Road trip food can be a really big challenge when it comes to health. This is especially true when kids are along for the ride. Here is a healthy road trip food list as well as a road trip snack list that is sure to please both kids and adults alike.
Why is Eating While Traveling So Hard?
Kids often LOVE junk foods and sweets. The long car ride often wears parents down to give in to these temptations! My own family is guilty of derailing from health a little bit while on vacation. Traveling with kids doesn’t have to be a nutritional disaster with weight gain at the end. Plan at home before you go and you will help the whole family stay healthy.
Why Eat Healthy On Vacation?
Research shows that even single indulgences may be damaging to the body. If you end up taking lots of trips, the toll on your health racks up. So, what to do? Do your best to eat sensibly, but do allow an occasional treat if it makes your trip memorable. Road trip food can be among the worst for health because gas stations and restaurants are often full of fried foods and sugary, processed foods.
Road Trips Increase Your Food Time in Unhealthy Food Exposures
More and more, people spend time in the car for vacations and weekends, so the days can really add up for health problems. Kids also travel a lot for sports and take it from me, these can be SUPER unhealthy meals. It takes some maneuvering, but road trip foods don’t have to be sketchy. Planning the night before or setting aside some of your free time for food preparation can go a long way to making your road trip foods healthy. The bonus is that you will FEEL better on your trip too!
Road food for sports
Sporting activities are often surrounded by unhealthy options. So many of them have highly processed sports drinks and junk foods! Highly-processed foods are linked to all diseases today, including obesity, diabetes, cancer, and liver disease. While sports activities are good physical activity, adding in a bunch of processed foods defeats the purpose a bit, don’t you think?
Highly processed foods and drinks to minimize
Highly processed foods you should largely ditch includes:
- Sports drinks
- Crackers, sorry, even cheese crackers can be super processed
- Fried foods
This is a call to action to parents and coaches. We can do better. Some strategic planning for a road trip food list can go a long way to keeping you healthy while on the go. I am providing a list to make life easier. For meals on the road, you can pack in some serious nutrition by planning ahead. Happy Travels!
Strategic plan for your road trip food list
What to take on a road trip? Make yourself a road trip kit of foods by following these steps:
- Hit the health food store the night before and go organic.
- Whenever you get extra napkins at restaurants, stow them away in your glove box so that your car stays nice and clean.
- You may find yourself busy gathering up clothes and laundry, so perhaps do the food prep for your trip 2 nights in advance.
Prepare foods for your road trip as follows:
- Slice up some veggies and fruits.
- Pack chia seeds or ground flaxseeds in single containers for your yogurts
- Stow some nuts and seeds: Sunflower seeds are a nice, inexpensive option to add to your list
- Grab some sprouted grain or seed crackers. I suggest gluten-free. See my blog about gluten.
- How about adding some sprouted lentils, bean sprouts, and sprouted broccoli?
- Snag some string cheese or pre-sliced age cheeses, non-dairy if you prefer
- Toss in organic dried meats like jerky
- Add individual yogurts, coconut is a nice option (plain)
- Prep: If you have extra time, you can put together a quinoa salad or a whole grain pasta salad too.
- Get your water bottles handy so you can fill them up before your leave in the morning.
- If you are extra ambitious, you can get a heated storage unit for your car and make a soup, stew, or casserole for your day trip. *Make sure you have a car food warmer.
- This is actually my favorite idea!
*As an Amazon affiliate, I make income from qualifying purchases
Grocery list for road trip foods
Whether you keep it simple or go big, here are some things to keep in mind when shopping for your road trip. A handy and versatile road trip food grocery list should include some of the following:
- Broccoli sprouts, sprouted ahead of time
- Organic string cheese or pre-sliced cheese
- Organic deli meat
- Foil Safe Catch tuna
- Chia seeds
- Almond milk individual packs
- Parmesan crisps
- Gluten-free oatmeal cups
- Sunflower seeds or premium mixed nuts
- Sprouted grain crackers, preferably gluten-free
- Organic Beef jerky
- Roasted chickpeas or beans
- Broccoli sprouts or alfalfa sprouts
- Dried fruit like raisins, unsweetened dried mangoes, dried cherries, organic dried figs
- Dried black olives
- Squeeze almond butter or Naked organic peanut butter
If you do have an electric warmer, you can make a warm meal and your road trip food possibilities are endless! You can make:
- Shredded meats
Final Steps for Road Trip Meals
- Place all items in sealed containers
- Bring forks, napkins, and spoons!
