There’s something special about a good ‘ole road trip — for a change of pace, family bonding, and a little freedom. But, even if you love an open road journey, finding healthy road trip snacks while en route can be overwhelming.
That’s why I’m excited to bring you this article! I can’t wait to share our tried and true techniques, simple tips, and a plethora of suggestions for maintaining healthy eating habits on the road!
Our family takes a lot of road trips to see the country and explore new places. We love belting out our favorite tunes, nestling into a good audiobook, and reflecting on our latest family goals. Besides, my husband is nearly 7’ tall and doesn’t fit well on airplanes.
So, we’ve had to put in our time establishing a road food method that’s both easy and healthy.
Travel days are no excuse for undoing all your hard work and feeling less than your best.
Eating healthy on the road
It is certainly possible to eat healthy with a little planning, and it doesn’t have to take hours in the kitchen before you depart. Let’s first consider the WHY and the WHAT when it comes to nourishing your family en route to your next destination.
Why eat healthy while traveling
You always want to feel good, and road trips are no exception. Being alert on the road, avoiding GI distress, and having plenty of energy for exploration when you arrive are all reasons for choosing healthy foods while traveling.
I know one thing… the car is no place for a processed, sugar-laden rollercoaster ride, especially with kids! In fact, the car is a great place to teach kids about nutrition, while you have time to talk about the healthy snacks you’re sharing.
What to consider when it comes to healthy snacks
Healthy snacks come down to real food – those foods that are whole, as nature intended, and come from recognizable single ingredients.
Healthy snacks are made up of a balance of protein, fat, and carbohydrate. Ideally, we want to avoid the carb-loaded munchies, which can leave us hungry and craving more shortly after eating.
Healthy snacks on the road should be really similar to healthy snacks and meals ANYTIME! The main difference is in the simplicity, planning, and preparation.
Tips for packing healthy road trip snacks
Planning and food prep for the road will set you up for satisfied bellies, ease, and self-sufficiency. Having the right gear, a general plan, and packing in an organized way are key.
Having the right gear can make all the difference for seamless healthy eating when the rubber hits the road.
Here is a list of recommended items to keep food easy, fresh, and simple to clean up.
1. A cooler
Having a way to keep food cold means that you can enjoy fresh ingredients for longer. Of course, you’ll need to pick a cooler that makes the most sense for the space you have and the types of road trips you plan to take.
2. Water cooler
One of my favorite pieces of equipment for road trips is a cooler with a spigot that can be filled with ice water for refilling water bottles, dog bowls, and quickly rinsing hands.
3. Ice packs
Ice cubes work, but I also like to keep ice packs, or blocks, in the cooler to prevent soggy food.
4. Water bottles
Reusable water bottles are a must. Stainless steel or silicone covered glass are my favorite types. (Let’s all do our part to reduce plastic!)
5. Paper towels
A roll of paper towels, or washable cloths, is essential for taking care of spills and messy hands in the car.
Wet wipes make sticky fingers, faces, and reusable plates simple to clean when access to running water is unavailable.
7. Reusable plates and utensils
We’ve been using the same set of recycled plastic reusable plates for YEARS. They are lightweight, versatile, and have served us well for road trips, camping, and picnics. We also love our bamboo travel utensil sets. Each family member has their own colored case with a fork, spoon, knife, and chopsticks.
8. Utility knife, paring knife, or small chef’s knife
Having an all-purpose knife is incredibly helpful for slicing fruit, veggies, salami, cheese, and all sorts of other things.
9. Spreading knife
A butter knife or cheese spreader is also handy for dips, spreads, and nut butters.
10. Cutting board
A simple cutting board provides a solid surface for both cutting and serving.
11. Garbage bags
Although it’s best to keep it minimal, trash is inevitable on a road trip, and having a bag to put it in keeps your vehicle organized and less stinky.
12. Reusable baggies
We prefer to use glass food storage containers whenever possible, but we also like stainless steel. Reusable plastic also makes sense on the road. A few different sizes are helpful to have. Using containers with built-in dividers makes packing individual meals or snacks a breeze.
Mason jars are also a great method for snack transport (half-pint, pint, and quart size are my favorite).
14. Small crate, basket, or open box
Storing non-perishable snacks in a small crate, basket, or an open box allows you to easily see what snacks you have without rummaging through everything.
Road trips can quickly turn into a junk-food snack-fest. That is why I love approaching healthy road trip snacks with a plan in mind.
When we’re home, I make a kid friendly meal plan to make sure we have healthy meals and snacks for the week. It always helps our family to have a meal plan for road trips too, so we’re all on the same page.
As a side note, the time spent sitting in your car, truck, or van can be filled with all sorts of activities other than taking “boredom bites.” Playing car games, telling stories, and stopping to see the sites should be the focus.
Ask yourself these questions to begin the planning stage:
- How long is the trip? How many meals and snacks are actually necessary?
- Where are you going to eat your meals and snacks? Picnic style at a rest stop or within the car while driving may require different packing methods. And remember, it’s always nice to keep snacks within the car less messy with the less in-motion prep required.
- What snacks can be prepared or made ahead of time?
All of this info will help you write out a simple meal plan before hitting the road.
Part of the plan is organizing the food itself. Once you have a general vision, you can pack the cooler, and your crate (or basket) accordingly.
Which items need to be eaten first to be enjoyed fresh? Have these easily accessible so you can eat them early in the trip.
Which items need to be kept the coldest and placed at the bottom of the cooler?
Pack the cooler with these tips in mind:
- Use block ice in the very bottom.
- Cover the ice with a plastic barrier.
- Add food in this order: meat, dairy, fruits and veggies.
- Pack tightly to reduce air space.
- Use plastic baskets within your cooler for easy dividers.
