Is it just us, or does it seem like normal eating “rules” go out the window when you’re on a road trip?
All of a sudden, it becomes acceptable to eat ice cream for dinner, and snack on Skittles before breakfast.
The options that are provided at gas stations, convenience stores, and fast food chains along the way leave us feeling like it’s okay to eat unhealthy while on the road, because what other options are there?
If you’re lucky, you’ll find a stray banana or two to grab along with your bag of potato chips so you feel a little less guilty, but you’re only really fooling yourself. Mostly, you’re left to choose from a slew of brightly colored candies and treats that will leave your body feeling completely zapped of any nutrients.
And this couldn’t come at a worse time. Your body is already running on low energy since all you’ve been doing is sitting in the same spot for hours, maybe even days.
Throw some sugary food on top, and you will be missing out on a whole lot of road trip adventures.
So how do you keep this from happening? How do you keep from spiraling down the dark rabbit hole of unhealthy road food?
We are here to help you find some healthy snacks to eat while on the road that will keep you feeling full, nourished, and able to enjoy the beautiful road that lies ahead.
As tempting as it may be to grab that Snickers bar when you stop to fill up on gas for your road trip, you will definitely regret that decision.
Not only does a Snickers bar have absolutely no nutritional value to help your body get what it needs, it will actually put harmful chemicals in your body such as high fructose corn syrup.
By making sure that you pack good, healthy snacks for your road trip, you’ll find that you won’t be tempted to grab that Snickers bar because you know something better is waiting for you in your car.
Here are our top picks for healthy road trip snacks.
This road trip snack is packed full of protein, which is one of the best ways to satisfy your hunger.
However, don’t opt for jerky from the gas station that comes loaded with preservatives, and whose sodium levels are off the charts.
Instead, pick up an organic, grass-fed one from your local natural foods store.
Popcorn is a great source of fiber and complex carbs that will help your body stay regular, and provide you with energy while on the road.
Make sure you’re not getting the microwave popcorn that is filled with chemicals. Instead, grab one from the natural foods store that has ingredients of just corn, salt, and oil.
Even better yet, pop some on the stove at home using olive oil or butter and just salt. That way, you know exactly what you’re getting.
These little eggs are not only easy to prepare, they are easy to store, and easy to eat on the road. They’re fairly mess-free, and are packed full of protein that your body will need while on the road.
For some extra crunch and the perks of some quality complex carbs, add some whole wheat crackers to your egg snack for the perfect pick-me-up.
Be wise with your choice of protein bars.
There are countless protein bars out there that are full of nothing but sugar and crazy additives and preservatives that you’ve never heard of.
Instead, look for a protein bar full of natural ingredients that will give you the nutrients your body needs and wants, without the sugar crash.
You’re never too old to eat string cheese, especially when you know the nutritional benefits it provides.
Pair your string cheese with apple slices, and you’ll have a snack that perfectly covers healthy fat, good protein, and complex carbs.
With this trio of nutrients, you won’t be hungry again for a while, and you’ll also feel your energy levels increase.
Though carrots do have fiber in them and other great nutritional value, one of the reasons we suggest this as a road trip snack is because oftentimes when on the road, you find yourself wanting to eat simply because you’re bored.
So, rather than fill that boredom with unhealthy snacks, munch on some carrots that will take you a while to eat, and will keep you busy without making a mess.
Similar to carrots, grapes are a great option for when you’re bored and want to eat something on the road.
Healthy, clean, and easy to eat, grapes will help stave off the boredom. Just don’t go overboard with the grapes — they do have a lot of sugar in them.
Hummus is another great protein-packed snack that will help keep your belly full and happy.
In addition, hummus is full of B vitamins.
And celery is the perfect dipping stick. Low in calories, but high in water content, your body will love this hummus-celery combo.
Protein all the way with Greek yogurt. This little snack is full of it, and will help keep you full until your next meal.
Top your Greek yogurt with some nuts or fruit for some added fiber and energy.
Though we love jelly, it usually doesn’t offer up anything but loads of added sugar.
Instead, grab for quality peanut butter (be sure to check your ingredients and say “no” to peanut butter with sugar added to it) for a healthy dose of protein and fat.
Slather that peanut butter on some whole wheat bread, and you’ve covered your complex carbs, your protein, and your fat.
If you’re feeling extra hungry, grab a banana, slice it up, and throw it in between the bread and have yourself a PB&B.
The protein from these nuts is plant-based, and they’re also packed full of unsaturated fats and fiber.
Not to mention, they’re much lower in terms of calories than other nuts. Pistachios weigh in at just 4 calories per nut, while Brazil nuts are 33 calories each.
Pistachios aren’t the only great nuts on the block — walnuts are great for their own reasons.
They have the highest amount of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids when compared with all other nuts, which will help you feel full for a longer amount of time.
These snacks are easy to make at home, and will give you great fiber without having to stuff yourself full of a bag of chips.
Simply drain and dry your chickpeas, then toss them with olive oil. Season with salt and other spices of your choosing and bake for 30-40 minutes at 450F.
