It’s time to pack up the car and head off onto the open road with your girls for a summer adventure! A road trip is a great way to explore a new city and spend time with some close friends or become closer to new friends.
When it comes to eating healthy on the road, your best plan is to be proactive. Make sure you plan out your meals and snacks as best as you can before you leave, just as you’d prepare for your lodging, other expenses or your perfect road trip playlist.
Before you crank up the tunes and put the pedal to the metal, pack up some of these healthy and delicious snacks to stay fueled (pun intended) and focused for the fabulous journey ahead of you. Loading up on junk food will only make you feel lethargic and unenergetic for your trip, so pick these snacks instead! Some of them require refrigeration, so bring along a small cooler with you.
1. Trail Mix
Store-bought trail mix can be loaded with extra fat, sugar and calories compared to any DIY trail mix. Making your own trail mix is a great healthy summer treat compared to buying store-bought trail mix, and it’s super fun to make your own mix anyway.
Here’s a simple trail mix recipe to take with you on your trip:
- Unsalted almonds
- Unsalted sunflower seeds
- Dark chocolate chips
- Dried cranberries
For a single serving of trail mix, add ¼ cup total of the nuts and seeds, and then a handful of each of the other ingredients. Having a DIY snack night the day before you leave can also be a great bonding activity for you and your friends before your trip!
2. Greek Yogurt
Make sure you don’t leave without packing a few cups of low-fat yogurt into your cooler! The calcium D in yogurt is essential for your health, as are the natural probiotics in yogurt. Look for the “live and active cultures” label on your yogurt, since this certifies that there are natural probiotics in your yogurt that will help to keep your digestive system running smoothly. Plus, yogurt can keep your blood pressure from climbing up too high—as if we needed another excuse to dip our spoons into strawberry goodness.
Pack Greek yogurt for a protein-packed healthy snack. Chobani plain Greek yogurt contains 13 grams of protein, compared to 5 grams of protein in regular yogurt like Yoplait.
When it comes to froyo, there’s nothing like taking a trip to Pinkberry over the summer, but doing so regularly isn’t the best idea for your health. The toppings are often high in calories and sugar, so even though you think you’re doing yourself a favor by choosing yogurt instead of ice cream, the turnover isn’t much different. If you’re totally craving froyo during your trip, then indulge and say #YOLO, but try to only visit one or two places instead of every one you find.
3. Low-Fat Cheese Sticks
For another low-calorie and calcium-filled snack, reach for some string cheese. It’s the perfect finger food that comes with awesome health benefits.
Research has shown that eating cheese can help to combat uncomfortable PMS symptoms because of its high calcium content. Cheese also contains zinc and biotin, which are essential for tissue repair and healthy hair.
Keep in mind not to eat too much string cheese though, as it can be high in saturated fat and sodium. Stick with no more than one stick per day to reap the benefits without consequence. To make this snack more filling, pair it with some whole-wheat crackers.
4. Whole-Wheat Crackers
While you enjoy your cheese stick, you can pair it with a handful of whole-wheat crackers. The good-for-you carbohydrates will keep you feeling energized and not too full. The crackers are also low in calories compared to other crunchy and greasy snacks like potato chips. Some reputable brands with amazing whole-wheat crackers are Kashi, Carr’s and Back to Nature.
One of the keys to not going overboard with crackers is to keep portion sizes in mind. “It’s so easy to just bring a box of crackers out for everyone to share and to end up eating way too much,” says Megan Dobinson, a junior at Messiah College.
To prevent overeating, check the portion sizes on the box of crackers and measure out portions of crackers into plastic bags before you head out on your trip. A standard serving size is about six crackers, but depending on the brand of crackers you buy, the serving suggestion may be different, so just check the label.
5. Whole-Grain Cereal
To avoid stopping at McDonald’s for a McMuffin, load up on whole-grain cereal. It will keep you feeling full for a longer amount of time and is guilt-free. These cereals are often high in protein if you pick the right one, so check the labels to decide. For example, Kashi GOLEAN original cereal contains 13 grams of protein per serving. You can also sprinkle an ounce of dry roasted sunflower seeds onto your cereal for 5 grams of additional protein.
If you’re on a gluten-free diet, look for Corn or Rice Chex cereal, which don’t have gluten but are still delicious and easy to take along with you.
Shelly Marie Redmond, a Louisiana-based registered dietitian, recommends Puffins cereal as well. “It’s high in fiber, yummy and there are plenty of gluten-free choices available,” she says.
You can never go wrong with loading up on nutrient-rich fresh fruit. We recommend packing pieces of whole fruit like apples, oranges or bananas since they do not require refrigeration. To add some protein, bring along a few to-go packets of nut butter, like Justin’s squeeze packs. This will keep your snack interesting and will provide additional health benefits.
Fresh fruit is a more ideal option compared to dried fruit since it contains less sugar, so opt for fresh fruit whenever possible. However, dried fruit doesn’t need refrigeration, so it can be a good option to take with you on the road depending on which one you take. A smart choice is to pack dried apricots, according to Redmond.
“Dried apricots are high in fiber,” she says, which will help you to stay full for a longer amount of time. Keep in mind that one cup of fresh fruit is equal to half a cup of dried fruit, so keep your portions in check.
If you have access to a small cooler, you can also load up fruit like berries and grapes. Put them into plastic bags or storage containers to pass around and share with your friends.
To avoid a making a mess, try to pack fruits that don’t have extra waste, such as cherry pits or watermelon seeds. For the adventurous who want to bring these types of fruits along, just make sure you have some wet wipes on hand to clean your hands and a plastic bag to put the waste in.
Pretzels are a great low-calorie, low-fat snack that requires no extra preparation. One cup of pretzels contains about 170 calories and less than 2 grams of fat. There’s also about 5 grams of protein, too. To prevent bloat, stick with a brand that says “low sodium” or “unsalted” on the bag.
If you’re looking for something to pair your pretzels with, try eating them with one of your cheese sticks or with a piece of whole fruit. You can also dip them in nut butter for some protein.
If you’d kill for something crunchy and you’re not up for greasy potato chips, give popcorn a try. You can make your own air-popped popcorn before you leave for a healthy snack. It’s a low-calorie treat and fun to eat!
This great recipe from wikiHow is easy to make before you leave and can easily be taken with you for the beginning portion of your trip.
- Buy some brown paper bags to place kernels in. Make sure that the bags are microwave safe so that they don’t catch on fire!
- Pour 1/4 to 1/3 cup of popcorn kernels into a brown paper bag.
- Fold the bag over twice; do not use staples to seal.
- Place the bag on its side in the microwave.
- Cook on high for several minutes and adjust your cooking time based on your microwave.
Avoid buying pre-packaged popcorn that is already pre-processed and buttered. These options are loaded with unnecessary calories that can leave you feeling too full or bloated.
9. Nutrition Bars
To satisfy your craving for something more substantial than a small snack, enjoy a nutrition bar from brands such as LUNA for additional energy that’s still satisfying.
LUNA bars in particular contain a “Core 4” nutrient powerhouse: folic acid, calcium, vitamin D and iron. When combined, these four vitamins and minerals are just what you need to power through the day.
You’ve probably enjoyed one of these yummy bars during the school year in between classes or during finals season, and they are just as delicious and nutritious in the summertime. They’re a great way to get energized on the go so that you’re not tempted to stop by the nearest fast food restaurant for a burger and fries.
While you’re out conquering the open road, make sure you pack a few of these healthy road-trip-friendly snacks to keep you going. Remember, you don’t have to sacrifice good health for taste; it’s possible to have both!