Healthy road trip snack ideas
This is my favorite part – sharing all the best road trip snacks — real food options for a tasty and healthy adventure!
Mix and match the basics
Road trip snacks can be kept ultra-simple with a few basics to mix and match – making sure that you have a source of fat and/or protein to pair with any carbs (including fruits and veggies).
Some fruits are best kept whole until eaten (like apples and bananas), and others are more convenient to peel, trim, and chop in advance. But either way, rinse and dry them ahead of time.
These fruits are refreshing and a nutrient-rich sweet treat while sitting in the car:
- Dried, unsweetened fruit
Washing, drying, and chopping these raw veggies ahead is the way to go if they’ll be kept cold and enjoyed within a few days:
- Carrot sticks
- Sliced peppers
- Cherry tomatoes
- Snap peas
- Raw green beans
- Cauliflower florets
- Asparagus (yes, raw!)
Fruits and veggies are great, but pairing them with these healthy fats is ideal for long-term sustenance:
- Avocado (carefully halved just before eating)
- Cheese (sliced, cubed)
- Toasted coconut flakes (unsweetened)
- Yogurt – full-fat, unsweetened (add your own) — makes an easy dip, too
- Whole pitted olives
- All-natural salami (free of nitrates/nitrites, antibiotics, and hormones)
Quality meats and proteins
These quality protein options are easy to transport, help control blood sugar, and are satiating:
- All-natural pepperoni (nitrate/nitrite-, antibiotic-, hormone-free)
- Summer sausage
- Deli meat (free of nitrates/nitrites, antibiotics, and hormones)
- Canned wild salmon
- Canned sardines or herring
- Canned tuna
- Canned organic chicken
- Beef jerky (all-natural)
- Turkey jerky
- Salmon jerky (EPIC)
- Smoked salmon
- Hard boiled eggs
Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds are the ultimate road trip snack by themselves or in a mixture with dried fruits. These snack options conveniently offer both healthy fats and proteins:
- Raw walnuts
- Raw almonds
- Raw cashews
- Raw Brazil nuts
- Raw pecans
- Macadamia nuts
- Pumpkin seeds
- Sunflower seeds
- Pine nuts
Easy snacks to make ahead
A little time preparing healthy snacks in advance means easy eating on the road. These are some of our favorite make-ahead road trip foods:
- Nora’s Nut Ball Snackers
- Cookie Dough Bites
- Chocolate Gingerbread Cookie Bites
- Cranberry Coconut Macadamia Bites
- Tropical Turmeric Snack Bites
- Apple Crisp Balls
- Savory Low Carb Trail mix
- Roasted Nuts
- Monkey Mix
- Low Carb Granola with Nuts & Seeds
- Homemade popcorn (popped with coconut oil)
- Guacamole for a Crowd
- Crisp Citrus Guacamole
- Pesto Dip
- Kale Chips
- Snack Time Skewers
- Almond Butter Banana Muffins
- Lemon Blueberry Muffins (GF)
- Banana Almond Pancakes
- Citrus Tarragon Chicken Salad (mayo free)
- Charcuterie Board To Go
- Egg muffins
Mason Jar Snacks and Meals
In my opinion, mason jars are undervalued. Jar salads, overnight oats, and parfaits are perfect for travel because the storage container also becomes the serving container, they are easy to pack, and they stay fresh for a few days when properly prepared and packed.
- Curious Cobb Jar Salad
- BBQ Pork Jar Salad
- Greek Chicken Jar Salad
- Nutty Banana Overnight Oats
- Raspberry Almond Chia Pudding
- Fruity Cocoa Yogurt Parfait
- Fruit salad
Healthy packaged snacks to buy
Full disclosure, even with the best of intentions, sometimes we all run out of time or energy to prepare all our own food in advance. Here’s a list of healthy snacks to buy — they can be found in most grocery stores and even convenience stores. Try:
- Raw nuts
- Dry roasted nuts
- Trail mix (avoid added sugars, unhealthy oils — like canola, soybean, and corn — and food coloring)
- Plantain chips (Inka, Barnana)
- Siete chips
- Jerky and meat bars (Epic, Wild Zora)
- Nut and seed crackers (Mary’s, Hu)
- Yogurt drinks (Siggi’s)
- Hard boiled eggs (Vital Farms)
- Salami, cheese, olive packs
- Olive packs
- Dark chocolate
- Whole fruit
- Veggie packs
- Applesauce pouches
- Chia seed pouches (MamaChia)
- Smoothie pouches (Noka)
- Whole food energy bars (Rx, Kion, Thunder)
- Primal Kitchen dressing
- Nut or seed butter packets (Rx, Justin’s)
- SeaSnax (seaweed)
Not only do you need to eat on the road, but you need to stay hydrated. 95% of the time, our family drinks water, but occasionally, an alternative is nice.
Avoid soda, juice, and energy drinks. Instead, opt for these beverages on the road:
- Homemade green smoothies
- Pique tea and herbal tea
- Coconut water
- Sparkling Lavender Citrus-ade
- Mineral water
- Lemon water with a sprinkle of sea salt
Remember your leftovers!
Before we jump on the road, we take a look in our fridge for any leftovers that can be easily eaten on the trip. Consider:
- Leftover sliced or chopped chicken, or turkey
- Leftover sliced steak
- Leftover sliced pork tenderloin (or chops)
- Leftover Roasted Root Vegetables
- Leftover baked potatoes
Hit the road with health in mind
You are now armed with the knowledge to make your next road trip a healthy snacking adventure. We’ve covered the why, the how, and the what to help you establish a simple plan that you and your family can easily carry out.
Now the fun begins — looking at your specific journey and planning delicious road-trip-friendly eats along the way!