With four kids under 13, I try to keep the extracurricular activities to one or two per child at any given time. But when you multiply that by the number of kids in my family, it still means we are out during dinner time multiple times a week. On these days, dinner is served in our family’s dining room #2, also known as the back seat of the van. Dinner on the go is a regular occurrence for many families, and short of hitting the drive-thru window three nights of seven, busy families need more choices.
As long as the kids have eaten a good breakfast and lunch my dinner standards are flexible, and when the kids are eating from their laps, they’re even lower. I try to keep in mind that the ultimate goal is getting relatively healthy food into my kids without creating a giant mess in my vehicle. Dinner does not need to be a culinary extravaganza and dinner on the go is best when it’s super simple, relatively low-spill, and somewhat clean on little faces.
There are two to ways to attack backseat suppers: either by making a main “dish” like homemade pizza or sandwiches, or by assembling a small buffet of different foods. Homemade pizza is a favourite in my house and I like it because not only is it economical, I also know exactly what goes into it, so it’s relatively healthy. I usually make my own pizza dough, but most grocers now carry pre-made doughs or pizza shells you can top as you like. My cheese of choice is mozzarella because it’s relatively high in protein. Then I add sweet bell peppers and ham – but usually only on half, because with four palates to please you never know who might not be eating meat that day. Dinner on the go is a “pick your battles” scenario, as anyone who’s tried to force feed a four year-old in a white karate Gi understands. I might also bring along some grapes or sliced apples for an added nutritional boost.
If we’re eating sandwiches, I offer one of three easy varieties: peanut butter and banana (an woefully under-valued sandwich in my opinion), sliced apples and marble cheddar cheese wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla, or meat (ham, turkey, or whatever is left over from the previous day’s dinner) with havarti and lettuce.
When not showing off my cooking “prowess” by making portable pizzas and sandwiches, I’m off assembling food so my kids can have their own personal buffets. Mini-buffet dinners are my favourite for dinner on the go. The plastic food storage containers with the separate compartments or individual bento boxes are nice to have on hand for this type of dinner on the go. I like them because they are simple and I can easily customize them so that everyone gets things they like to eat, and they seal up again so my kids don’t have to eat everything before they get to their destination. If they are going to do a physical activity, eating everything before they get there is not a good idea, and this dinner wards off hunger pangs and leaves food for the car ride home.
Backseat Buffet Builder for Dinner on the Go:
- Homemade banana muffins
- Non-sugary cereal (Cheerios, Corn bran Squares, Shreddies)
Fruit or veg
- Apple slices
- Watermelon, strawberries
- Sweet bell peppers
- Baby carrots
- Probiotic yogurt
Meat and Alternatives
- Sliced or cubed ham
- Sunflower seeds
- 1-2 tbsp peanut butter (good for dipping apple slices)
We don’t normally do bedtime snacks in our house, but I sometimes make exceptions on days where I’ve been watching my kids eat in my rear view mirror. On those nights, our bedtime snack involves the kids putting together the snack while I make some homemade hot cocoa. It is the perfect homey treat to end an evening spent out and about, and a nice way to catch up with the kids after a busy, activity-filled day.