Stop the mindless binging in the car and choose these healthy snacks for road trips that will keep everyone satisfied!
“Is it snack time?”
It’s a phrase we hear all day long from our kids, even if they know when snack time happens. But when you are trapped in an enclosed space for hours on end together suddenly those words become a little more obnoxious.
“No, we’ve only been driving for ten minutes. Stop asking, please.”
But I get it! What’s a road trip without snacks? I remember making sure I had supplies every time I had to drive the 3 hours home during college. Candy, crackers, chips, pop, coffee… whatever I could eat easily while driving and that would help me stay awake and focused for the trip.
My eating habits have changed a bit since then but my desire to snack on the road has not! Instead of reaching for junk and passing out junk to my kids who have no way to burn off excess energy between pit stops, we try to choose snacks that are on the healthier side while still being fun.
Why do we need healthy snacks for road trips?
As delicious as chips, candy, and pop are, they aren’t going to give us the long term sustenance we need for long trips. We will get a quick burst of energy as our blood sugar skyrockets, but then we crash just as fast. Then we reach for another pop, another bag of candy, another bag of chips and repeat the cycle. By the time we reach our destination we’ve consumed thousands of empty calories and probably feel pretty crappy and worn out.
Why do we skip over healthy snacks for road trips?
Healthy snacks for road trips can require a little more planning and prep work. It’s not as simple as walking into a gas station and choosing what’s in front of us. We need to take time at home to make something or make time for a slower trip through a grocery store to choose good options.
When I know we are going to be heading out on a trip I will set aside a bit of the grocery budget to buy ingredients or foods that will work well in the car. In the days leading up to the trip, I will prep snack bags for each person so on go-day we are packed and ready.
Best healthy snacks for road trips, including kid-friendly options!
We pop our own at home using an air popper, add your favorite seasoning, and pack it in individual bags. It costs pennies per batch and the crunch of popcorn is always satisfying.
While I love homemade granola bars, sometimes I cheat and pick up a big box at the store. These also make an easy breakfast if you are driving early in the morning.
Carrot sticks, pepper sticks, and cucumber slices are all easy to eat in the car. Prep them at home, put them in containers, and load them in the cooler for easy snacking.
We prefer veggies in the car because there are no remnants like fruit. No peels or cores to dispose of later! Our family has been known to plow through several pounds of carrots in a few hours while in the car.
I know I just said I don’t like taking fruit on road trips but there are a few exceptions if you prep it right!
We have taken grapes, already off the vine, diced watermelon, apple slices with lemon juice drizzled over to stop the browning, and clementines already peeled. Again, less trash filling up the car is really helpful!
This one is hit or miss with our kids. Some only want to eat the candy and others eat it by the fistful and want to know why they can’t have more.
Rather than buying it premade, consider making it yourself. Mix together peanuts, raisins, and m&ms for the simplest version, or add other nuts and dried fruits to bulk it up. Aldi is great for finding ingredients at a low price otherwise you can find them in bulk at club stores and on Amazon.
They aren’t the cheapest thing, but they are easy to eat in the car for the kids and are relatively healthy compared to other options, especially when you choose the unsweetened versions.
Cheese & Meat sticks
Cheese sticks and meat sticks are a great boost of protein which will help keep you full for longer and help balance your blood sugar so you can avoid that crash.
Unsweetened iced tea
I know, I know. It sounds terrible to drink unsweetened iced tea. May as well drink grass water, right? Since giving up sugar last summer I’ve been shocked at the amount of sugar added to drinks. For a convenient car drink, we will get unsweetened iced tea then add a Truvia packet one these True Lemon packets for extra flavor without the extra sugar. In fact, we have now started splitting a True Lemon packet between two bottles and it’s still perfect!
Common Questions/FAQ about packing healthy snacks for road trips
- How do you pack fruit for road trips?
- Remove any stems, cores, seeds, or other non-edible parts before leaving.
- Cut fruits into bite-sized pieces to avoid choking hazards
- Drizzle fruits like pears and apples with lemon juice to delay browning
- Pack in plastic zip bags, reusable containers, or in these reusable bags
- How can I cut the cost of healthy foods on a road trip?
- Make your food yourself! Pop your own popcorn, cut your own veggies, make your own lunchables.
- Portion all the snacks into personal-sized servings for each person to avoid eating through the whole stash in a short period.
- How should I store food for my road trip?
- We use a small soft-sided cooler with ice packs for beverages and perishable foods. It sits behind the front seats so the passenger has easy access.
- Non-perishable snacks are stored in a reusable shopping bag near the front seats.
The last thing you need to know about packing healthy snacks for road trips
Making healthy choices on a road trip is almost always going to come down to planning ahead. Take the time before you leave to make some snacks or even buy healthy options rather than going through a drive-thru or grabbing something at a gas station.
Look for items that are low in added sugar to avoid the crash-and-burn feeling and eat some protein to keep your blood sugar balanced and your tummy satisfied longer.
Most of all – enjoy your trip!
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