Eating and road trips go hand in hand. We eat in the car because we’re running late or because we can’t find a place to eat on the stretch of road where everyone is hungry. And we eat to pass the time until we can get out of the darn car!
Given all this improvised snacking, it helps to keep some healthy foods stashed in the car for road-trips. These healthy foods should be things that won’t melt or go sour if they’re left in a hot car by mistake and taste ok at room temperature.
A lot of families travel with a small cooler to keep drinks cold and to give themselves some snacking options. Just remember to refresh the ice every so often and to keep things well sealed in zipped storage bags for plastic containers.
Here are 15 foods that travel well and provide a bit more nutrition than a bag of chips.
- Dried salami and jerky are shelf-stable proteins that stay perfectly fine for quite a while as long as they’re sealed well. Brands like Krave and Perky Jerky are making jerky with fewer additives and less processing (just watch the salt; they have to preserve the meat somehow). They also offer fun flavors like Jammin’ Jamaica turkey and Chili Lime beef.
- Roasted unsalted nuts and nut butters with no added sugar are one of the easiest sources of protein. Justin’s sells its classic peanut and almond butters in single-serving pouches and snack packs that include pretzel sticks for dipping.
- Tuna comes in single-serving pouches, sometimes with flavor added for instant tuna salad. Put it on crackers or just eat it with a fork.
- If you bring a cooler you can pack hard-boiled eggs and hummus. You can easily find single servings of hummus on their own or paired with pita or pretzel chips. Just read your labels; some brands pack in more protein and calcium than others.
Sneaking in Produce
Skip the fruit roll-ups and other “fruit” snacks that stick to teeth and have a lot of sugar.
- Try single serving packs of drinks that mix veggies in like VC-Fusion or Sneakz shelf-stable shakes with a hidden veggie puree.
- Gaea, Olives and Pearls all put plain and seasoned olives in shelf-stable single-serving packs. They’re better if they’re chilled but can hold up for a few days if you keep them unopened in a cool place.
- Dried fruit travels well, but look beyond the same old raisins and cranberries. Freeze-dried fruit is becoming widely available flavors ranging from the familiar strawberry or banana to the more exotic dragon fruit, passion fruit or cantaloupe. Trader Joe’s and Laughing Giraffe are among brands that are spicing up dried fruit by adding flavors like lime, chili and cinnamon to tropical fruits like mango, and pineapple.
Traveling with Dairy
This isn’t as hard as it seems. Any dairy tastes and keeps better when it’s chilled. But most of these will be fine if you keep them cool.
- Freeze-dried yogurt drops for little kids are one of two dairy items that need absolutely no refrigeration. The other is Numa milk chews. Made with milk powder, maltose, nuts and dried fruit, these bars contain about 10% of your daily calcium and some protein.
- GoGoSqueeze, Happy Baby and Carnation make fruit and yogurt pouches that don’t need to be refrigerated until their opened. Just compare labels so you know what you’re getting in terms of sugar and calcium
- You can find single-servings of high-heat-pasteurized organic and regular milk in regular, chocolate or strawberry flavors. I used to travel with these all the time. They’ll keep perfectly fine at room temperature but your kids will like them better out of a cooler.
- Laughing Cow triangles and cups and Babybel mini rounds are technically not shelf-stable but are fine for a few days if you keep them in a cool place. You can eat Babybels are on their own (or with that dried salami you packed). Laughing Cow has single serving packs you can dip crackers into (these offer the most calcium) and snack packs that come with tiny breadsticks.
Slightly Better Junk Food
- Try replacing your usual salty, processed chips with dried seaweed snacks, kale chips and pea crisps. Even if the kids don’t bite, you’ll prefer them up in the front seat.
- Look for chips, puffs and crackers made from chickpeas, plantains, beats, quinoa, sweet potatoes, white and black beans and even coconut. They don’t replace fresh food nutrient-wise but they’re a step up from potato chips and come in funky flavors like sriracha sunshine and aged cheddar.
- Pack granola clusters or cereal to satisfy your kids’ sweet tooth (you can promise ice cream at your destination). Life, Frosted Mini-Wheats, EnviroKids Puffs, Kix, Puffins, and honey-flavors oat cereals are just some of the options that are easy to snack on and contain enough fiber and other good stuff to justify their sugar
- Chocolate-nut spreads are your alternative to candy bars. Aside from being lower in sugar and additives (mostly) they won’t melt all over your backseat and they probably have some token calcium and protein. Nutella, Justin’s, Peanut Butter & Co. and Jiff all make single serving pouches and cups or snack packs with cookies or pretzels for dipping.
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