19 Nutritionist-Approved Road Trip Snacks You Can Buy Anywhere
Don’t believe the lie that only unhealthy choices are found at gas station markets—these are nutritious options you won’t regret.
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Healthy energy bars
Not all energy bars are created equal. For the healthiest snack option for road trips, choose the ones rich in protein, fiber and healthy fats for a filling snack between meals—or make your own with these energy bar and bite recipes. This type of bar will help tide you over until you reach your destination. Top nutritionists’ picks include Lara Bars, Zing Bars, and KIND Bars. Dietitian Diane Norwood, RD, opts for the KIND bars with less sugar—Madagascar Vanilla Almond and Maple Glazed Pecan and Sea Salt are her favorites. This is how nutritionists shop at the grocery store.
Chewy, savory turkey or beef jerky can satisfy a variety of appetites. And, it’s readily available at nearly every mini-market or truck stop. Look for jerky with the lowest amounts of sodium and saturated fat you can find. The protein keeps you full for a long drive. Take a look at these 37 food secrets nutritionists won’t tell you for free.
Peanut butter pretzels
Crunchy pretzels stuffed with rich peanut butter? Yes, please! These will satisfy your need for crunch and fill your tummy with protein and fat that sticks with you. Look for a single-serving to avoid overeating. (Trust me, it’s easy to do with these!) Bonus points for the unsalted variety. These are the 9 foods nutritionists never, ever order at fast-food restaurants.
Skip the high fat and salt-laden potato chips and reach for a healthier snack for your next trip. (Better yet, pack your own homemade chips beforehand.) Even a registered dietitian such as myself can fall in love with the Beanitos’ snacks: They’re lower in carbs, higher in protein, and made with beans. Another tasty option is the Good Health brand of potato and tortilla chips—organic, gluten-free and non-GMO ingredients. On a recent road trip, in a small gas station, dietitian Jenna Gorham, RD, in Montana picked up Harvest Snaps, which are snap pea crisps in a variety of flavors (she especially loves the black pepper version). Can’t find those? Baked Lay’s are a good option, and they’re available in a variety of flavors. Check out these 50 other unhealthy foods you should never buy at the supermarket again.
Individual bags of popcorn are fun to eat on the road—they’re crunchy, a bit salty, yet high in fiber. Making your own healthy popcorn ahead of time is ideal, and super simple. Brands to look for in mini-marts include The Little Kernel and Skinny Pop—both featuring healthier fats and lower amounts of sodium.
New York City-based dietitian and fitness expert Lauren Manganiello, RD, heads to the refrigerator section of the mini-market to find cheese sticks, a perfect snack for road trips. Individually wrapped and high in protein and calcium, they are great snack choices. Pair them with some fresh fruit for fiber, and you’ll be full for miles.
Naturally rich in healthy fats, fiber, protein and minerals, nuts make for delicious road trip snacks. Dietitian Sarah Schlichter, RD, owner of bucketlisttummy.com, chooses nuts and seeds because they’re perfectly portable and satisfying. The healthiest nuts to pack? Almonds, cashews, and pistachios are the choice of dietitian Basheerah Enahora of nutritionbe.com for their higher protein content. If you have 10 minutes to make your own fancier nut snack, check out these delicious cinnamon roasted almonds from dietitian Natalie Rizzo.
Cereal with milk
I like classic and simple whole-grain cereal with milk—it’s a nutrition home-run. Cereals are sold in bowl-shaped single-serving containers, so simply pour in your milk (found in the fridge section, naturally) and you’ve got it made. You get a complete protein—the combo delivers all essential amino acids. Choose a high-fiber cereal, such as shredded wheat or bran flakes to keep you content until the next pit stop. Make sure you know the 20 foods that are never worth the calories.
Pair those healthy and delicious nuts mentioned above with a sweet burst of flavor, and you’ve hit the mark. Single serving packages of trail mix containing nuts, dried fruit, and dark chocolate are rich in antioxidants and filling for hours. Making your own ahead of time ensures that the sugar and salt content is in check. An example is this fun shake-a-sack-apple-snack that kids will love. Dixya Bhattarai, RD, a dietitian in Dallas, provides a step-by-step guide to building your own healthy trail mix on her website.
