Healthy Road Trip Snacks for Traveling Families

Zip-a-dee-do-dah!! Summer is here!! School is out!! That means it is time to hit the road for vacations- be it for the whole week or just several days. What comes with trips in the car? Snacks.. and lots of them! It seems that every time we hit the road for any adventure, be it big or small, the little tummies in the car start growling. Growing up, long trips in the car equaled lots of pre-packaged food. They were convenient for my mom to toss back to quiet one of the four whining voices behind her. We loved our “special” snacks that were reserved for car trips, but man, often times we arrived at our location with stomach aches or on a sugar high that left everyone regretting these “special” snacks. Roadtripsnacks My goal is to show YOU how to snack healthy on the road so you can avoid the stomach aches, sugar crashes, and desperate runs to the first fast food restaurant or local convenient store you come across.  You can still have the “special” snacks that will not wreck your diet or healthy living goals. 

Tips for Packing Car Snacks:

  • Buy snack size and/or sandwich size baggies to pack your snacks in: buying snacks already portioned out for you ups the price significantly. I am all for using reusable containers to cut down on waste, but vacations are my one exception to the rule. I choose to be lazy. 
  • A few weeks before you leave on your trip, recycle your used yogurt containers, sour cream containers, plastic jars, etc. Wash them out and use to store snacks in the car that you can throw away without caring about. 
  • Do not pack choking hazards like hard candies that you suck on or popcorn.
  • Avoid food products that produce a mess in the car. This rule is very important to my father and my husband— men and their cars!!! For trips, I avoid things that will leave fingerprints and/or significant crumbs. These include things like chocolate bars, flavored potato chips or pretzels, that leave your hands a mysterious shade of orange. Also steer clear of soft cereal bars or anything that a child is required to eat with a spoon or fork.
  • Pack hand sanitizer and wipes to prepare hands for a snack and to clean up any messes afterwards.
  • Bring grocery bags to use for your garbage.
  • Freeze water bottles the night before you leave to use in your cooler and leave the ice packs at home (one less thing to forget at the hotel). You won’t have to go digging through a cooler of melting ice throughout your day either!
  • When packing things to eat in the car, remember to think PROTEIN. Carbs are great for munching on and taking the edge off car sickness, but if not paired with protein a sugar crash will likely follow.

On-the-Road Snacks:

Snacks for a Rest Stop:

  • Fill 16oz disposable containers (remember to save and wash out your yogurt and sour cream containers for this very purpose) with your favorite salad—green salad or pasta salad and top with grilled chicken or beef strips for individual portions. 
  • Yogurt topped with fresh fruit. Pack a baggie of granola or chopped nuts to keep crunchy until ready to eat. 
  • Cottage cheese 
  • Sub sandwiches- Pack whole grain rolls, your favorite lunch meats, cheeses, a small disposable container of your favorite dressing (or to go packets of ketchup, mayo, mustard, oil and vinegar, etc that you may have collected from eating out) and a baggie of lettuce, tomato, onion, pepper slices. Top your sandwiches with dressing and fresh veggies once you have arrived at your stop to keep the sandwiches from getting soggy.
  • For picnics at rest stops, be sure to pack napkins, paper plates and disposable silverware. 
  • Any options from “On the Road”

The Less-Healthy-But-Still-Better-For-You Snacks To-Go:

Let’s say you find yourself desperate for some candy or running out of snacks for your car trip. Most convenient stores will have something relatively healthy or less processed than fast food restaurants. Be sure to look for protein, to keep you going, and whole foods.  Even gas stations typically carry cheese sticks, nuts, dried fruit, hard boiled eggs,  and whole fruit. Other decent options are whole grain crackers like Triscuits, granola bars like crunchy Nature Valley bars, KIND, Larabars, milk, V8, trail mixes, seeds, and jerky. For a desperate craving for a potato chip, opt for ones that are unflavored—just potatoes, oil and salt. Just watch your portion size!  Now grab your coolers, take a short time to do your own prep work, and ensure that your next car trip will be filled with good food that you can enjoy while feeling good about what you are eating. Save the splurges for the great finds at your destination!