We asked several Registered Dietitians their thoughts on how to eat healthy while traveling and this is what they shared with us! Here is the Ultimate Registered Dietitians Guide To Eating Healthy While Traveling.
We love family road trips! A road trip is excellent bonding time, even between the kids bickering 😉 Here at Healthy Family Project, we all have road trips planned throughout the year, so we asked some of our favorite Registered Dietitians how to prepare for those family road trips and the best way to still eat healthy while traveling. We got a lot of excellent advice, so we decided that you all would benefit from it too!
Heading out on a road trip doesn’t mean you need to leave your healthier eating habits behind. With a little bit of prep work and planning, you can enjoy your trip knowing that having healthy food choices available can help you feel good on your trip and even save money! We all know that it can be difficult to eat healthy while traveling. Between family visits, time visiting favorite destinations, and of course the time in the car and maybe on a plane it’s easy to stop off at the nearest gas station or fast food restaurant for a quick snack. Healthy snacks along with water can help you and your family from feeling run down after a long day on the road.
So, we are going to share our Registered Dietitians Guide To Eating Healthy While Traveling!
Think About What You’re Packing
When we travel, I pack a small cooler that I keep just behind the front seat. Bring cut up or portable fresh fruits and vegetables. Travel friendly fruits and vegetables include grapes, apples, bananas, oranges, berries, carrots, sugar snap peas, celery or sliced sweet peppers. You can store in food safe containers or, for portion control, put into reusable lunch containers and store in a cooler. When packing your car cooler, pack things that don’t require plates or silverware and make sure it’s easy to open and can be managed by little hands. Choose your cooler wisely. This may seem like a no-brainer but if your vehicle is packed to max, finding space for a cooler can be a challenge. Choose a cooler that can hold enough for one to two days then plan to replenish along your route. Instead of filling it with ice, consider freezing water bottles ahead of time and throw those in instead. Ice can be added at stops along the way and the melted water bottles will serve as a refreshing beverage.
Don’t forget the protein snacks to keep moods and energy in check! Healthier options include cheese sticks, trail mix, granola bars, popped popcorn, hard-boiled eggs or these No-Bake Granola Bites. Keep the boredom munchies away with a few protein snacks. Below I’ll share a full list of snack ideas, so be sure to keep reading!
Consider The Length Of Your Trip
If you’re traveling for longer than three hours or during midday or evening, you’re going to need more than snacks. I pack our Bento boxes with a meal I know my kids will enjoy, then we stop at a park or rest stop along the way to picnic so they can eat and burn off a little energy.
My favorite items to pack in the Bento boxes include cheese-and-turkey roll-ups, hummus and fresh veggies, and a favorite fruit.
Remember What’s In The Snack
Long days of travel can make everyone cranky, so pick foods that are going to do the best for your kids. Instead of loading them up on sugary snacks like mini donuts or cookies, focus on balanced snacks that have some protein, healthy fat, and fiber.
Cheese, select breakfast bars, and nuts are great options that won’t leave you with a sugar crash mid-trip.
Keep Clean Up In Mind
Unless you want to find the nearest car wash, it’s best to be mindful of big mess-makers. I like snacks that can be cleaned up with baby wipes and the stash of napkins I keep in my car.
That means we’re not doing drinks without straws and lids, too-juicy fruit like watermelon, or the carb-y snacks that tend to get crushed into floor mats. Bonus points for items that come in their own containers, like boxes of raisins.
Factor In How Much You Want To Stop When Planning Drinks
Don’t forget the beverages! In my family, everyone is responsible for keeping up with his or her water bottle. I fill them up in the morning with cool water and a little ice so that they stay crisp all day long.
I’ve found that if I offer juices, my kids drink more and much faster, which means sugar rushes and more frequent bathroom breaks. Water is the perfect road drink: it’s not sticky, won’t stain, and is totally satisfying.
We bring refillable water bottles to fill up at water stations in visitor centers. As a backup, we also bring or purchase a gallon jug of bottled water to refill our individual bottles. It will save you money to refill instead of purchasing individual bottled water! A road trip treat for our family will also sometimes include carbonated juice so we can avoid the soda when stopping to refuel at the gas stations. You can use insulated beverage containers to bring homemade smoothies along too like this Watermelon Cucumber Smoothie!
Longer Road Trip? Plan For More Than Just Snacks
While I do my best to pack Bento boxes for meals, sometimes it’s just nice to explore somewhere new. Use travel apps on your smartphone or GPS settings to help you discover local regionally-inspired restaurants. When it comes to eating out on the road, our road trip family rule is to try to avoid restaurant chains that we can find at home. Our attitude is that traveling is not only exploring new places with your mind and body but also with your palate. Some of our best memories have been trying sometimes hole-in-the wall restaurants. We use the travel apps to help us find those with good ratings and to see if they’re close to our travels.