Many gas stations have well-stocked refrigerator sections, including a few choices of yogurt. Cool, refreshing, and rich in protein and calcium, yogurt cups make great choices for a healthy road trip snack break. Look for the highest protein and lowest sugar content on the food label. If you’re able to sprinkle in some nuts, seeds or fresh fruit, you’ll have a fiber-rich bonus that’ll satisfy your hunger. Next time you make a trip to the store, be sure to cross these surprisingly unhealthy foods off your grocery list.
Sometimes called the perfect protein, eggs contain all the essential amino acids you need. Hard-boil a few before your departure, and you’ll thank yourself later. Packed with protein and micronutrients, hard-boiled eggs are usually available in the refrigerator section of gas station snack centers.
Roasted chickpeas or edamame
Plan ahead and prep your own tasty, crunchy, healthy snacks for road trips. Roasted chickpeas are crispy, fiber-rich, and super portable. Amy Gorin, RD, perfected her roasted chickpeas recipe and offers five different seasoned varieties, sure to please any palate. Gorin’s version contains 4 grams of fiber and 6 grams of protein, which combine to sate your hunger on those long stretches of highway. Bhattarai shares these tandoori-roasted chickpeas on her website, with only four ingredients and anti-inflammatory spices included in the tandoori masala mixture. For a twist on this, try crispy roasted edamame as recommended by dietitian Chelsey Amer.
Peanut crunch roll-ups
Here’s another make-ahead tasty snack that even picky eaters will enjoy. Grab a whole wheat tortilla, spread chunky peanut butter on top, and top with a few potato chips (for the savory version) or sliced berries (for those who prefer some sweetness). Roll it up, wrap in plastic wrap, and they are ready to eat when hunger strikes and you don’t have time to stop. The peanut butter keeps you focused and awake. Here are the 15 foods nutritionists never buy at Costco.
Bite-size versions of energy bars are all the rage. Larabar sells pre-made energy bites that you can find at many small markets. Or, take a few extra minutes before your trip to make these delicious chocolate almond energy bites from Rizzo. Satisfying for your sweet tooth and providing a burst of protein and a bit of caffeine to keep you awake on that long drive. Lindsey Janeiro, RD, shares her high-complex-carb recipe that you can take with you easily.
Finding dried apricots, cranberries, raisins, or mangoes is easy. Offering nearly double the fiber of fresh fruit, the chewy dehydrated variety makes for a perfect road trip snack. For a major satisfying treat, pair dried fruit with nuts. Banana chips are a fun, crunchy, sweet snack, too. Dietitian Christy Brissette, RD, created a delicious two-ingredient version of cinnamon apple chips that your whole family will enjoy.
Nut butter and apple slices
Grab those individual packets of almond or peanut butter to dip fresh apple slices into, a combo that delivers a pleasingly sweet, rich, and salty blast to your tastebuds. Look for single-serving nut butter brands, such as Justin’s and Jif. Or, opt for the powdered peanut butter such as PB2 brand. Simply mix with water and you’re ready to dip. Many mini-markets sell fresh or pre-cut apples. For a change of taste, try pear slices or celery sticks with your nut butters. The healthy fats, protein, and vital B vitamins in nut butters make this snack a total winner. Versatile and healthy, peanut butter wins the snack game. Learn about the one food nutritionists eat every day to maintain a healthy weight.
Pita pocket sandwiches
Make your own lunch beforehand and you’ll save money and travel time, as well as eat healthier than that burger-on-the-go. When it comes to healthy sandwich recipes, the options are endless: Stuff your pita with mozzarella, tomato, and basil, lean turkey and cheese, hummus and cucumber slices, or tuna salad made with Greek yogurt to spice up your road trip. You’ll need a small cooler to keep these sandwiches fresh.
Veggie hummus cups
Hummus is my personal favorite go-to lunch, and I prefer my own to store-bought versions. You can try changing things up by making your own fun and unique hummus varieties. Store your homemade hummus in a mason jar, then stick carrots, celery, and bell pepper strips vertically into the jar. You can seal it up, store it in a cooler, and you have a high-fiber lunch that’s also rich in protein, iron, and vitamins A and C. Or go with store-bought: Thankfully, Sabra sells single-serving hummus (in a few different flavors) paired with low-fat pretzel chips.
It’s possible your hunger just means you need to hydrate—not eat. For those times, tap into the wide variety of sugar-free flavored seltzer waters on the market; you’re sure to find one you’ll love. The carbonation placates your desire for bubbles, making these feel like a special treat. Some zero-calorie brands to look for include La Croix and Dasani. Don’t miss the worst diet advice nutritionists have ever heard.