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Tips For Avoiding The Fast Food Trap!

June 9, 2012

You know how it goes, don’t you?  You set off to run a couple errands.  It ends up taking much longer than expected (a pox on that silly DMV!) and your kids start saying, “Mom/Dad, I’m hungry!”  Or perhaps like Winnie the Pooh you get a little rumbly in your tummy.  You look at the clock in the car.  Eek.  It’s an hour past your usual lunch time.  And you still have to hit the post office and the library.  There’s no way everyone will be able to make it without a major melt-down from the low blood sugar at some point.  Not a pleasant prospect.  So, you weigh your options and decide to drive through the closest fast food joint.  Once the kids are happily munching their fries and you have had your sugar and/or caffeine fix, you continue your errands.  Unfortunately, there still comes that melt-down in line at the post office due to a rapid sugar crash once those empty carbs are rapidly burned up.  And truth be told you’re not in the best condition to deal with the tantrum yourself–being that you are also experiencing a sugar crash headache.

What a trap.  Duped again!

Here are some simple tips for avoiding the fast food trap.

1. Eat before you leave home.

It’s wise to assume that you will be out longer than expected.  So, eat a hearty breakfast or have lunch before you leave home.  Make sure it’s something with adequate protein and complex carbs (like whole grains!) so that you can go the long haul.

2.  Take a healthy snack along.  

If you are going to be out for a while–and especially if you have wee ones in tow–take a snack along.  And I don’t mean a sugary snack (such as those chewy fruit snacks or fruit roll-ups), but real food.  If you have to snack, you may as well be satisfied rather than feeding the sugar monster or adding artificial colors and flavors to the behavioral mix.  You might think about getting a small cooler with reusable ice packs for the car.  Or invest in a little car refrigerator.  Years ago we invested in a little refrigerator that plugs into the cigarette lighter in the car.  For long days out or road trips it has saved us from stopping for fast food many times!


  • Cheese, string or already sliced, with crackers
  • Yogurt in little reusable containers (don’t forget spoons!)
  • Granola bars
  • Trail Mix
  • Bananas, carrot sticks, prepped celery with peanut butter, cherry tomatoes

3. Make sure you are drinking water!

Many times we mistake a thirst cue for a hunger cue.  Make sure each family member has a bottle of water with them (a re-purposed jar from home works just fine!) and that they stay hydrated.  No one is grumpier than a kid who needs a drink!

4. Use the store and not the drive thru.

If you get hungry away from home, think about stopping at the grocery store, rather than a fast food joint.  It’s just as fast to grab fruit, crackers and cheese as it is to order nuggets and fries.  And you’ll get more bang for your buck, too!

Having a car picnic basket can really help make eating real food away from home a reality.  Enter our Fast Food Free Challenge and you just might win a custom made one just for your family!!!

5. Learn to delay gratification.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but going without food for a couple hours will not kill us.  That little gnawing feeling of “I could do with a burger” is not a starvation pain.  When we were kids my parents forbid us to say, “I’m starving!”  Um….no, you’re not.  You’re a little hungry, but not starving.

One of my husband’s best friends is Zambian and he never even says, “I’m hungry.”  If he comes over and I ask him, “You hungry?”  He replies, “I could eat.”  By saying that he is acknowledging  that there are real people back home who are really hungry.  He’s been without food for a few hours, so he could eat, but it’s not essential for his survival.  That always stuck with me.

Lately I’ve been purposely teaching my children to delay their gratification.  They can learn to wait patiently and without complaining while important things are finished up so that in a little while we can sit down together and eat properly.

The best way to teach our children this is to model it ourselves by not grabbing candy bars in the check-out line and not sipping Big Gulps in the car.  We can learn to wait.  Patiently.  And gratefully.

6. Make time to eat.

In our world today we are really busy rushing around.  Our “lunch hour” is more like 20 minutes.  We order fast, eat fast and jet.  This has carried over into what we eat at home, too.  Not only do we drive thru or eat at fast food joints, we bring fast food home.

Ever stop to ask yourself what we are rushing around for?  What really is more important than eating?!  The chores and errands will be there.  They are not going anywhere, trust me.  MAKE TIME to sit down with real food, fork and knife and chew your food.  Teach your children how to take their time eating, enjoying every mouthful, eating with thankfulness, making meal-time conversation.  And need I say it?  Turn off the TV when you are eating.

What are your best tips for avoiding the fast food trap?  Please share them in the comments!

(linked to Seasonal Celebration Sunday, Tiny Tip TuesdayFrugal Days Sustainable Ways, Little Natural Cottage and Simple Lives Thursday)

9 Comments leave one →
  1. June 9, 2012 11:04 pm

    I usually have our diaper bag packed with sourdough pretzels, peanuts, carrot/apple sauce, seaweed and water…and when planned, peanutbutter and honey sandwiches

  2. Kim permalink
    June 10, 2012 7:23 pm

    I keep the car full of bottled water. Most of the time the kids (or I) are thirsty, and can wait until we get home for a snack. Besides, when I see a panhandler I simply hand them a bottle of water since it’s handy. It works.

  3. June 14, 2012 4:53 am

    Hi! I saw you on Frugally Sustainable….it’s funny because I blogged about almost the exact same thing this week “Defend Against The Call Of Fast Food”. We live in a small town which is 20 minutes drive from most places. I always bring snacks and water with us when we head out in the car so that I don’t have to deal with cranky, hungry kids while we’re out (and low-blood-sugar-mommy is definitely not a fun person to be around)! It takes a few extra minutes to get ready to leave the house, but making a healthy choice is so worth it, plus the money we could have spent on junk food could be put to much better use in the family budget.

    I LOVE your point that we’re never truly hungry – even when we think we are – in comparison to people in countries/families where starvation is a reality. Thank you for that!

  4. June 14, 2012 1:57 pm

    Oh my that video was very funny- thanks for sharing that! I would say the best way (as you touched on) is just to prepare and plan ahead. People get “caught” when they didn’t think about the day and expect things and plan. And if you must eat out, look at where you’re going and find a good sit-down restaurant with some healthy options.

  5. June 16, 2012 9:42 am

    Excellent tips! And that video was too funny 🙂 I agree, the best way is to plan ahead and bring easy, healthy snacks with you. We never leave the house without a “lunch” bag and some water. I love your tip about hitting up the store, instead of the drive through. Thanks so much for linking up at Tiny Tip Tuesday!


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