When it comes to food, road trips can be a real ordeal. The choices are not appealing: gas station convenience store with its pre-packaged "food stuffs" or fast food joints, with their signature off-putting smell of overused deep fryers. Preparing healthy snacks for a road trip may seem like one chore too many. Now what?
Don't despair. Here are a few tips for quick and easy healthy snacks:
Fruit & Vegetables
Aim for fruits that keep well and don't make a big mess.
- Bananas: buy them on the under-ripe side. Consider the weather: they will become mushy if left in a hot, sunny car.
- Apples: go with smaller ones, so you can eat them quickly. Wash and dry them well. Unless you travel with small children, there is no need to cut them up beforehand - exposure to oxygen will cause loss of vitamin C.
- Berries: blueberries or blackberries are less delicate than raspberries and strawberries, so they travel better. Wash them well and let them dry; extra moisture can cause them to get moldy quickly. Pick out any soft, overripe berries before the trip.
- Mandarin Oranges: when in season, they make a good little snack with its own fully biodegradable packaging
- Dried Fruit: it keeps well and doesn't take up a lot of space, but it is high in sugar, so eat it only small amounts
- Salad in a jar: It's great if you have time to pull over and eat. The internet is teeming with ideas, or you can create your own recipe. To speed up the prep time, go with baby greens and grape tomatoes. To make your salad more satisfying, top it with some good protein- have you tried Wild Zora? Simply unpack your favorite bar, break into pieces and toss it in your salad. Note that Wild Zora bars contain no preservatives and must be refrigerated after opening.
- Celery or Carrot Sticks: great snacking staples that keep well and aren't too messy to eat. To take full advantage of their nutritional content, those veggies should be eaten with some fat (vitamins A, D, E, K only dissolve in fat).
Note: if you are traveling to another state, check their policies regarding out-of-state produce. The best place to look is the state Department of Agriculture website.
Nuts & Seeds
You can often buy nuts and seeds snack mixes at gas stations. The problem is, they are often overly salty. Although nuts, peanuts, and seeds pack a hefty dose of calories, they tend to leave you unsatisfied. Plus, tree nuts and peanuts are major allergens and seeds are often processed in the facilities that process those two "offenders" as well, so cross-contamination can happen. The last thing you need on your trip is an allergy attack!
Another issue with this food group: they are oily and if not stored properly, they will eventually go bad. Rancid nuts and seeds can give you indigestion.
All that aside, a small amount of nut or seed mix can add a nice crunch to your snack. Their fat content will be a nice complement to your veggies.
- Cheese - go for natural types, not the cheese-like substance pressed into slices. Cheese can be a tasty snack, but it doesn't do well in warm areas. If you are traveling in a bigger group, remember many kinds of cheese have a rather strong aroma.
- Lunch Meat - if you are looking for healthy snacks, you might want to avoid this one. Even natural lunch meats are heavily processed. Lunch meat can go bad, so you need to think about refrigeration; a small cooler will be sufficient.
- Jerky - although jerky is a popular snack that packs a healthy dose of protein, you really need to read the labels carefully. Jerky often contains added sugar, nitrites, and nitrates.
- Hard-boiled Egg - if you have time to prepare, a boiled egg is a great protein source. It's best if you can keep it refrigerated. Also, be mindful of the rather strong aroma eggs can produce.
- Protein Bars - they are readily convenient and easy to carry. Most of them don't require refrigeration. We put together a handy chart comparing major natural protein snack bars. Click here for more details. Main things to watch for: added sugar (can cause a sugar spike and a crash, rather than giving you sustained energy), preservatives (including lactic acid starter culture, which gives the bar a sour taste) and allergens - including potential traces of allergens. Choose your protein sources carefully. If you are lactose-intolerant, avoid whey protein. If you are trying to avoid GMOs, we advise staying away from snacks that contain soy protein, since most of it comes from GMO soy.
- Wild Zora Meat & Veggie Bars - a small bar that packs a punch - organic veggies, pasture-raised meat, touch of dried fruit and delicious spice blends. The package is small enough to fit in your glove compartment or purse. It's shelf stable, so you don't have to refrigerate it. With seven flavors, AIP, Whole30, and Paleo certified options, it's easy for everyone to find their favorite. Because we pack the bars in our own facility and we never process any nuts or peanuts, the Wild Zora bars are safe even for people with severe allergies.
How to pack it all?
If you don't want to bring a cooler, try to find a basket or a box. You can keep your snacks organized and you will see where everything is. Plus, if you are bringing fruit, it's less likely to get squashed and bruised.
Here is one idea:
When traveling with children, it's a good idea to create separate snack boxes for each child to avoid unnecessary drama and fights. You can use kids' school lunchboxes, decorated paper bags or small canvas bags. I love the idea of putting the snacks in the back seat organizer, so the kiddos can get them by themselves.
Of course, there are snacks that require no fussy packing:
Let us know in comments what's your go-to road trip snack. We would love to hear your ideas!
Have a safe and fun trip!