20 Nutritious Road Trip Snacks
By Ginger Hultin, MS RDN, CSO, integrative nutrition expert, cookbook author, and consultant dietitian who works with Clif Bar & Company.
The ideas and suggestions written below are provided for general educational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice or care. Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified health provider before beginning any physical fitness or health- and nutrition-related activity.
With summer around the corner, it’s important to stay energized when you hit the road for your next adventure. With a little bit of planning ahead, eating nutritiously on a road trip can be easier than you think.
A lot of traditional road trip snacks can be full of added salt, sugar, and saturated fat. These kinds of foods can give you a quick boost but often leave you feeling tired, thirsty, and lethargic instead of feeling nourished, energized, and balanced.
When planning your snacks, consider the many phases of a road trip. Choose foods that can nourish your excited spirit as you get on the road but will also keep you going toward the tail-end of your trip. Good snacks to take on a road trip include foods that pack well, contain fiber and protein, and offer a variety of textures and flavors for the journey.
Why Road Trip Snacks Are Important
Depending on how long your travels are, there may be energy slumps, naps, and even some irritation as the question “Are we there yet?” starts to arise.
Good nutrition can manage the ups and downs of the road, helping to reduce the risk of getting overly hungry or upset in the car. If you experience any delays like traffic, car troubles, a flat tire, or even an intentional detour, you’ll be thankful you have nutritious options on hand.
In addition, drivers will feel more energized and alert behind the wheel when they have proper hydration and nutrition. Drivers need to stay focused, especially on long driving days. All snacks need to be easy to hold and eat without creating a big mess in the car.
When you’re properly prepared with food for the road, you’ll make fewer stops and save money on meals. Planning ahead can actually add up to big savings!
Packing Tips to Consider
Consider how you’ll effectively pack your snacks for the entire journey. Reusable packaging like glass containers, jars, or snack bags that provide easy access are great for road trips. Pack a cooler to keep beverages and perishable snack options cold, and refill it with ice at a gas station or charging stop if needed.
Pack snacks in bulk and label them so you know what to bring out at the right time while on the road. Foods you can hold in one hand that don’t drip or cause a mess in the car are also an important consideration, especially for the driver.
Bringing a variety of foods, flavors, and calorie levels can help you navigate every part of a road trip from start to finish. When packing for your next adventure, consider how long you’ll be on the road and pack one snack from each category below (crunchy, creamy, salty, sweet) for each traveler per day. Label each bag or container with what the snack is and what category it fits into so if you or another travel companion is craving something salty or sweet, you know exactly what to hand them.
What Makes a Nutritious Road Trip Snack?
Snacks with fiber-containing carbohydrates, satiating protein, and unsaturated fats are great for road trip adventures. Keeping both sweet and salty options as well as crunchy and creamy snacks can also help satiate any hunger need or craving along the way.
In addition to balanced snacks, many road trippers look for snack qualities that fit their food choice values. You can eat clean on a road trip by choosing the right kinds of foods. Look for plant-based options that are non-GMO and are made with USDA organic ingredients. If this is a priority for you, choose produce, grains, nuts, and other products that are labeled organic at the store.
20 Nutritious Road Trip Snacks
Whether you’re craving something crunchy, creamy, salty, or sweet, there’s a road trip snack to meet your needs.
If you crave a crunchy snack, there are so many options, from nuts and seeds to CLIF® Thins and dried veggies. Fresh produce is also a great crunchy option while you’re in the car, and many fruits or veggies pack better than you may realize.
- CLIF Thins: 100-calorie crispy, crunchy, snack bars are made with organic rolled oats
- Almonds and raisins (1 oz each)
- Roasted chickpeas
- Homemade or store-bought granola: Consider sprinkling over a single-serve yogurt cup
- Make-ahead simple salad in a jar: Layer dressing, tomatoes, cucumbers, chickpeas, quinoa, and hearty greens like chopped romaine lettuce; when ready to eat, shake and enjoy
- Chopped cauliflower florets or fresh snap peas: Consider dipping in a single-serve hummus cup
Smooth, creamy, decadent snacks can also be nutritious and suitable for a road trip. Many of these foods need to be kept cold, so pack your cooler and keep it stocked with ice cubes or reusable ice packs. Be sure to also pack reusable spoons for creamy snacks you need to scoop to eat.
- Chia seed pudding: 2 tablespoons chia seeds with ½ cup milk of your choice and a teaspoon of sweetener and/or flavoring like vanilla extract or cinnamon. Make this one day ahead of time so it has a few hours to set into a pudding-like texture
- Cheese stick or single-serve cheese slice
- Single-serve applesauce cup or pouch
- Greek-style dairy or non-dairy yogurt
- CLIF® Nut Butter Bar: This bar has 6-7 grams (9-10% DV) of plant protein and is made with satisfying ingredients like delicious, creamy nut butter and organic rolled oats
Craving a little salt? Not a problem! Many nutritious foods can provide that salty flavor that you’re looking for on your adventure. Pair salty snacks with plenty of water on your trip so you stay balanced and hydrated. Too much salt can cause travelers to feel thirsty, dehydrated, and low on energy.
- Popcorn: Portion a larger bag into smaller, compostable bags or jars for easy car snacking
- Whole-wheat tortilla with hummus spread, some lunch meat or seasoned tofu, and a romaine lettuce leaf wrapped up for the road
- Jerky: Meat-based, fish, or even soy or mushroom options
- Make-ahead peanut butter or almond butter sandwich on whole-wheat bread
There’s nothing wrong with a sweet treat, especially on a road trip. Think beyond packaged candy and soda as you expand your snack options to foods that will help maintain your energy on the journey.
- Fresh cherries: Don’t forget to pack a bag or container for the pits!
- Fruit leather: Homemade or store-bought
- Homemade or store-bought muffins: Consider a recipe that uses whole-wheat flour and/or oats and shredded carrots, zucchini, and/or berries
- Apple slices with yogurt dip made from ¼ cup dairy or non-dairy yogurt with a sprinkle of cinnamon and a drizzle of honey
- Homemade energy balls: 1 cup oats, ½ cup nut butter, ¼ cup honey, ½ cup shredded coconut, ½ cup chopped nuts like almonds or walnuts. Make these ahead of time by adding all ingredients into the bowl of a food processor, pulsing until it turns to a dough, then rolling it into bite-sized balls with your fingertips and storing in the refrigerator until you leave
While you’re packing for vacation this summer, don’t forget the nutritious snacks. Stay healthy and satisfied while you’re hitting the road for summer by planning some of these simple road trip snacks to enjoy along the way.