fruit kebabs provide natural, healthy sugars – cut up a variety of fresh fruit, such as pineapple, apples, peaches, strawberries and bananas, and skewer them together. A health tip is to ensure all sandwiches and fruit are eaten with a high protein food such as meat, nuts or seeds to slow down the release of glucose.