Keep an eye out for local farmers’ markets or fruit and vegetable stands along the way. Good local, seasonal produce! And keep your eyes open! On one trip, we were driving some back roads and saw signs for a small, family-run bakery and produce stand. It was just a tad off our route and the food we purchased was SO good. If you have the time, make eating fresh part of the fun and visit a pick-your-own farm. Search online when planning your trip or use one of the apps available for smartphones.
Plan to stop at grocery stores instead of the fast food chains. If cooler space is limited, find a local grocery store along your route to replenish. This is especially nice for things that might spoil more easily like dairy products or lunch meat.
Now that you’ve made your road trip food plan, consider planning your snack breaks at rest stops or parks—the extra perk is you get a chance to stretch your legs and kids can run off some energy too. When my kids were little I used to make them do jumping jacks 🙂
Taking food along on a road trip can save you both time and money, for you will avoid stopping every few exits because someone in the car is hungry. You can simply just reach into your stash of goodies and hand out snacks for everyone. Having foods that are tasty and healthy will go a long way towards making the mood in the car enjoyable for the entire group!
Several days before we hit the road, I like to make a list of all the foods we need. That way, I can pack a bag in the car that is organized with variety of snacks. Whether your road trip is long or short, you need to have snacks packed!
Healthy Travel Snack Ideas
- Trail Mix: This is one of my favorites. Trail mix is easy to make and stays fresh for several days. This Pistachio-Chip Trail Mix is my go-to recipe.
- Packable fresh fruit: Take along several different kinds of fruit on your road trip for quick, easy, and delicious snacks. Some great choices are strawberries, blueberries, bananas, apples, or tangerines. Wash the fruit ahead of time and put the berries in individual baggies to make them easy to distribute to others in the car. Keep a plastic trash bag for apple cores and banana or orange peels, as well as a roll of paper towel to keep drips to a minimum.
- Veggies: Baby carrots, green bell peppers, cucumbers, green beans, and celery are all great choices because they taste good and are extremely healthy as well.
- Sandwiches: Any type of nut butter sandwich will travel well. We love peanut butter, sunflower seed butter, or almond butter with jelly. I like to cut the sandwiches in fours for easy eating.
- Dried Fruit: We like to buy dried fruit without added sugar. This is a great way to get fruit servings and not worry about messes or the fruit going bad. Raisins, mangos, apricots, and apple rings are our favorite dried fruits.
- Pretzels: Pretzels are a favorite because they travel easy and are very tasty.
- Granola Bars and Homemade Fruit Leather: I love making these No-Bake Granola Bites or Fruity Fun Rolls Ups for easy on-the-go snacks.
- Cheese and Whole Wheat Crackers: A convenient way to get protein and whole grains in on the road. Add some cheese to your cooler for a great snack to complement the nuts and fruit. You can find cheese sticks in mozzarella or other kinds of cheese, or you can simply slice your own before leaving home. Be sure to keep the cheese chilled to keep it from spoiling.
- Plain Popcorn: My kids love having popcorn as a snack. It’s healthy and adds variety to their diet.
- Muffins: These Apple Pumpkin Muffins are delicious. They can be made ahead, frozen, and then thawed at room temperature for a quick and easy snack.
- Apple Sauce Pouches: We love applesauce pouches. It’s a great way to get a fruit serving in without making a mess in the car.
- Yogurt: If you are taking along a cooler, consider adding yogurt as one of your snack choices. Many grocery stores sell yogurt that comes in a tube; you can actually freeze these ahead of time and then pack them in the cooler for a refreshing snack on the road. As they thaw, the yogurt has a wonderful consistency (almost like ice cream) that tastes great.
- Nuts: Nuts are a great source of protein and provide energy when eaten as a snack. Make sure no one in your vehicle has any allergies to nuts, and then stock up on goodies such as almonds, peanuts, pecans, walnuts, and cashews. Many times you can find nuts either roasted and salted or raw; choose whichever kind you like best.
- Water: It is easy to end up guzzling lots of sodas and juice when traveling on the road, but these drinks are not the best choice for your body as they can make you dehydrated and jittery. Be sure to take plenty of bottled water along on your road trip for when you get thirsty. For extra flavor, take some lemon or lime slices or mint leaves to add to your water.
With a little thought and planning, you can continue your healthy eating habits while on the road, or even create some new ones. When the options are limited, people tend to eat what is available, and this might be a great opportunity to make some new habits for healthy snacking!
With all that prep time before your trip, you’ll also be able to do more sightseeing and less time waiting in fast food lines! Enjoy the family time and make those memories.