Not to be overdramatic, but I’m here to claim that healthy road trip snacks can make or break your travel experience. Yay? Nay?
On a road trip, you will spend many hours behind the wheel, naturally. It’s an amazing ride when you’re driving through winding mountain roads or around Iceland where every turn you take is another beautiful landscape, but sometimes the scenery is not so great.
And when it’s not?
When it’s nothing but cars and a straight road as far as you can see, and your GPS says ‘continue straight on this road for 172 miles’, you’ll be glad to have some healthy snacks for the road to keep you going.
If you want to plan the ultimate road trip, you’ll want to make sure you have the best snacks for a road trip. Plan well beforehand and you can also make some of them healthy and zero-waste!
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Why It’s Important to Have the Best Road Trip Snacks
Nibbling on yummy car snacks that I love keeps me awake
When I get sleepy, I find that munching on snacks keeps me focused better than coffee or energy drinks can. Back in college, I used to study late into the night and would be able to stay up by rewarding myself with my favorite snack. The key to not overeating is to nibble or take small bites instead of stuffing your mouth.
Healthy snacks for the road may be the most nutritious part of my day
By munching on healthy snacks for the road throughout the day, you don’t have to arrive at a roadside McDonald’s and overeating with two unhealthy burgers. It’s tough to eat healthy at fast-food restaurants, but if you prepare some healthy alternatives beforehand, at least you know you’ve gotten some good nutrients during the day.
I can pay more attention to packaging when I pack my own car snacks
By preparing my snacks beforehand, I can be more conscious of packaging waste. It’s easy to grab a snack-sized bag of chips or a small chocolate bar from a gas station when you don’t have other options and discard the packaging.
Out of sight; out of mind.
But when you become more conscious of your waste and how it’s impacting the planet, you strive to minimize this unnecessary waste. That’s why I like to plan ahead and pack healthy road trip food options from bulk containers into my own personal reusable containers.
Ingredients for Yummy Road Trip Snacks
The easiest fruits to deal with are those that don’t need to be washed at all: oranges, clementines, and bananas. However, it never hurts to give them a quick rinse if you’re able to.
Some fruits you can pre-wash beforehand: apple, pear, peaches, and bell peppers. For strawberries and blackberries, you can wash these beforehand, but make sure they are 100% dry before storing them or they’ll get all mushy from the moisture. Bell peppers are actually one of my favorite things to eat – just take a bite into it and eat around the core, just like you would an apple.
Some fruits are better washed right before you want to eat them because their skin is quite fragile. These include grapes, blueberries, and raspberries. If you have a bottle of water, you can just rinse when you’re ready to eat.
The most high-maintenance fruits are ones that you need to cut and store beforehand. Some of the most delicious, but definitely not for the most fruit-dedicated: pineapple, watermelon, cantaloupe, pomegranate, and mango.
Tip: fruit is a bit tough when you’re driving in high temperatures because if you leave the car for a bit, it will warm up quickly without air conditioning, spoiling your fruit. So best to eat these at the start of your day.
The easiest vegetables to eat on-the-go are ones that you can just rinse, dry, and store for whenever you’re hungry. My favorites are sugar snap peas (you can eat their crunchy outer pod too), carrots (no need to cut these up unless you need to), celery, and cucumber (I like to scrape the inner seeds out to remove excess moisture).
Tip: Instead of passing through a gas station and fast food chain pitstop, I will often l look for a nearby town and visit a grocery store. Many days, grocery stores have pre-made salads that are grab-and-go. If they don’t have pre-made salads, they will probably have a tub of hummus (perfect to pair with your vegetables).
While this not zero-waste, it’s a lot more environmentally friendly than purchasing a beef burger. In cases like these, strict adherence to zero waste becomes more of a harmful vanity metric than a useful way of life – losing the war because you’re so intent on winning every battle.
Nuts & Seeds & Dried Fruit
If you have bulk shops where you live, stock up on some nuts, seeds, and dried fruit before your trip starts. These dry snacks are very accommodating and can be eaten at any time of the day. Need to leave them in a hot car? They’ll survive. No shops or restaurants open at 5 AM when you need to start driving? They’re there for you as a quick and easy breakfast. Buried them in your luggage and forgot to eat them for 12 days? They’re still perfect to eat. Lost on a hike? Subsist on these calorie-dense goodies.
