Healthy Road-trip Snacks

Labor Day is close at hand, and you may have another weekend road trip planned with your family.


Perhaps this scenario sounds familiar: You are driving down the freeway on your way to Grandma and Grandpa’s house for the weekend when signs of hunger emerge from your happy travelers. You reach into your bag of road-trip snacks to find dripping juice as a result of beat-up pears and two smashed brown bananas. Now what?


I have numerous yummy options for healthy snacks on the road that go beyond the obvious squashed fruit that ends up on the bottom of your bag.


When traveling, it is easy to default to crackers and cereal because they are easy to pack and not as perishable as fresh fruit or vegetables. If your kids are like those I know, they would sustain themselves on cereal, crackers and bread alone if left to their own devices. It is our job to provide them with more appealing choices to diversify their snacks with some color.


With some creative pre-planning, it is possible to offer fresh and packaged fruit and vegetables.


I distinctly remember road trips across Montana, where we pulled over at the rest stop and my grandmother pulled from her cooler a reused Cool Whip container packed with carrot sticks kept fresh in a bath of cool water. In this day and age, we have all sorts of devices for keeping food fresh. Get yourself an insulated thermos to keep in your refrigerator. The night before your trip, load up with carrot sticks, cucumber slices or sliced sweet peppers. Fresh, organic, raw sweet peas and peas fresh from the pod are also fabulous for the road.


If you’re planning to be driving for a while, you will want to have some non-perishable snacks that have the crunch kids all love. Freeze-dried fruits and vegetables are great options. You can visit the grocery store shelf to find all sorts of fun, freeze-dried foods like carrots, green beans, blueberries and bananas. Dried fruit and fruit snacks are also excellent road trip options.


Whole grain cereals, crackers and granola bars are indispensable staples. We know kids love these foods, so be sure to have them on hand as a snack-time backup in case the options above aren’t their preferred snack of choice. When choosing whole-grain snack options, look to those that provide a good variety of nutrients so you get more nutritional mileage out of them. These snacks should provide a balance of fiber, protein and carbohydrates, along with other nutrients important to kids growing bodies, such as calcium, zinc and iron.


Let me leave you with a few “snack rules of the road”:


  • First snack: Fresh foods, like veggies and fruit (while still cool and crisp).
  • Second snack: Dehydrated, freeze-dried or packaged real fruit snacks (to add some more color).
  • Third snack: Indispensable go-to snacks offered (because you know they will devour these hands down).


Don’t be afraid to try something wild! (My son, surprisingly, likes wasabi peas.)


Happy trails!


Tara DelloIacono Thies, RD, is the children’s nutritionist at ClifBar & Company.

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