Summer is here and it’s time to hit the road! Whether we’re headed off for a daytrip or making a cross-country excursion with the whole family, packing snacks is a must. It’s a must if you’re trying to make healthier choices, want to save money or just save time by avoiding stops that entail all the kiddos begging for bags of chips, candy or sodas at the roadside gas station. I think we can all agree there are plenty of reasons to pack snacks, but we can also probably agree it’s easier said than done. From limitations with perishable food, to avoiding sticky nightmares in the minivan to finding something everyone likes- it’s no wonder many of us give up before even trying.
Here are 5 easy and fun ideas to make road trip snacking manageable and enjoyable!
1.) Follow the My Plate rule, even on the road. I teach all the families I work with to build their meals using “My Plate”, referring to the USDA’s current food guide. My Plate is a visual reminder that healthy meals have at least one fruit, veggie, lean protein and whole grain. Packing road trip snacks for your family can actually be a great opportunity to teach this healthy model to your kiddos. In resealable bags or a lunch box, allow kids to choose 1 fruit, vegetable, protein and grain. This could look like, an apple + baby carrots + a handful of almonds + whole grain pretzels. Add some peanut butter or ranch in for a fun side! Another great option could be grapes + cherry tomatoes + beef jerky + popcorn. You get the idea and kids can get involved with choosing their healthy snack options with a goal in mind.
2.) Save the cold stuff for the pitstops. Nowadays, most gas stations usually have some more nourishing options like cheesesticks, yogurts, deli meat, hard boiled eggs, fresh cut fruit, and the like. If you’re loaded up on non-perishable items, plan a stop the whole family can look forward to where they pick something from the fridge! If you prefer to bring a cooler, consider freezing water bottles as ice packs and select some of the above cold items.
3.) Make your own trail mix. If you’re a family with similar preferences (this is rare) then making one community bag will be a breeze. If you’re like most of us who fall into the “Bobby loves raisins and Susie can’t stand them at all” category, make customized trail mix bags. Purchase a variety of nuts, dried fruits and other healthful ingredients like dried chickpeas, dried edamame, popcorn, whole grain crackers and other favorites, then make sandwich or quart size bags for each family member. Consider adding spices like cinnamon or chili powder for a little extra flavor! Lastly, hold off on the chocolate pieces for a better-for-you trail mix and also to avoid melty messes!
4.) Pack fruit infused water! When we are preparing for a road trip, we can’t forget about hydration. Sure, there’s a fine line for each family regarding how much is too much before bathroom breaks become too frequent, but healthy hydration (i.e. water) is important. Creating fruit infused water is a fun way to get kids more excited about water and once it’s consumed, there’s a healthy fruit snack at the end. Fruit infused water bottles have become incredibly popular and affordable so pick up a few for the family and get creative. Some of my favorite combos are apple slices + lemon wedges, blueberries + lime wedges and strawberry + mandarin slices. Fresh herbs like mint and basil add another fun flavor component.
5.) Build a snack tackle box. Hit a craft store or outdoor sporting store for a plastic compartment box. Stock up with your favorite granola bars, whole grain crackers, jerkies, nuts, seeds and other shelf-stable favorites. If each family member has individual snacks, think of this as a refill station when someone needs more. Having a well stocked snack box can also be a neat way to help someone in need on the trip!