For dried fruit, try dried mangoes, dried apple rings, dried grapes (raisins), dried cranberries (gives your mix a little tartness), dried pineapple (these are really sweet), dried coconut, and dried dates (don’t swallow the pit).
Tip: Even if you think you’re only going on a 2-hour hike, pack some emergency food. If you don’t have proper emergency food, bring a stash of dried fruit & nuts. You never know when you might be stranded for longer than you expect. One time, my 4-hour hike in Norway turned into a 12-hour hike because of some unplanned events.
I like chocolate with my dried fruit & nuts, but I don’t put them in. Chocolate is very susceptible to temperatures and I don’t want to end up with a sticky mess of nuts in a bulk-sized container of trail mix. Instead, I’ll eat my nuts/seeds/dried fruit separately and much on some chocolate separately as well.
I think chocolate should only be purchased at the time you intend to eat it. This way, it doesn’t melt before you get a chance, and you don’t eat it before you’re really craving it.
When you always have the option between chocolate and vegetables, you’ll probably be going to choose the chocolate. Avoid the constant guilt and just buy some chocolate whenever you’re really craving it (try to find ones wrapped in paper instead of plastic!).
Dry snacks are perfect for road trips because they can stay crunchy and delicious for a long time. My favorites are pretzels and sesame bread sticks. Pair these with your choice of nut butter, eat them with hummus, or snack on them plain. Since they have a very neutral base flavor, you can eat them with nearly anything.
Additionally, I love to pack some oat cookies and whole wheat biscuits. I try to find ones that are made organically and rely on (limited) natural sweeteners instead of sugar or high-fructose corn syrup.
The dry snacks that I buy are mostly packaged products. However, instead of buying 6 different small bags of snacks, I try to narrow down my choices and buy 3 large-size options, thus at least minimizing more packaging and avoiding the paradox of choice.
My Favorite Healthy Road Trip Snacks
The above list provides ideas for healthy snacks for the road that you can consider. For those looking for specific combinations of foods that I have prepared for myself, see below for some ideas. These are my favorite go-to options for healthy road trip food.
- Berries mix (strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries)
- Fuji or Gala apples
- Red (sweet) peppers
- Peaches or nectarines (in-season)
- Carrots and sugar snap peas (+ hummus)
- Celery + peanut butter
- Almond-flour crackers + cheese
- Dried mangoes (so addicting!)
- Trail mix (cashews, almonds, pistachios, raisins, cranberries, sunflower seeds, goji berries – in a 2:1 ratio of nuts to dried fruit)
- Dark chocolate-covered raisins
- Pretzels + peanut butter
My Favorite Vegan Road Trip Snacks to Buy
- Louisville Vegan Jerky – the best jerky I’ve ever had
- Hippea Chickpea Puffs – delicious vegan puffed snack
- Whole Wheat Fig Bar – probably the healthiest, tastiest thing you’ll eat all day
My Favorite Homemade Road Trip Snacks Ideas
- Fruit Snacks – Recipe
- Cheese Crackers – Recipe
- Sweet Potato Chips – Recipe
- Crispy Baked Chickpeas – Recipe
- Peanut Butter Banana Chocolate Chip Granola Bars – Recipe
Things That Might Be Useful for the Road
This cute insulated travel bag is perfect to keep your food hot or cold. It doesn’t have a built-in ice pack but relies on the inner aluminum foil to retain the existing temperature of what is in the bag. I own this one and it has a snapping mechanism to fold away when not in use.
If you do want to keep your bag cool, you can add these slim reusable ice-packs.
For longer family trips, sometimes a cooler is useful. I’ve always been hesitant about getting a cooler because they look so ugly, but this one is cute!
These reusable silicone storage containers are useful because they expand when you need to hold something, but collapse to save space if they are empty.
For holding and keeping dry snacks fresh, I’d recommend stainless steel containers. These are nice because when they’re empty, you can nest them in one another to save storage space.
Hope you have an amazing trip!! Let me know what worked for you 🙂