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Healthy Snacks for Summer Road Trips — Dietitians’ Tips

Healthy Snacks for Summer Road Trips — Dietitians’ Tips

When I was young, my family always went camping, driving for hours in a packed car.

We spent long hours on the road getting where we were vacationing.

Snacks were important for the road since we never stopped to buy anything on the way. Anything!

Either it was in the cooler or it wasn’t available.

No snacks can lead to grumpy kids!

Now, there are many options for easy to bring along snacks that are healthy and you don’t have to wait for a vacation, since there are many more times we and our kids are in the car.

A road trip isn’t just for summer vacation anymore, as we spend long hours going between after school activities and home almost every day of the week.

Kids get hungry waiting for the next meal, especially when they have been active.

Dietitians’ Snack Tips

I asked dietitians for their favorite snack food tips to take on the road and got some great ideas for all of us to use whether we are driving around with the kids, grandkids or even us adults!

1) Carolyn O’Neill, MS RD LD

Tip: portioning snacks into small baggies before you hit the road. It’s easy to throw a big bag of chips or can of nuts in the car but smaller baggies are not as messy and results in less fighting. This will also work for orange segments, apple slices, carrot chips etc.

2) Monica Salafia


Dry oats, nuts, and raisins in baggies. I ate this raw like a muesli or I stopped at a gas station, filled up a cup with hot water and drank the mixture. The kids have the luxury of eating it with a spoon:).

Peanut butter in a Baggie. I just cut a hole from the corner and squeezed it on celery and apple I had in the car with me.

Mini Peppers were good to munch on. And they did not get anything wet like the baby carrots did:/. Would consider doing hummus in a Baggie and cutting a hole in the corner like I did with the PB.

Something to avoid – I wouldn’t recommend oranges or grapefruit. Very sticky!

3) Sarah Curry, MS, RDN, CDE

Tip: My little girl liked Lara Bars (here in the UK, we don’t have them, so I have to make my own version). I also like trail mix, because it doesn’t tend to crush into grainy dust that is impossible to sweep from the car floor. And fruit is always a winner- apple slices in a baggie with a little lemon juice, blueberries held up well.  And, the all-time favorite PB&F – peanut butter and fruit- sliced strawberries/blueberries/or bananas.

4) Kathy Brown, RD, LDN, RYT

Tip: Dippers like veggie sticks and dip (hummus, guacamole, or other dressings) are always a kid-favorite. Also homemade trail mixes with whole grain cereal, unsalted nuts, and naturally sweet dried fruit. Some of the best car-foods are fruits like frozen grapes and kiwi (great for hot summer days), bananas, watermelon, mango, peaches…and the list goes on! They come in their own bag, are easy to eat, and are sweet yet healthy!

5) Lisa Rudi-Davis, RDN, CHC

Tip: As a mother of six-year-old twins, I will say my children enjoy finger foods for snacks. Simple combinations string cheese/whole wheat crackers, apple slices w/almond butter, trail mix (dried cranberries, sunflower seeds, whole grain cereal and/or small pretzels) and fresh fruit cut up. 

6) Elizabeth Ann Shaw, MS, RDN, CLT
Tip: One of my new favorites is Bitsy Brain Food – perfect for kids and adults! Safe Travels! 

7) Digna Irizarry-Cassens, MHA, RDN, CLT

Tip: I like eggs for snacks. For young children deviled or hard cooked eggs are out – those yolks fall out and make a sticky mess everywhere. So I make one of my favorites; a Spanish omelet called Tortilla de Pobre.

Recipe for omelet:  

Eggs, beaten but not frothy (don’t add milk or omelet will fall apart)

Thinly sliced potatoes

Finely chopped onion or small sliced green onion (to taste)

Salt & pepper (to taste)

In a frying pan with sloped sides heat olive oil and sauté onions until clear. Add sliced potatoes in one thin layer (not mounded). Cook for a minute or two until slightly browned then turn once and again lightly brown. Add egg mixture spreading over fulling. Cover and cook at very low heat until eggs coagulate. Now you can either take the plunge and turn the omelet or using a warm plate slide the omelet off the frying pan cooked side down on the plate. Turn frying pan over the plate and flip over so the still raw side of the omelet cooks.

I like these omelets firm, very thin and somewhat dry so be careful with the amount of onions if you decide to use them. when cool cut into strips, squares or wedges. I like squares for children and wedges for adults. They’re great cold or at room temperature. A bit of ketchup for a dip in a covered plastic cup or container will make this a better snack than chips or fries. 

8) Sherry Collins, MS, RDN, LD

I have a 2 (almost 3) year old. We snack in the car regularly – right after I pick him up from pre-K and he’s staaaarving; or if we’ve been out too long for errands and I’m running into lunchtime in addition to real extended car travel. 

Dry Cereal – I use a mix of cheerios or kashi oat cereals mixed with kashi Go Lean for the additional fiber; Dried Fruit; Peanuts – not recommended for those < 3 due to choking; Trail Mix – made of all of the above plus some mini-pretzels; Apples – my little guy has eaten whole apples almost always, but slicing them is good too (pears and bananas would be good too); Mini granola bars; Fruit/Veg or Applesauce squeeze pouches – I’m not crazy about these for general snacking (I’d rather have him using a spoon), but they’re shelf stable, travel well, and my kiddo loves them; 1/2 PBJ sandwich or tortilla with PB and banana; Frozen yogurt; tubes; cheese sticks if you have a cooler or eat right away; and Kale chips (yes, he eats them).

More Snack Ideas for the Road

Here are some foods that are bite size and easy to pack that you may want to include:

  • Homemade snack packs with cheese, raw carrots, nuts, crackers

This one is especially fun using a snack bag and decorated wooden clothespin!

Easy to do with the few items you have around the house already. Let your kids decorate their own!

snack how to NFHOI

snack butterfly NFHOI

You can also re-use the plastic containers your deli meat comes in by adding your kids’ favorite finger foods, as pictured at the top of the article!

  • Small round cheese or cheese sticks
  • Carrots – cut into sticks for easy handling
  • Nuts
  • Goldfish
  • Tuna packs
  • Yogurt
  • Juice box
  • Hummus pack
  • Fresh fruit like halos and bananas
  • Dried fruit raisins/craisins/apricots
  • Dried veggies like snap beans, kale chips and other items
  • Popcorn
  • Trail mix
  • Granola bars
  • Homemade energy balls
  • Uncrustables – already made or make your own
  • Butterfly snack bags/clothespins
  • Dry cereal – a single favorite or a mix for more variety
  • Sandwiches cut into quarters

Plan Ahead, Do Ahead and De-Stress For Road Trip Fun

The goal for any road trip with kids or grandkids, short or long, is to enjoy your time together.

When bringing along hungry kids and adults, having healthy snacks ready to go will keep them in a happy mood for the duration.

Snacks ideally will be easy to eat with very little clean up. Finger foods are the easiest way to go.

A good thing to keep in mind when bringing food along in the car is be spill proof whatever you bring. Spilling a full box of cereal or bag of pretzels onto the floor of the car when you are on vacation and have no means of cleaning it up will not add to the fun or reduce the stress.

Don’t forget the napkins and wet wipes!

If you bring snacks in small portions that are just enough to finish, it will help satisfy you both!

The biggest thing to remember is keep any perishable food cold throughout the trip. The least amount of food that must be kept on ice, the better.

Have a great time and enjoy the journey!

I will be doing the same and using some of the great tips by our expert dietitians when I spend time with my granddaughter this summer!

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