I firmly believe that good snacks are essential for road trips. There’s nothing worse than being hungry with no food stops open or nearby along the road, and packing snacks ahead of time is the best way to ensure that doesn’t happen. Though fast-food stops can be a classic road trip tradition (which I definitely indulge in ― hello, McDonald’s hash browns), snacks on the healthful side will help keep you full longer and maintain your energy levels.
Here, four registered dietitians share their favorite road trip snacks.
Depending on the length of your road trip, you can take advantage of perishable snacks to keep in a cooler for a few hours. For shorter road trips, Natalie Rizzo, founder of Greenletes, likes microwaving frozen edamame before leaving the house and bringing it with her in a plastic bag.
“I’m a huge fan of edamame because it has 18 grams of protein in 1 cup, and that protein helps keep you full and prevents mindless snacking,” she said. Since edamame is perishable, she recommends eating it within the first two hours of your trip.
Cheese cubes and crackers
This classic combo is another good one to pack in a cooler, and it’s a go-to crunchy snack for Alyssa Pike, senior manager of nutrition communications at the International Food Information Council.
As far as crackers go, Rizzo is partial to seedy ones, like Trader Joe’s Gluten Free Norwegian Crispbread and Mary’s Gone Crackers. “Since they are made with seeds, they have more protein, fiber and healthy fat than regular old crackers, and they will keep you full on the road. Plus, they have less refined carbs, so you won’t get an unnecessary blood sugar spike.”
Peanut butter-filled pretzels
Crunchy, salty and sweet ― this snack aisle staple checks a lot of boxes. “Peanut butter-filled pretzels provide both carbs and protein, which help provide sustained energy and keep you satisfied for longer,” said Alissa Rumsey, owner of Alissa Rumsey Nutrition and Wellness and author of “Unapologetic Eating.” She keeps a big tub of them in her pantry and fills up a bag or container to bring on the go.
“Dried fruit is a go-to because it’s easy to throw in a bag and gives me a serving of fruit without having to worry about something fresh being crushed or going bad,” said Meredith Price, a registered dietitian who specializes in plant-based nutrition. She noted that in addition to being loaded with vitamins and antioxidants, dried fruit kind of tastes like candy, so it can also help curb sugar cravings.
For longer road trips, consider making or buying energy balls: filling, portable snacks that typically have a mix of protein, carbohydrates and healthful fats. “Most energy ball recipes have a mixture of all three macronutrients and don’t require refrigeration, so whip up a batch before you hit the road,” Rizzo said. Her recipe for Tahini Maple Oat Bites is nut-free and has healthful fats, 7 grams of protein and is less than 300 calories.
“Popcorn is a simple whole-grain snack that is easy to transport and can be flavored in several different ways depending on your preference,” Pike said. Buy plain popcorn and top it off with your favorite seasonings, or look for a low-sodium option at the grocery store.
If you aren’t bringing a cooler, beef jerky is a great shelf-stable, protein-based snack. Rumsey pairs it with carbohydrates such as crackers, chips or fruit for a satisfying snack. “I try to find brands that use less nitrates and preservatives, like Stryve Biltong or Country Archer, which come in a variety of flavors and are made using local ingredients and quality beef,” she said.
Hummus and veggies
Slice up some hard fresh veggies, such as carrots, cucumbers and bell peppers, before your road trip and bring a small cup of hummus to go with them. “This is great for longer trips to give you energy, plant-based protein and fiber,” Price said.