Whether you’re looking for road trip food ideas for yourself or road trip snacks for the kids, this post breaks down some easy ideas for food to take on a road trip!
With many people excited about traveling again, I know road trip meals and healthy car snacks are on the rise. School’s out, the weather is warm, and people may opt for road trips over flights, when possible.
And so that brings up the topic of, What are the best foods to take on a road trip?
In fact, we drove down to North Carolina a few weeks ago and we prepped and packed some of what I feel is the best road trip food and easy car snacks.
With kids especially, we try to pack plenty of kid friendly car snacks and if we’re stopping, plan for healthy road trip meals.
I pretty much always pack snacks everywhere (have I mentioned my nickname in college was “Snacks?”) so I’m very well versed on this topic.
When thinking about food to pack for a road trip, I think about sustenance and satisfaction. I don’t want to be snacking non stop.
For instance, when we’re in the car, I’m a little bit more of a stickler than normal about what the kids eat. I tend to moderate sugar intake more because I don’t want to keep stopping or have them snack the whole time.
Sure, fast food can be enjoyable for a couple of meals, but the cost eventually adds up, and a lot of it may leave you feeling sluggish and exhausted. So, what’s the solution for easy road trip food ideas?
Well, I try to include fiber-rich and protein-rich snacks when I can. We tend to stop somewhere for meals although I’m sure it’s possible to pack non persiahble road trip food. That’s just a little too intense for us.
We’ll just aim for a balanced road trip meal, and include the healthy car snacks when we can (like these healthy banana oatmeal cookies). Packing food for a road trip is much easier with these options.
Usually, for us, the best road trip food is things like:
I’m also the mom who brings at least one cooler so we often have refrigerated road trip snacks for kids, too.
All of those make great car snacks for toddlers because if toddlers aren’t getting protein or healthy fats, they will keep asking for more food!
We love making lots of these no bake healthy snacks, and relying on lots of oat-based baked goods as food to bring on a road trip.
I’ll be the first to grab a snack-sized pack of Goldfish or Oreos, but if you’re looking to add some variety to your snack game, I have some delicious and healthy options for family road trip snacks.
These items also check the box for non messy snacks for road trips, which is important in our car!
If you’re traveling with kiddos, have a packed itinerary, or get car sick easily, protein or energy bars might be your solution. There are a variety of flavors, textures, and macronutrient compositions, and they’re easy to eat quickly and keep down.
Perfect Bars are filling, packed with about 15 g of protein, and come in a variety of flavors, most involving nut butter of some sort. Heads up, they are refrigerated, so if these are your go-to, bring a cooler. This is the cooler bag we have and I love it.
Kind Bars, on the other hand, consist mostly of whole nuts and dried fruit, often dipped in and drizzled with chocolate.
They even have mini bars, which are about half the size of the original, making them perfect to pair with another snack when you’re craving multiple flavors.
Even when I’m not road tripping, the combination of pretzels with peanut butter is one of my favorites. There’s something about the salty and the crunchy with the creamy that hits home every time.
To reduce the mess and save space, consider bringing peanut butter packets (although if it won’t be too messy for the kids, you can bring your PB jar) or taking cinnamon peanut butter in a to go jar.
Trail mix is a classic and one of the best road trip foods. You can find the basic mix of nuts, dried fruit, and chocolate at just about any grocery store or gas station, or if you’re planning ahead and feeling creative, you can even make your own.
Pro tip: Let your kids make it and it makes the best car snacks for toddlers because they got to choose what went in it.
If you’re wanting to experiment but have no clue where to start, check out this base healthy homemade trail mix.
Hint: we normally go with 1/3 nuts or seeds, 1/3 dried fruit, and 1/3 textural component, like chocolate chips or popcorn.
For a more exciting version (and a non messy road trip snack), turn them into homemade cereal bars. We are obsessed with these vegan trail mix bars.
Always a win with us because of a mixture of flavors and textures.
Start with the original cereal mix—Chex Mix—and imagine where cereal mixes can venture from there.
Cereal is just as delicious dry as it is with milk, and it’s even better with added flavors. Like trail mix, cereal mix contains various components, but it tends to be more carb-heavy than the average trail mix.
