In my opinion, one of the best parts of road trips is the snacks! Even though snacking isn’t the healthiest habit, some snacking makes all the difference in long car rides. Having healthy options in your car allows you to stay alert, avoid weight gain, and feel good while traveling. You want to do everything you can to avoid convenience stores and fast food stops, since they have so few options that are real food.
As Michael Pollen wisely says, “Never get your fuel from the same place your car does.”
By far the healthiest snacks are the ones God made–fruits and vegetables! Little sections of tangerine, berries, grapes, etc. are nature’s fruit snacks! Veggies cut into sticks are nature’s Veggie Straws!
#1 Tip: Pack a wide variety of fruits and vegetables and make them your staple snacks. Promise yourself you’ll eat some fruits and veggies before digging into the more exciting stuff.
And now, 21 Healthy Snacks (or meals!) for Traveling
- Ready-to-eat fruit. Simply taking a few minutes to peel oranges, wash apples, cut grapes into little bunches, cut the stems off of strawberries, etc. makes you so much more likely to reach for them. In the summertime, lots of fruits are in season: peaches, melons, pineapple, mangoes, berries, yum!
- Veggie sticks. Carrot sticks, cucumber sticks, jicama sticks, red pepper strips, celery sticks, or baby tomatoes with hummus. You can buy little individual hummus cups at Costco (although they have added oil) or make your own and put them in these little containers that have lids.
- Whole Wheat pita bread and hummus. This is almost like a mini-meal that you don’t need plates and forks for! Make it ahead and put it in the freezer until the day you leave. Here is my recipe for Whole-Wheat Pita Bread. Whole-wheat pretzels or crackers would be an easier option. Some of my favorite hummus recipes:
- Peanut butter banana sandwiches. A staple if you need to eat breakfast or lunch on the road. Filling, delicious, and easy.
- Banana bars or muffins. Click here for my recipe for Banana Muffins or Banana Bars that are whole-grain, no-oil, naturally sweetened and can be gluten-free. Make them ahead and pull them out of the freezer on the morning of your trip for optimal freshness.
- Granola bars. I like to make these homemade, too, and here are some great recipes. If you’d like to buy some, I feel like the Kind brand is healthy-ish since they are plant-based and low in sugar.
- Lara Bars. The ultimate bar, in my opinion! Made of only fruit and nuts, these are delicious while having no junk. They are pretty high calorie, but they make for a great treat. When they go on sale for less than a dollar each, I stock up. Buy some of my favorite flavor right now, so you’re always prepared with a whole-food option on the go.
- Rice Crispy Balls. Make this recipe for Rice Crispy Granola Bars and roll the mixture into balls instead pressing them into bars. Balls are less crumbly and you can make more of them. Skipping chocolate chips helps them hold together better, and they are still delish! Irrestistable!
- Cereal Trail Mix. Mix together low-sugar cereals with some nuts, seeds, raisins, or dried fruit. Adding cereal decreases the calorie density of trail mix, so you can eat more for fewer calories. Here are some low-sugar cereals:
- Chex (2 grams)
- Cheerios (1 gram sugar)
- Kix (2 grams sugar)
- Life (6 grams sugar)
- Puffed Brown Rice (0 grams sugar)
- Shredded Wheat (0 grams)
- Brown Rice Cakes. Rice cakes are fun to munch on, and have only two ingredients: brown puffed rice and salt. I get the Quaker brand of lightly salted rice cakes at my grocery store. Alternatively, this brand of crunchy Rice Rollers are very low sugar and great eaten alone. They are only 39 cents per rice cake and only 50 calories.
- Popcorn. Pop popcorn at home and put it into individual bags for a very cheap, plant-based, light snack.
- Energy Bites. While this is a higher-calorie snack, it will make everyone in your car a little happier. Get my favorite recipe bursting with nutritious chia and flax seeds by signing up for my email list. You’ll automatically get a free download of 10 healthy treats, and my energy bites are on there.
- Healthy-ish Cookies. Try these Carrot Cake Breakfast Cookies, or these delicious garbanzo bean chocolate chip cookies for a special treat. Make them half-size to help you not eat them too fast! Homemade Aussie Bites are also delicious for snacks or breakfast-on-the-road.
- Chia Pudding cups. I stir together 2 tbsp chia seeds with 1 cup light coconut milk and some frozen fruit, with a little honey or maple syrup if needed, and let sit overnight. These little containers would be perfect for chia pudding, oatmeal, hummus, rice pudding, etc.
- Bento Boxes. This is particularly fun for kids. Get a container, ideally with compartments, (a great plastic option is here and a glass version here that looks amazing!) and put their favorite fruits, vegetables, crackers, bread, beans, nuts, edamame, roasted chickpeas, or whatever else your children like. This is a fairly clean meal they can eat while sitting in their car seat.
- Applesauce or fruit cups. Make sure they have no sugar added and fruit cups are packed in juice or water, not sugary syrup! These make a great non-perishable option to eat fruits. Click here to order 20 pouches for $10.
- Baked potatoes. My husband loves potatoes so much, he is happy to eat a baked potato like an apple. A little shaker of salt would make it even tastier, although you might want to salt them out the window or when the car is stopped so you don’t make a mess.
