The open road beckons: Healthy and happy snacks and diversions for your summer road trips

Stay healthy and happy on your summer road trip with these delicious snacks, easy-to-pack meals and low-cost entertainment.

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  • Come away, come away, come away with me!

  • As summer breezes begin to blow, the temptation to embark on an adventure becomes almost irresistible (do you remember the Wind in the Willows?) Here is a menu to fuel the energy of your wanderlust and set you on a course for a wunderbar journey. (Approved by my Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetic Educator husband.)

  • Healthy and happy foods make for good traveling companions. If you eat mostly healthy food, you'll feel better and will probably consume fewer calories than if you eat a lot of junk food. The cold things need to be in a cooler with ice and the rest can be packed in a cute container with compartments or in a basket that's easy to get to. A friend always puts her veggies in mason jars with ice water. Don't forget paper towels, wet wipes or wet washcloths in bags and a trash bag.

  • Tip: My sister-in-law makes her husband stop once a day for a sit-down meal on long road trips. I like to pack a portable propane grill or chef's single burner, a pot, spoon, disposable paper plates and bowls. You can heat up soup, and add a packaged salad or cook a simple meal, even oatmeal or eggs for breakfast.

  • When you are trying to make good time on the road, here are some of our favorite snacks to pack for the journey.

  • Drinks

  • A cooler filled with ice and drinks will be your best friend on the road. Consider forgoing the usual sodas (sticky) and try some of these suggestions:

  • Water and fruit-infused water in bottles (strawberry, orange, lemon, cucumber, etc.)

  • Sometimes you need caffeinated soda for drowsiness. It can also be diluted half and half with water so it's not so sweet, or try the diet variety.

  • Fruit juices and nectars

  • V8 and vegetable juices

  • (Vernor's) ginger ale for motion sickness

  • Bring straws.

  • Snacks

  • A cramped car is the last place you want to jam a bunch of sugar-filled children. Give the traditional candy and chocolate bars a break on this trip and pack some of these items instead.

  • Mixed nuts

  • String cheese

  • Whole grain crackers

  • Popcorn

  • Trail Mix: I don't like raisins and sticky foods in the car, but we do have a great dry trail mix made with mixed nuts, M&Ms, whole grain cereal and candy corn.

  • Confession: I like adding oat and marshmallow cereal (Lucky Charms), but you could make it healthier with whole grain oat or wheat cereal. Pack it in bags or keep it in a large container and scoop out small paper cupfuls to pass around:

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  • 2 C plain M & Ms (about a pound)

  • 5 C mixed nuts or peanuts

  • 1 1/2 C candy corn

  • 4 C cereal

  • Beef jerky

  • Olives

  • Fresh fruits: grapes, apples, bananas and cut up melon for older and neater eaters

  • Fresh veggies: carrots, jicama, cucumber, grape tomatoes, celery, broccoli, peppers

  • Sandwiches, wraps and pinwheels (tortilla rolls with cream cheese, meat, tomato slices and lettuce)

  • Whole grain bagels and cream cheese

  • When you know the trip will be long, don't waste time stopping numerous times for food. Instead, why not consider packing a loaf of whole wheat bread and jars of peanut butter, honey or jelly (and a spreader). It's a money-saver as well as a time saver on the road. You may also offer your hungry passengers these items:

  • Yogurt in tubes

  • Bar cookies are usually thicker and more stable than round ones

  • Homemade granola bars

  • More travel tips:

  • Pack a Frisbee or football for quick and stretching workouts at rest stops. Be sure to find a safe place to play.

  • Bring something soft and fuzzy like a stuffed toy or blankie for young travelers. Stroking something soft helps relieve stress. (The cat probably would rather be left at home.)

  • Pack some sunscreen in the car for stops and sightseeing.

  • Paint the back of a wooden tray with chalkboard paint and pack some chalk and a rag. If you don't want crayons and markers in the car, the kids can still draw and play games and the tray can be used for snacks and a play surface.

  • Busy books, paper dolls, toy cars and dinosaurs and simple travel games can be wonderful. You can get ideas and free templates on social media sites.

  • Incentives: have a container of money in the car labeled with a list of forbidden actions like name-calling, whining, hitting, etc. If the kids get out of line, take out some of the money. Give them what is left for souvenirs and special treats.

  • Buy a donut-shaped travel pillow for each passenger. They are heavenly for a quick snooze without waking up with a stiff neck.

  • Check out a few well-written audio books from the library. You may tire of the constant interaction, conversation and "togetherness." Put on a good story and relax; better yet, find a series. Listening makes the time pass faster, too. To keep the happiness meter up, we love good comedies by Dave Barry and Bill Cosby. Do your older children have books they need to read for school? You can knock out a reading assignment and have an interesting discussion to boot.

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  • You don't have to leave your happy, healthy lifestyle on the side of the road. With a little preparation ahead of time, your family trip can be just as pleasant along the way as the anticipated destination.

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Pam McMurtry is a wife, parent, artist and writer. Find her book "A Harvest and Halloween Handbook" on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.

Website: http://www.pammcmurtry.com

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