Road Tripping Healthy Food for a Long Ride

With the holidays upon us and the oh so yummy foods piling pounds onto our midsection, the last thing the millions – nearly 90 million — of us traveling by car this season need is the extra weight of a double cheeseburger and a large fry… or two. Add to that the cost of gas and feeding the entire family, and your entire holiday trip to see grandma has now busted your holiday budget. Preparing ahead of time with a cooler full of healthy alternatives, store-bought in bulk, will not only save you money and time while on the road, but also a great deal of unnecessary calories.


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Road trips and junk food go hand in hand. Sitting in the car for hours on end can only lend itself to snacking out of sheer boredom and in hopes of keeping ourselves alert. Potato chips, candy, soda, and coffee always seem to do the trick, tying us over from rest stop to rest stop. Take note of what food options are available in abundance at gas stations and also take note of which ones are the cheapest, and you’ll quickly realize why we eat the way we do while on the road! 

Meals on the road are just as tricky, as sit down restaurants offering healthier alternatives to the high calorie laden fast food chains riddled up and down America’s highways can only be found off the beaten path. With not a lot of options, how do we stay healthy, not to mention sane, while traveling with our families this holiday season?

Prep 100 Calorie Snacks

Ziploc‘s ingenious 100 calorie snack bags are the perfect little baggies for on-the-go variety snacking. The day before hitting the road, lay out all snack options on the kitchen counter, grab a box of 100 calorie snack bags and begin filling. Make the packing even more fun and task the kids to help by labeling the bags with each family member’s name to ensure that each child has their own snack bag. Having them help prepare the snacks and fill their own bags will hopefully excite them for the various options of goodies they can munch on the following day, while also giving them some independence and choices over which healthy options they are interested in! Note: labeling individual baggies should also help prevent any hangry tantrums. Parenting-win.

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Healthy Snack Options:

  • Grapes
  • Pretzels
  • Carrot Sticks
  • Celery (add Justin’s organic Peanut Butter packet)
  • Cheese cubes
  • Nut mix
  • Veggie Straws
  • Raisins
  • Green/Red Pepper sticks
  • Raw Sugar Snap Peas
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • All-natural beef jerky
  • Granola
  • Whole Grain Crackers
  • Dried Fruit

Think Simple

Long car trips with kids can make for really l o n g days. Tight spaces and boundless energy being contained for hours on end, and parents are tasked with the near impossible job of keeping everyone happy, entertained, and well-fed. When it comes to packing food and drinks, think simple in terms of healthy whole foods and easy to toss, all-natural pre-packaged goods. While we all love the reusable snack bags and containers, they only add to the clutter of an already packed vehicle. When you’re living in tight quarters, it’s much easier to throw banana peels, empty juice boxes, and yogurt tubes into a trash bag and toss as you hit rest stops along the way. The less clutter in the car, the better. Not to mention, who really wants to deal with washing dishes while on the other end? Definitely not our idea of a holiday vacation!

However, if budget is a concern, pre-packaged goods, especially individually bagged, can be pricey. A better option might be buying in bulk and individually bagging it yourself. Or, always go with whole fruits and veggies.

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Pre-packaged go-to’s:

  • Banana
  • Apple (Whole or pre-sliced pouches)
  • Pear
  • Clementine
  • Yogurt tube
  • Applesauce Squeeze
  • Granola bar
  • Protein bar
  • String Cheese
  • Justin’s Almond and Peanut Butter packets (psst…maple almond butter is our favorite!)
  • All-Natural Fruit Leathers
  • All-Natural Juice Boxes

Avoiding Fast Food

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Meal time on the road is inevitably the worst when it comes to eating healthy. With very little variety in options other than fast food, most of us indulge in the whopper or happy meals for the kids because let’s face it, we need food, fast. We want to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible before we have to listen to the Frozen sound track ONE. MORE. TIME. Time is of the essence in cases like these and this is exactly why we offer two suggestions for meals on the road:

  • Pack for a picnic. Save your sanity and get out of the car for a bit. Let the kids unwind, stretch your legs, and breath some fresh air. Even if the air is cooler, find a rest stop that offers indoor seating or bundle up and know that even 15 minutes of a change of scenery is enough of a break to regroup.
    Prior to your trip, be sure to download a rest stop finder app like Rest Area Finder to help you locate great rest areas, scenic vistas, and welcome centers with the perfect picnic scenery. The Rest Area Finder App is also free! Perhaps you are looking for more educational opportunities to tie into your trip for your little ones? Something more fun than a rest area? Use the Roadside America App to locate cool and strange regional monuments, statues, and museums along your trip. Saddle up to a giant ball of twine or an enormous three way electrical plug statue and have a picnic! 

    Packing for lunch or dinner on the go can actually be quite easy to do, and much healthier than the fast food alternatives. Think of cold cuts, cold pastas, veggie salads and sandwiches. Add snack options mentioned above for a full meal!

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Meal Ideas:

  • Pasta Salad (non-dairy)
  • Cold Cut Sandwiches
  • Chicken Wrap
  • Hummus Wrap
  • Veggie Wrap
  • Classic Pb&J
  • Salads (with dressing on the side)
  • Go off the beaten path. Taking a break from the monotony of the car and the road, sometimes venturing into the little towns off the major highways can make for some amazing meals and fun family memories. If eating out is in your budget, download a dining out app such as Food Tripping. Food Tripping locates the healthiest, trendiest eateries on the road, as well as juice joints, farmers’ markets, organic coffee shops, and yes, even microbreweriesjust leave the tasting to the passenger, although we don’t doubt all adults in the car could probably use it. 

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Wash It Down with Water

Lastly, while we’ve talked a lot about what to eat while going the distance, the beverage choices you make also play a huge role in your overall health and diet success. Soda’s are often the beverage of choice while in the car, but the high sugar intake will only leave you craving more. More soda, and more snacks. Your best option while on the go is to keep yourself hydrated with water. Drinking plenty of water will not only keep hunger at bay, making snacking less likely, but being fully hydrated will also help maintain your energy levels, warding off fatigue and keeping you alert to your surroundings on the road. You may need to use Rest Area Finder a bit more than usual, but hey – what’s a road trip without taking in a bit of the scenic route?

For healthy, homemade food to take on your next trip, check out Healthy Homemade On-The-Go Snacks!

Photo credits: Stephanie, Kristen, Ashley

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Stephanie High
Stephanie High
Stephanie is a military wife, currently residing in North Carolina, and mama of two exceptionally curious little ones; a rugged pint-size princess and a mini Evel Knievel-in-training. When she isn't exploring the family's newest dwellings, running trails, and playgrounds, she spends her down time working from home, feverishly correcting "textspeak" in her college students' essays as an adjunct English instructor for a local community college. Her passion for writing and photography can be found on her personal blog Living Our High Life.

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