All of the noshing with none of the vending machine sugar crash.

By Laura Fisher and Betty Gold
Updated July 09, 2020
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Whenever I go on a road trip, I give up on my health goals right around the first gas stop. Having not packed any snacks beyond maybe a couple pieces of aging fun-size chocolate bars, I walk into the convenience store for “just a sparkling water” and emerge with an armful of greasy chips and candy filled with artificial food coloring and strange ingredients I can’t pronounce.

There’s no reason to get out of the car after a long drive feeling bloated and lethargic, or having to deal with kids who have been riding the highs and lows of the sugar roller coaster for hours. It does take some planning ahead, but with a little advance preparation and knowing what good options you can find along the way, you can have a ride that leaves the whole car feeling satisfied and ready to vacation upon arrival.

The truth is, the best road trip food is usually what you make and bring along with you. Yes, it requires some work ahead of time, but it saves money and ensures you have fresh and healthy options even if you find yourself hangry during a long stretch of desolate highway. If you invest in a good quality cooler, you can keep things cool even through long drives.

What makes good road trip snacks and meals to pack? Really anything that isn’t too messy to eat (or too smelly—sorry, but stay away from the tuna salad unless you want a carful of complaints!). Some good options are pre-cut fruit and veggies with peanut butter or hummus, mason jar salads, string cheese, chicken salad, PB&J and other easy sandwiches and wraps, and homemade spiced nuts. Just make sure to pack utensils and napkins!

When choosing snacks to keep you satisfied, protein should be top of mind. It will keep you from devouring entire bags of chips and fuel you through miles on the road. That doesn’t mean you have to pack along chicken breasts, though. There are plenty of easily portable ways to get in your daily dose of the important macronutrient.

Jerky

Jerky and dried meats are a great road trip options, but most of what you can find is dried out, highly processed, and full of nitrates, which could increase your risk of heart disease. Instead, try Krave Gourmet Beef Cuts which is free of added nitrates or artificial ingredients and can be found across the country. The range in flavors from sweet to savory will appeal to the whole traveling crew, and it can be found in many gas station convenience stores and supermarkets across the country.

Eggs

Nature’s protein balls are the perfect road trip snack to pack along in your cooler. Eggs are packed with 6 grams of protein each, not to mention 13 other essential vitamins and minerals. Hard-boiled is the best choice for on-the-go, and they’ll last for up to a week if stored in a cooler. You can make your own, or buy a brand like Peckish, which packs in two perfectly boiled organic eggs along with a flavored dip to keep things interesting.

RELATED: 11 of the Easiest-Ever Egg Recipes

Protein Bars

Packaged bars can be a really easy way to get in your protein, but you have to select carefully and avoid brands with more grams of sugar than of protein. Look for brands like RX Bar or KIND, which have plenty protein and almost no sugar, all in delicious flavors like maple sea salt, dark chocolate cherry cashew, and peanut butter chocolate.

Many gas stations and drugstores these days sell healthier options of traditional junk food favorites, you just have to know what to look for. You can also find a lot of these brands on popular retailers like Amazon or at Trader Joe’s stores across the country.

Chips

Chips are a road trip staple for most. Whether you are trying to go low carb or simply want to skip the greasy, preservative-laden brands, the good news is that there are plenty better-for-you options out there now, from Trader Joe’s Jerk-Style Plantain chips to Siete Grain Free Tortilla Chips.

Fresh Fruit and Fruit Pouches

Apples, bananas, and oranges are mainstays at nearly every rest stop, convenience store, and fast food chain across the country. However, if you want something that packs the same health benefits as fresh fruit with a boost of gut-friendly prebiotics, stock up on GoGo squeeZ happy tummieZ blended fruit pouches. You can stash a few of the pouches—made from 100 percent fresh fruit puree and zero preservatives—in your travel bag without having to worry about road bumps or bruised fruit, plus you can eat them spoon free.

Sour Candies and Gummies

For those who love peach rings, Swedish Fish, and gummies, there is a way to have your sweets and avoid a sugar crash. SmartSweets gummy candies have 85 percent less sugar than other gummy candies, even with no artificial sweeteners. Your kids (or you) won’t even notice the difference!

Trail Mix and Nuts

Nut mixes can be a great snack to pick up along your drive, but most common varieties are full of sugary ingredients and artificial flavorings. For trail mix, pick bags that have at least 50 percent nuts, and aren’t dominated by chocolatey candies and sugar-coated dried fruit.

When it comes to nuts, you want to pick brands that avoid tons of preservatives and rely on msg for flavoring. Try Pizootz peanuts, which have a super-simple ingredient list. Bonus: Their flavored varieties don’t have a powdery coating, meaning your fingers will stay clean during the drive. Raw nuts are always a good bet, as they avoid oils and tons of salt.

If chocolate's what you're craving, you haven't lived until you've tried Hu Hunks. Options include Almonds + Sea Salt, Cashews + Vanilla Bean, and Sour Goldenberries. All three products are paleo, free from the creepy processed glazes that most chocolate-covered nuts are (literally) dripping in, and downright delicious.

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