Carbohydrates are your brain’s preferred source of energy, so while you may be less physically active when you’re in the car all day, you still need plenty of fuel.
Here are some fun ideas:
I’m hands-down beef jerky’s biggest fan. It’s chewy, salty (and spicy or sweet, depending on the flavor you pick), and basically straight protein.
Arguably its biggest perk is that jerky is not refrigerated, so it’s ideal as a family car snack and non messy for toddlers. Our dog really loves jerky too.
There’s nothing wrong with eating it alone, but to make beef jerky or turkey jerky a balanced snack, add some dried fruit.
Muffins are the best handheld road trip snack!
If you have a little extra time before you embark on your trip, you can bake a batch of muffins on your own, or if you’re crunched for time, pick some up from the grocery store or a local bakery on your way out of town.
If you’re traveling with small children or prefer a larger variety of snacks, consider making mini muffins. They pack the same great taste into a bite-sized treat, and it’s easy to make multiple flavors at once.
Simply use the same batter, then add chocolate chips, fruit, granola, or other toppings individually into each mini muffin before you bake.
Here are some of my favorite toddler friendly muffins:
Okay, these are a classic—but that doesn’t mean it’s any less worthy of making our list! When prioritizing convenience, the importance of still including fresh, nutrient-dense foods is often forgotten.
But when you think about it, most fruits and vegetables are actually quite portable and make for healthy toddler finger foods.
Whether you buy your snacks before you leave the house or get hungry on the road, you’ll be able to find a variety of fruits and vegetables in most areas.
Some of my favorite travel-friendly produce include cherry tomatoes, celery (with RXBar packets, of course), bananas, apples, and blueberries.
Carrots and dip deserve their own time to shine. If you feel like vegetables on their own can be a little bland, I encourage you to pair them with a sauce or dip that you thoroughly enjoy.
Mini carrots are the perfect size and shape for dippers, and some of my favorite dips include balsamic vinaigrette, ranch dressing, or hummus.
Pick your favorite and enjoy.
Feel free to pack full-sized sandwiches if you want to, but in my humble opinion, minis are way more fun. If sandwiches feel boring to you, try a new flavor combo, like almond butter and banana or bacon, egg, and cheese.
If you’re still not convinced, grab some artisan bread, like ciabatta or sourdough. Thank me later.
To make, prepare your sandwich as normal, then cut into quarters. Keep the crust if you’d like, or cut it off, like my kids do.
If your sandwich doesn’t have a “bonding agent,” like nut butter or melted cheese, in it, you might want to stick a toothpick through the center of each mini to keep them assembled.
Voila, it’s that simple!
If you get easily bored in the car, you’ve met your match with this snack combo. Both cheese sticks and apples require sensory involvement to eat—the peeling of the cheese stick, and the crunch of the apple—which make snack time fun.
Plus, both demand that you take your time eating them, so you’re more likely to enjoy your snack and not rush through it.
Nutritionally, the cheese stick and apple combination is about as balanced as a snack can get and is also a great example of what we look for in a post workout snack.
The cheese stick provides both fats and protein, while an apple brings carbohydrates and loads of micronutrients.
All of this helps you to feel full and satisfied.
Most of the time, my answer to, “How would you like your eggs?” is scrambled or fried, but for a road trip, I’ll take them hard-boiled, please.
It’s easy to boil a dozen or so before your trip and throw them in Tupperware to take with you. For an even easier snack time, peel the eggs ahead of time.
Eggs are high in protein and healthy fats, but they contain almost no carbohydrates.
For a more satisfying and complete snack, you might want to pair hard-boiled eggs with fruit, crackers, or another carbohydrate-rich food. The options are limitless, so I couldn’t pick just one!
At this point, you might feel like you’re experiencing déjà vu to when I listed energy bars, but energy bites have their own advantages.
For example, one energy bite tends to be about the size of a ping-pong ball, so it’s perfect for if you’re only a tad hungry—or if you’re starving, eat multiple!
f you’re looking for a place to start, try some of my favorites:
Wherever you’re heading this road trip season, I hope you make memories that you’ll cherish for a lifetime. And along the way, happy snacking!
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