Ham is a great source of protein, and the cream cheese offers up some healthy fat. The two combined will help keep you full, and keep additional cravings from kicking in.
Ham and cream cheese wheels are also great because they’re easy to make ahead of time. Simply lay out a piece of ham, spoon some cream cheese into the middle, roll the ham up into a tube, and slice it into small pieces to eat.
Though there are plenty of options for trail mix at the store, we always prefer to make our own.
And this recipe is almost too simple not to make: ½ cup whole-grain cereal, 2 T pecans, 1 T unsweetened shredded coconut, 1 T dark chocolate chips or cacao nibs.
We don’t know about you, but we are fine just eating almond butter by the spoonful.
However, the idea of dunking a strawberry in the almond butter sounds even better.
This protein-filled snack will also satisfy your sweet tooth.
You can get really creative with the options for your no-bake protein balls, but here is an example to get you started:
Combine rolled oats, nut butter, dried fruit, chopped nuts, shredded coconut, protein powder, and chocolate chips. Roll into small balls and put in the cooler.
Before you buy any dried fruits, be sure you check the label.
You do not want to get any that have added sugar or high fructose corn syrup. Find the ones that simply have ingredients listed as just the fruit, and nothing else.
Tuna is a great way to get a healthy dose of omega-3s, and the crackers are a great way to round out the snack with some complex carbs.
Though we do love ourselves some chips and guac, we know that chips aren’t the healthiest snack.
Guacamole (especially if you make it at home) can be quite nutritious and full of good, healthy fats from the avocado.
By eating it with bell peppers instead of chips, you’re getting additional nutrients that chips just can’t offer.
You really can’t go wrong with any type of nuts or seeds while on the road, but sunflower seeds are particularly great because they are full of healthy fats and well as magnesium, which helps support your heart health.
Not only is this snack a great way to satisfy your desire for crunch (yes, that really is a thing), it will also provide you with protein and fat to help fill your stomach until the next meal.
Make sure you opt for natural versions that are not loaded with extra sugar, and try to stick to the serving size so you don’t end up eating the whole bag.
This can be a great snack or a small lunch, and is super easy to put together.
All you’ve got to do is stuff your pita pocket with mozzarella, tomato, basil, turkey, cheese, hummus, cucumber, and/or tuna salad.
Simply store in a cooler until you’re ready to eat.
When you’re craving something sweet, grab for some coconut chips. These are simply slices of coconut that have been baked in oil until they become crunchy.
You can stick with plain, or go with other flavors from a variety of brands that step of the flavor.
Yes, you read that right: dark chocolate.
While we don’t recommend chowing down an entire bar in one sitting (and you probably wouldn’t want to with the really dark stuff), there are some benefits from eating a bit of dark chocolate.
Dark chocolate is known to lower the risk of heart disease while also increasing brain function.
As if we weren’t on board already!
Rather than potato chips, make your own veggie chips at home that are guilt-free.
Kale is among the most popular types of vegetable chips to make at home, and they are quite easy to put together.
Simply rip the washed kale into pieces, toss the leaves with olive oil, spread onto a baking sheet, bake for 12-15 minutes at 375 F, and let cool.
Grab any kind of fruit you like — apples, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, and dip them in some vanilla-honey yogurt.
You’ll get your fill of protein and fiber, with a healthy dose of sugar.
Now don’t think you can just get any cereal and it will be healthy.
Unfortunately, most cereals out there today are full of sugar and tons of other junk your body doesn’t want or need.
So, when choosing a cereal to bring as your road trip snack, make sure you choose one that is high in fiber and low in sugar.
This snack is perfect for kids. Just the right amount of applesauce to satisfy their sweet tooth without jacking them up on tons of sugar.
The ones that come in little cups are much easier to deal with than a giant messy jar.
Many time, when we think we are hungry, we are actually just thirsty.
If you don’t feel like grabbing for some “boring” regular water, instead try some carbonated water that makes your drink feel a bit more exciting, and more like a treat.
You can opt for some flavored ones as well, just be sure they don’t have a bunch of added sugar.
See — snacking healthy while on the road doesn’t have to be boring.
In fact, the healthier you snack, the more you’ll be able to enjoy your trip. When you’re giving your body the nutrients it wants and needs, it will give you the energy and happiness you want and need in order to enjoy your trip to its fullest.
With a bit of planning ahead, and practicing some self-restraint when going into the gas stations along the way, you will be on the way to a healthy road trip that’s guaranteed to be a blast.
Ready to hit the open road? KOA has you covered along the way to your destination. Check out our trip planner tool to find KOA Campgrounds along your route!
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Leslie, a.k.a. Copy Girl, is a copywriter who gets butterflies from telling stories through words.
Her voice comes from a place filled with passion, dreams, and lots of sugar. “Cake over steak” is her go-to motto.
With over 10 years of experience in crafting words, and years of embarking on travels that have taken this Montana girl to some incredible places, Leslie love the adventures of both body and mind her writing takes her on.
Everywhere she goes, she takes this advice with her:
“Hold on to your divine blush, your innate rosy magic, or end up brown.” – Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume
To see what Leslie’s up to in the writing world, visit her website here.