- Pepitas (or pumpkin seeds). You can buy different flavored pumpkin seeds, such as Chili-Lime, or enjoy them plain. I’ve seen them in the bulk bins sections of grocery stores. They are a great source of protein, healthy fats, magnesium, zinc and iron.
- Roasted Chickpeas. You can buy these at the grocery store–I’ve seen several flavors in the bulk bins at Winco, although they do have processed oil as an ingredient, or you can order them online like these ones, here, that have a delicious variety You can also make them yourself, see my recipe for roasted chickpeas. They are best within one or two days of roasting them, although I’ve heard they are crispier if you use an air-fryer.
- 100% Fruit Leather or Dried Fruit. At any grocery store that has bulk bins, go crazy trying different dried fruits! Try to avoid ones that have added sugar. Dried apricots, raisins, figs, apples and dates usually have no added sugar. Stretch Island Fruit Leather is one brand that has no added sugar. Although expensive, this dried pineapple from Trader Joe’s is super tasty, and has no added sugar.
- Individual Packs of Nuts. These are perfect to keep in your car at all times so you always have something hearty and nutritious when you’re hungry. Here is an 18 pack for $10.
What to Order at Restarants
Subway–Veggie Delite sandwich on whole grain bread. You can load it up with as many veggies as you want!
Taco Bell–They have an entire vegetarian menu and you’re always welcome to customize and take the cheese and sour cream off. In ANY menu item you can swap meat for beans. Make it “fresco style” to swap any higher-fat or dairy ingredients with diced tomatoes instead.
Chipotle—Easily customizable to be 100% plant-based. Guacamole is free when you don’t order meat or sofritas (tofu).
Panera Bread–Several vegetable soups, salads, and bowls are vegan and vegetable-heavy. The Baja Bowl, Mediterranean Bowl, Tomato Basil Cucumber salad, and many more can be customized to be completely plant-based.
Wendy’s–Get a few baked potatoes (ask for no sour cream or butter) and/or a side salad.
Blaze Pizza, Mod Pizza (or most build-your-own wood-fired pizza chains)–Customize your own pizza with a wide variety of vegetables. Vegan cheese is available, or it’s still yummy with no cheese at all. Gluten free crusts are available if needed.
Thai restaurants–Many curries and Thai dishes can be made with tofu instead of meat, or just vegetables.
Indian restaurants–Most Indian restaurants have delicious vegan options, such as aloo gobi (potatoes and cauliflower), chana masala (chickpeas in sauce over rice), or veggie samosas with chutneys. Some dishes may have butter or yogurt, so just ask.
Mexican Restaurants–A burrito without meat or cheese, a taco salad with beans instead of meat, veggie fajitas, or even just sides of rice and beans with lettuce and tomato.
Chick-Fil-A: Order the Spicy Southwest Salad, Market Salad, or Grilled Cool Wrap without chicken or cheese. Add a non-dairy dressing like the Chili Lime Vinaigrette if desired. Fruit Cups are also available.
Mongolian Grills–Customize your bowl with tons of veggies and tofu, and you can even have it grilled with water instead of oil.
Whole Foods Salad Bars–Load up your carton with a variety of salads, cut fruit, and plant-based entrees, and pay for your food by the pound.
Costa Vida–Salads with beans, lettuce, tomatoes, salsa, guacamole, fajita veggies, and tortillas, mango salsa, Tomatillo Cilantro Sauce, Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette, are all vegan-friendly ingredients (although not all oil-free). Rice contains butter, and tortillas are grilled with some butter.
Tropical Smoothie Cafe—Many smoothies are completely plant-based and sugar can be omitted. Hummus Wrap (ordered without cheese or ranch), Peanut Butter Banana Crunch Flatbread.
Grocery Stores—When traveling, sometimes the best option may be to go into a grocery store and buy a few things to create a meal to eat in your car or take to a park for a picnic. A bag of baby carrots or snap peas, bananas, oranges, Lara Bars, whole wheat pita bread and hummus, a veggie tray, Mary’s Gone Crackers, rice cakes (look for ingredients of only brown rice and salt), peanut butter, jam, pre-made salads, popcorn, nuts or dried fruit (look for bulk bins), premade smoothies or green juices.
Ideas for kids: You don’t have to order “kids meals” for kids! They don’t need separate “kid food” which is often just an overpriced collection of nutrient-poor foods coupled with a toy or treat. Although not always on the menu, simply ask for sides that fit the type of restaurant: a side of rice and beans, a simple bean burrito, a plate of tofu and rice, pasta and vegetables, pita bread and hummus, or share the adult entree you order.
You can download the free app Happy Cow to do searches for restaurants with vegan options near you. This is a great way to find unique local restaurants to try.
What to eat when Flying
Not going on a road trip, but a plane trip? (Those are my favorite kind of trips!!) Know that you are allowed to take food through airport security! I pack apples, bananas, or clementines on every trip so I have something healthy to eat in the airport when I smell Cinnabons or Wetzels Pretzels wafting through my gate. For early morning trips, pack a container of cooked oatmeal or overnight oats and a spoon, or a square of baked oatmeal. My other go-to flying food is a PB&J. All food is allowed except liquids (like soups or smoothies), so healthy flying!
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