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Car-Friendly Roadtrip Snacks for Both Kids and Adults

By Kim McDevitt, MPH RD on July 7, 2016, categorized in Health, In the Kitchen

Car-Friendly Roadtrip Snacks for Both Kids and Adults


There’s something about summer and road trips that seem to go hand-in-hand. Whether your family is headed for a week at the beach or you’re setting off on a long car trip to drop the kids at camp, you likely have a lot you’re trying to coordinate and make sure gets packed!

Once you all make it in the car and get on your way, stopping for meals and snacks can be tough. Not only do you want to limit stops but often times the selections are less than ideal, especially if you’re making more of an effort this year to eat better. Not to mention how hard it can be to find options if someone in your family has a special dietary preference, such as eating a plant-based, gluten-free, dairy-free, or nut-free diet.

Here are my top eight picks for car-friendly roadtrip snacks both kid and parent will approve of, that take minimal planning, and keep your back seats less messy.

1. Chopped veggies and hummus

Hummus is a great snack and with fun dippers you can keep kids occupied for a while! Grab a container of your favorite brand hummus and a bag of baby carrots, pea pods and mini cucumbers. You can even divide the hummus into smaller containers and split the veggies into baggies so everyone gets their own!

2. Popcorn

So simple yet satisfying for easy eating while traveling. Avoid added oils and artificial ingredients by popping popcorn at home. Add 1/3 cup of popcorn kernels into a pan with 2 tablespoons high-heat oil (like coconut oil) heated on the bottom, or use an air popper. You can get fancy by making yours chocolate coated, adding some dill and sea salt, or simply dusting with cinnamon and sugar.

3. Granola Bars

Granola bars are a solid choice because they typically offer a mix of protein, carbohydrates, and fat and come in tasty flavor combinations. They can be a convenient gas station option, but many are high in sugar and processed ingredients. You can make a big batch of homemade bars, including ingredients such as dried fruits, nuts and oats. Slice them up and wrap individually.

If you don’t have time to make your own, bring along a nutrition bar such as Vega® Snack Bar. These gluten-free bars are also made without dairy or soy ingredients. They also clock in with less than 10 grams of sugar per serving, a nice amount of good ALA Omega-3 fats from SaviSeed (sacha inchi) oil and chia, and are around 200 calories, making them a good snacking option for the whole family to enjoy.

4. Trail Mix

Even simpler than making granola bars is buying all the ingredients and combining them in a baggie. Buy raw or roasted nuts, seeds, dried fruits, chocolate pieces, etc., and combine. Add crunch with gluten-free pretzels or popcorn!

5. Edamame

Edamame (soybeans in their pods) is a fun snack. Grab a bag from the freezer vegetable aisle of your grocery store and steam when you get home. Sprinkle them with salt and place in a baggie. These pods can be enjoyed warm, cold or room temperature and are perfect for snacking. Just make sure to bring a trash bag for the empty pods!

6. Fruit with Nut Butter

Fruit and nut butter is a really simple and delicious combination. Let your kids pick out their favorite fruits while you’re grocery shopping, such as apple or banana, and then their own single-serving packet of nut butter, such as maple almond or sunflower seed butter. Many brands sell single-serving packets today, but if you cannot find any, feel free to make your own using small baggies and your jar of nut butter. The kids will love it because they picked it out and you’ll know they are having a snack that’s delicious and good for them.

7. Dried Fruits

Swap the fruit snacks for dried fruits. Today you can pick up bags of dried (or freeze-dried) fruits at not just the grocery store but at gas stations and coffee shops alike. Look for options that are fruit only without added sugars. Some good picks are dried apple rings, dried (no sugar added) mango or freeze-dried strawberries.

8. Salad Shakers

This could fall into the meal category, and may require packing an ice pack or mini cooler, but it’s worth it in my opinion for long-haul car trips. Plus, packing a cooler is a smart option so you can pack your favorite healthy drinks AND can potentially save money.

Make a salad shaker by placing a small amount of salad dressing of your choice in the bottom of the container and then layer with veggies and grains, such as brown rice or quinoa and a protein source, such as shelled edamame. When you’re ready to eat, just shake it up and you’re set. Don’t forget a fork! Here are some Mason jar salad combinations worth trying!

It’s not always an option to pack snacks beforehand, I get it. If you don’t have time, be mindful of your choices. Look for options that include whole foods and watch added sugar, such as ordering the oatmeal but asking for the cinnamon and sugar on the side so you can control the amount.

Be an ingredient sleuth and stay away from packaged snacks that contain high sugar content, artificial sweeteners, or trans fats. Today, you can typically find a gluten-free pretzel, a popcorn with minimal ingredients and a trail mix that’s relatively good-for-you (just watch your portion!), in most roadside gas stations.  It’s not always easy, but I have faith in you!

Most importantly: roll down the windows, play some sing-along tunes, and create some enjoyable family memories!

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