Christina Le Beau
…the car, the hotel room, the great outdoors. Here’s how to eat well when you’re bringing your own food:
Rethink “fast” food
Stock your cooler with nonperishables like nuts, dried and freeze-dried fruit, trail mix, popcorn, granola bars, whole-grain crackers and cookies, and unsweetened applesauce cups. Throw in some cut veggies (carrots and celery) and easy fruit like clementines, grapes, and apples (prewashed). Lunch is a snap with whole-grain wraps and fillings like hummus, cheese, nut butter, or jam. Cereal, granola, and shelf-stable boxes of organic milk travel well for breakfast.
Pack a portable kitchen
Fill a reusable shopping bag with a few meal-prep and storage essentials: a small cutting board and knife (wrap it in a dish towel); forks and spoons; cups, which can double as bowls; some empty food-storage containers; reusable water bottles; biodegradable plastic baggies and cloth snack bags; recycled paper towels and biodegradable wet wipes; and dish soap.
Make the suite choice
Get a hotel room with a kitchenette, or at least a refrigerator. If you can get a microwave and small sink with a counter, even better. Make your dinner from farmers’ market greens, cheese, and sweet potatoes cooked in the microwave. Skip the hotel’s highly processed breakfast buffet—but use its toaster, dishes, and utensils.
…without resorting to fast-food chains or questionable menu items. Find a restaurant and then:
Skip the children’s menu
Just do it. Let the kids color on it, but don’t order from it. Most children’s menus offer nothing but cheap, processed junk food: fried chicken bits, neon mac and cheese, pizza-flavored cardboard. The more that restaurants hear disapproval from parents—the more you order real food instead of so-called “kid food”—the better the chance of change.
Order family-style and share
A salad, a few appetizers, an entrée or two. Order just a few items, with your family’s varying palates in mind, and dish it out like you would at home. If there are leftovers, get those empty food-storage containers from the car and take them to go.
View the menu as a suggestion
Ask for half-portions (at half-price) for the kids. If you want to order the less-expensive kid’s grilled cheese, go for it, but ask for cheddar on wheat instead of the standard American on white. Substitute a side salad, veggies, or fruit for the fries (if the menu doesn’t offer that option, ask anyway). Scan the à la carte menu and create your own snack platter by ordering, say, wholegrain toast with cream cheese, carrot sticks, and applesauce.