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Feeding infants and toddlers on the go

Sarah Walker Caron is an award winning journalist, freelance writer and editor. She lives a happy life in Maine with her two children, where they love to hike, visit the beaches and have lots of silly fun. Check out her food blog at Sara...

What you need what you don't

Packing for a day trip - even a brief one - can be a headache. The assorted gear like clothes, diapering gear, strollers . . . they all take up a lot of room, both mentally when you are thinking of what to pack and physically in the car. But what about eating? While the youngest set - new eaters and toddlers - might not be ready for the greasy goodness of ball park burgers or amusement park chicken things, older kids and adults can benefit nutritionally (and financially) from bringing your own food.

What you need what you don'tYou never quite appreciate how hard it can be to get in the car and go until you have children. Here's what you need to keep them healthy and happy while day tripping or otherwise away from home.

The basics

You'll need the things you use at home when feeding away from home. What does that mean? If your son only drinks from a sippy cup, don't expect him to magically learn to use a straw - just bring the cup. If your daughter spreads smashed peas all over her clothes without the benefit of a bib, bring a few. Appropriately sized spoons and a sealable zipper bag to keep them in are a good idea too.

Think ahead

In preparing for your day trip, take note of what your kids genuinely need for a typical eating day. Do they crumble without that afternoon snack? Slurp down drink after drink when there is even a hint of sun? Making a list of what your kids realistically need for a day's eats will help you focus and plan.

Consider limitations

Is it not feasible to keep a quart of milk cold all day? Impossible to keep that mayo fresh? If a cooler filled with frozen packs or ice just won't cut it, then it's time to improvise. Worried about milk spoilage? If you aren't certain if milk will be available at your destination then pick up some instant nonfat dry milk and bring along a bottle of water. Although it's not ideal, this can work in a pinch (and it's much cheaper too).

Avoid foods that contain highly perishable ingredients for trips on hot days. Yes, that means that mayo is a no-go. Here's where having flexible eaters comes in handy. Involve your kids, if they are old enough, in choosing what foods to bring along (pasta salad, PB&J, and cut-up veggies are all good candidates).

Know your destination

Before you go to all the trouble of planning, arranging, making and packing food, be sure that outside food is allowed into your day trip destination. Also, look into convenient eateries, as they could save you time and headache if they meet your family's needs.

Don't forget

Don't forget to grab some rags or paper towels and an appropriate spray to clean up any in the car messes while on the go. Wipes can be good for little hands, but might irritate the face, so stick a baby wash cloth or two in your tote along with a bag to stick it in once wet. And really, don't forget the snacks. They can save you in a pinch.

What you don't need

Don't fall into the trap of "oh so cute travel bowls" and impractical gadgets. Unless your baby is a die-hard, won't ever drink cool milk child (and most aren't -especially in summer), then you needn't buy the cute car bottle warmer. As for those bowls that fold shut with spaces for baby food jars: they leak. A lot.

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