- Snag a bag handy for waste disposal in the car
- Pack dry goods, non-perishables in the cooler
The day of travel
The day of travel will be super easy if you have followed the steps above. Just remember to keep some car space for packing food. Do these 3 things:
- Pack the cooler
- Stop at the gas station, buy some ice, and throw it in the cooler; skip this step if you have an electric cooler
- You are good to go.
Good Road Trip Coolers and Warmers
Here is a great road trip cooler if you need one. This is actually my dream cooler, a Yeti backpack cooler! It costs $299.99, but if you travel and hike a lot, this is simply fabulous. Yeti makes a great waterproof road cooler that stays cold much longer than your typical cooler and you can find it here: You can get a cooler that does NOT require ice too called the Knox Electric Cooler. Ready for another amazing thing? It also heats your food too. Personally, I think this is the best cooler for road trips because it is SO versatile and doesn’t take messy ice. Think winter time and soups, stews, and more…a BIG win for short road trips and healthy meals. For only $89.00 it does all of this.
- Here is a car heater/warmer idea for you from Kbox for $129:
If you are looking for a basic soft cooler that is waterproof and reasonably priced, the Lifewit cooler is great and gets 5-star reviews for quality. It can hold the equivalent of 36 cans. And it’s only $29.99
Road Trip Snack Ideas
The best road trip snacks don’t have to be complicated. Here are a few tips if you are going on a short trip and only needing snacks. Have protein and fiber-rich snacks handy before you leave. Gas stations are notorious for poor selections with these items.
Road trip snack list:
To avoid over munching on junk food, pack:
- Individual yogurts
- Trail mix, Antioxidant mix
- Seaweed snacks
- Parmesan crisps
- Homemade granola * See below for the recipe
- Dried fruits and fresh fruits
- Boiled eggs
- Hummus and whole-grain crackers
- Powdered kombucha!
- EPIC bars, grass-fed bison
- peanut butter
- granola bars, low sugar
- water bottle
- trail mix
- Natural gluten-free cookies
Watch out for sugary drinks while traveling:
Drinks can make a trip a fast way to gain weight and develop poor habits. Studies repeatedly show this about sodas, energy drinks, and other sugary beverages. Fancy coffees and coffee kiosk drinks can have over 1000 calories!
Healthier drink options to pack:
- To-go tea from home
- La Croix
- Sparkling water
- Spring water
- Plain Coffee. Organic Instant Coffee is a great option instead of sugary coffee kiosk drinks
Make-Your-Own Electrolyte Drink
Sometimes your trips are very active physically where you sweat a lot. In that case, do consider electrolyte replacement by making this recipe.
- 4 cups water
- 1 cup organic juice of choice: I like pineapple or grape
- 1/2 tsp Real or Himalayan Salt – Half level teaspoon
Stir the mixture until all is combined. This truly is more nutritious and has MORE electrolytes than your Gatorade or Powerade.
No-Added Sugar Homemade Granola Recipe
Here is a VERY portable road trip snack that you can have right by your car seats when the munchies set in.
- 2 cups oats (I use gluten-free)
- ½ cup almonds, cashews, or nut of choice
- ¼ cup chia seeds
- ½ tsp Real salt or sea salt
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- ¼ tsp cardamom
- 1 tbsp virgin coconut oil, melted
- 1/2 tsp stevia
- 3 egg whites
Directions: Preheat oven to 225 degrees F. Mix all ingredients except egg whites in a bowl, tossing well to distribute. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Mix into the rest of the ingredients. Place the mixture on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Bake for 40-60 minutes, tossing occasionally to prevent burning.
Road Food Checklist
Last, but not least, make sure you put all your items in the car as follows:
- Healthy beverages
- Healthy snacks
- Car Cooler/Warmer
- Disposable Bag
- Warm food items (if using warmer)
- Cold food items
- Crackers and shelf-stable items like oatmeal and chia
Find out more! My lovely friend and dietitian colleague, Yentl, has some amazing advice about traveling with pets. You can find her information and her blog about traveling here: www.younfolded.com