On road trips, it can be easy to satisfy a grumbling belly with stops at gas station convenience stores and fast-food drive-thrus. But the sweet and salty fare at these spots can invite overindulgence and leave you feeling rotten in the long run. Those processed foods can send your blood sugar soaring, only for it to drop dramatically a short time later, according to research in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, and that can make you feel sluggish. Not exactly what you want when trying to stay alert and focused while driving.
“It’s so easy to eat the entire bag of chips or brightly colored candy when you are bored with nothing but the highway in front of you,” says Cordialis Msora-Kasago, RDN, a Los Angeles–based registered dietitian nutritionist and spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Rather than tossing a bag of chips and a package of gummy bears into the back seat, you may have to do a little prep work to pack healthy snacks for your road trip. Here, we show you the way.
Tips for Packing Healthy Road Trip Snacks
“Plan like you would pack your outfits,” says registered dietitian nutritionist Caroline West Passerrello, RDN, another spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, who’s based in Pittsburgh. Passerrello suggests thinking about what you like to eat and how long you anticipate being on the road when you’re planning your snacks. Think about what matters most to you and prioritize from there: health, convenience, cost, or some combination.
There’s nothing wrong with including a favorite snack that doesn’t rate high on the nutrition scale. You just want to keep moderation in mind. “It’s okay to include a packet of chips in your snack stash, but balance it out by including plenty of colorful produce,” says Msora-Kasago.
And, of course, some foods don’t lend themselves well to travel. “Nothing spoils a terrific road trip quicker than food poisoning and the consequent gas station restroom stops,” says Msora-Kasago. “If you must pack potentially hazardous foods such as eggs, chicken, tuna, and yogurt, be sure to pack them in a cooler that will keep pesky bacteria at bay.”
One more tip when planning your stash of healthy road trip snacks: Make sure they’re easily accessible, Passerrello says. If you stow them away deep in the trunk, you won’t be able to get to them when you need them — and that might tempt you to stop for fast food or packaged snacks at the gas station.
Healthy Road Trip–Friendly Snacks
Try some of these 10 snacks on your next road trip.