Nutritious Road Trip Snack Ideas for Kids from a Registered Dietitian

Are you planning a family road trip this Spring or Summer? If so, here’s the secret to a happy road trip experience for all: SNACKS! Trust me—I speak from experience as a dietitian and mom of three who has organized many a car trip! When you have a collection of nourishing snacks planned, prepped and packed, the entire family can relax and enjoy the ride – especially you!  

I want to help you out, so I’ve gathered some game-changing snack strategies for keeping kids (and adults!) happy, energized, and satisfied throughout the journey. Plus, I’m sharing some of my fave Spud snacks that I’ll be packing for my own family road trips. 

kids healthy relationship with food

Here are 5 steps to road trip snack success! 

1. Plan for the Long Haul 

Consider how long the drive is and what amount of food is reasonable for you to pack for the journey. This will ultimately help you save money (and food waste!) by reducing the number of expensive food purchases (and hangry tantrums) along the way. Of course, if that quaint little ice cream shop on the side of the road catches everyone’s eye, go for it—that’s part of the fun! Although I recommend giving kids opportunities every 2-3 hours on a typical day, road trips are a bit different. In other words, eating schedules sort of go out the window! As a starting point, plan for a small snack every hour or so. Speaking from experience, of course. *wink*, here’s what I do: I write a list of snacks (and amounts) that I think I will need. So, for a 4 hour drive, I plan for 3-4 smaller, minimal-mess, nourishing and fun snacks. Then I gather reusable containers and coolers I think I’ll need all in one place. Now, it’s time to get to work (with some helping hands)! 

2. Involve your kids in the snack prep  

If you have older toddlers or school-aged kids, recruit them to help choose and pack your snack haul for the ride. Give your kids a list of ideas (see list of ideas below) and have them choose 4 (or however many make sense for your trip). This fills their growing need for autonomy, while also improving the likelihood that they will actually eat the foods that are packed (especially if they are in a picky eating phase)! 

Save time by opting for pre-cut fruit and veggies for convenience if this feels right for you, or do the washing and cutting as soon as you get your groceries delivered (or get home from the store). Find individually packaged  dips like hummus, peanut butter, or ranch to include with snacks. Adding dipping sauces can often make veggies more appealing for kids!  

Get your child to help mix homemade muffins or roll out no-bake energy balls. Getting their hands messy is a great sensory exposure, and will help them feel safer to eat it.  

3. Separate and Pack individual snacks 

My best tip here is to separate the “car snacks” from the “trip snacks”. By this, I mean have a special container or bag (per kid) dedicated for travel time in the car, and then the rest are packed safely in the trunk (in coolers or bags) and reserved for when you reach your destination. Here’s the thing: if all snacks are fair game during the ride, they’ll be gone before you know it, and you’ll likely have a big mess to clean up! As I said, I’m speaking from experience here!  

What I usually do is either pack the car snacks in a bento-style lunchbox for each child, or reuse an old 18-count egg carton (or a tackle box from the dollar store) for the road. This works well because each child has their own dedicated snack stash (reducing arguments), and it just feels more organized. I find packing snacks in individual servings for each child makes doling them out more efficient and easier (especially if you’re in the front seat reaching back to your kids!).  

4. Safety First! 

This might seem obvious, but I’ll say it anyway because I know just how easy it can be to forget! Always pack foods that need to be refrigerated such as yogurt, cheese, cold cuts, hummus, sandwiches or wraps made with perishable ingredients etc., in an insulated cooler or in a lunchbox with an ice pack. Use ice packs or frozen gel packs instead of loose ice as it is less messy and will prevent foods from getting water-logged with melted ice. No thanks! 

Another pro tip is to pack food in resealable bags or containers to reduce sticky spills or mixing with other foods (and bring extra for recycling and garbage). If you have a child with a food allergy, make sure to pack food allergens separately, labeling these foods ahead of time. And friendly reminder: bring their prescribed emergency medication (such as an EpiPen), making sure to store it in an easily accessible place in the car in case of an emergency.   

5. Don’t Forget to Hydrate 

Always plan to bring enough hydrating drinks for you and your kids, to prevent dehydration symptoms like headaches, leg cramps, and exhaustion. A refillable insulated water bottle for each person works well to keep water cold and satisfying. My kids also love the mini drinkable yogurts that are easy to include as a part of a snack in the car! Juice boxes are fine too!  

Freezing water bottles, yogurt drinks or tubes or juice boxes ahead of time and letting them thaw during the car ride (especially if it’s hot out!) is a great way to keep water bottles cold and refreshing. You can refill water bottles that are half melted with water that you bring in a communal water jug.  

How to Build a Satisfying Snack 

Keep snacks simple, making sure to combine at least two different food groups:   

  • Protein-rich food– provides that satisfaction and fullness factor.  
  • Veggie or fruit- provide the body with essential vitamins, minerals, fibre and hydration!  
  • Wholegrain or starchy food- provides the body with fibre and energy for all your road trip activities. 

Now, let’s get into some of my fave dietitian-approved Spud snack ideas! 

Nutritious and Delicious Road Trip Snack Ideas 

Whole Grains and starchy foods: Muffin Mix with Flaxseed, Multigrain crackers, Cheddar Bunny Crackers, Energy Bite Mix, Boom Chicka Pop Sea Salt Popcorn, KIND, Lara, Made with Local, Made Good, FreeYumm, Clif Nut Butter Bar 

Fruits and Veggies: Grapes, cucumber, baby carrots, cherry tomatoes 

Protein-rich foods: Boiled eggs, Hummus, Tzatziki dip, Traditional Greek Plain Yogurt 10% MF,  Vanilla Yogurt, Barbecue Flavour Roasted Chickpeas, Peanut Butter, Fruit & Nut Trail Mix,  Raw Pumpkin Seeds, Mild Cheddar Cheese Sticks, Turkey pepperoni,  Smoked Turkey, Herb & Garlic Sausage Ring  

Just because foods: Nature’s bakery brownie, Chocolate Chip Cookies,  Chocolate Vanilla Creme Cookies, All Dressed Classic Potato Chips, A White Cheddar Puffs, Milk Chocolate with Organic Almonds, Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups, Sour Fruit Berries,  Toasted Coconut Toffee with Sea Salt, Strawberry Licorice  

Serving “just because” foods alongside regular snack foods, helps to neutralize these foods, putting them all on a level playing field. It gives you the opportunity to communicate to your child that all foods are morally equal and that there is nothing wrong with enjoying food simply for pleasure, rather than just fuel or nutrition.  

Snack Combinations 

Need some inspo for mixing and matching these snack ideas? I’ve got you. Give these a try: 

  • Pre-cut fruits and veggies with dip 
  • Turkey or Chicken Roll-Ups with Veggie Sticks 
  • Greek Yogurt Parfaits with Granola 
  • Homemade trail mix: raw almonds, unsweetened dried fruit and whole grain cereal 
  • Greek yogurt + fruit 
  • Higher protein and fibre bars such as KIND bars 
  • Raw veggies + hummus 
  • Fruit + cheese, almond/peanut butter or hardboiled egg 
  • Whole grain crackers and cheese 
  • Candy + yogurt 
  • Sarah’s chocolate chia protein bites 

summer snacks

Bottom Line 

As you gear up for road trip season, remember that snacks can make or break the journey! With a little planning and creativity, you can ensure that everyone stays happy, energized, and satisfied along the way. By involving your kids in snack prep, packing individual servings, and prioritizing nourishment (and fun!), you’ll be ready to tackle any adventure that comes your way. So, load up those snack bags, hit the road, and make memories that will last a lifetime!  

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