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What to Pack for Your Summer Road Trip

posted Jun 19, 2015, 8:34 AM by   [ updated Nov 4, 2015, 12:35 PM ]

It’s summer, and that may mean it’s time to pile your family or friends into a car and set out for a road trip. But what will you eat while on the road? Fast food, chips, candy bars, and soda may come to mind when you think of traditional road trip fare, but your summer plans don’t have to undo the healthy habits that you’ve been building all year.

The best way to keep on track is to pack your own food to take on your road trip. To make it easy for you, we’ve created a list that will help you eat well while on the road:

Road Trip Cooler Packing List

  • Sandwiches: Try chicken or turkey topped with tomatoes, pepper slices, or fresh spinach and Dijon mustard or peanut butter with bananas or apples. Choose 100% whole wheat bread, wraps, or pita pockets.
  • Cut up Veggies: Carrots, bell peppers, celery, and cucumbers are good choices. If you don’t have time to wash and cut veggies yourself, many supermarkets offer precut veggies, baby carrots, and bags of mini peppers. Mini peppers are delicious whole!
  • Whole Grain Crackers: Look for whole wheat or another whole grain as the first ingredient. Even regular versions of most cracker brands are fairly low in fat, so skip the reduced fat versions which are often higher in sodium and sugar. Hint of Salt Triscuits* are a good choice.
  • Hardboiled eggs: These make for a filling high protein snack.
  • Nuts: Nuts are full of fiber, protein, and healthy fats. Just be sure to choose un- or lightly salted versions without added sugar. It’s easy to overeat nuts, so consider packing a serving in a small container or buying single serving packages.
  • Hummus: This chickpea spread contains both protein and fiber to keep you full longer and is great for dipping crackers or veggies. You can also use it as a sandwich spread with veggies and/or hardboiled eggs.
  • String Cheese or Other Individually Wrapped Cheese: Cheese makes a tasty high protein, high calcium snack, but is also easy to overeat. Make portion control a no-brainer by choosing individually wrapped single servings.
  • Fruit: Whole apples, grapes, and oranges are durable fruits that will hold up well in your cooler. Or, slice less durable fruits and pack them in a reusable container. 
  • Greek Yogurt: Choose plain yogurt and mix with cut up fruit or buy split cup versions such as Fage* brand with plain yogurt on one side and sweetened fruit or honey on the other. Split cup yogurts allow you to control how much sugar you add because you don’t have to mix in all the honey or fruit provided.
  • Popcorn: This whole grain snack can satisfy your craving for something crunchy, but is lower in calories than chips. Pop it ahead of time on the stovetop or look for bagged versions at the supermarket with minimal added salt and fat such as Smartfood Delight Sea Salt*.
  • Crispy Chickpeas: Try our recipe for another delicious, filling alternative to chips.
  • Whole Grain Dry Cereal: Cereal is another crunchy snack option that you can munch on plain or incorporate into trail mix (see our handout from April for a quick recipe). Look for versions with more than 5 g of fiber and less than 10 g of sugar. Quaker Oatmeal Squares, Wheat Chex, and Kashi Autumn Wheat biscuits* are good options.
  • Reusable Water Bottle: Refill at rest stops to stay hydrated.
  • Other Beverages: Consider packing un- or lightly sweetened homemade iced green or black tea or iced coffee for an afternoon pick-me-up. Flavored sparkling water is also a nice alternative to regular water. You can make your own by adding a splash of fruit juice to a bottle of plain sparkling water.
  • Treats: Pack a small treat like a few squares of good dark chocolate so you won’t be tempted by the sweet offerings at rest stops.  

For more road trip tips, see our handout for this month or ask one of our dietitians at your wellness visit. Happy travels!

*Brand names provided are just a few examples of healthy options—many other good options exist within each category. Store brands are often just as healthy and less expensive, so be sure to read labels. Ask one of our dietitians if you have questions about a specific product.