Snacks are a critical component of a healthy diet. Allowing too long between meals invites cravings, impulse food decisions and can encourage us to eat quickly and too much when we do sit down for a meal. However, the wrong type of snack can keep us munching on empty calories only to find we are still hungry. When cooped up in the car for several hours, having some smart snacks ready for munching will help you avoid wrecking your nutrition plan before you even reach your destination.
Real food smart snacks will keep you fueled, energized and alert. The good news is that there are many healthy snacks that are packaged up and ready to throw into a reusable grocery bag before you hit the road. Packaged food doesn’t equal unhealthy. It simply requires a look at the ingredient list and nutrition label before you decide to buy.
When comparing snack options, choose items with
- Short ingredient lists
- As many real foods as possible
- Products low in added sugars & sodium
- At least 3 grams of fiber per serving
This article lists 5 specific criteria I use to help me determine if a snack is a smart choice. I also share some of my absolute favorite snacks and a FREE HANDOUT with 15 Fast Snacks that will keep you satisfied.
As the holidays approach and you begin packing your bags, don’t forget the healthy snacks to keep your crew happy and satisfied in the car. Just like any other day, every 3-5 hours, we will all be hungry and ready to eat. Make sure you have snacks you feel good about eating so that the fast-food drive-through or convenience store doesn’t convince you to make a stop.
Following these tips will also make it easier to follow through with your car-smart snack plan:
- Always bring a cooler
- Don’t forget the cold packs
- Attempt to stay in rooms with a fridge
- Have a family discussion about whether you will stop for snacks on the way to your destination. Agree in advance what types of snacks are acceptable. Avoid whining and impulse decisions by having a road trip plan.
- Throw in a few small plastic grocery bags that can be used as a “trash can” to toss wrappers and waste.
- Pack disposable plastic ware, napkins and paper plates
Grab your luggage, a good book and some holiday cheer along with a few of these ready-to-travel healthy and satisfying snacks for your family road trip!
This company has given chickpeas a trendy facelift! Beans and legumes are a powerhouse of nutrients including protein, fiber, and iron, but chickpeas don’t generally make it on anyone’s favorite snack list… until now! You can certainly take the time to season and roast chickpeas at home and then pack them up for your lunchbox. But, if you don’t have the time, then definitely check out the fun and tasty flavors at Biena Snacks like Sea Salt, Rockin’ Ranch, BBQ and Sour Cream and Onion.
These roasted chickpeas are perfectly crunchy and have 6 grams protein and fiber per ¼ cup serving. My husband and 2-year-old daughter may have found their new favorite snack! A few of the flavors have up to 5 grams of added sugars (like Honey Roasted, which was my husband’s favorite), but many of the flavors don’t. For something even more outside of the box, try the Dark Chocolate Covered Chickpeas for a special treat that has 4 grams of protein and less than 150 calories.
What you should know: Look for the single serving packs that are perfectly portioned and great for on the go!
02. Greek Yogurt Cups
Packed with protein, calcium, vitamin D and B12, greek yogurt is loaded with good-for-you nutrients! Individual containers make them a perfect portable option for the car. Don’t forget to pack a disposable spoon!
What you should know: The amount of added sugar varies greatly among brands and flavors. Compare options by reading the ingredient list and nutrition facts label. Siggi’s is one of my favorite low sugar options that doesn’t contain any artificial sweeteners. Find out 10 ways to flavor your yogurt without added or artificial sweeteners in this article. For a car ride, you can mix up some dried fruit (like raisins) and nuts with a dash of cinnamon in a small bag and top your plain greek yogurt for a flavorful and crunchy car-ready snack!
Fat-free greek yogurt tends to have more tang. Low-fat yogurt has a smoother and creamier taste and texture, making it appealing to more palates!
There is no guilt munching on cups (literally) of Boomchickapop Popcorn. Eat 4 heaping cups for less than 150 calories! The ingredient list is remarkably simple- popcorn, sunflower seed oil, salt. That’s it! Even the flavored popcorn has a simple, real food ingredient list like the Light Kettle Corn- popcorn, cane sugar, sunflower oil, sea salt.
The popcorn tastes fresh which is really important for pre-popped popcorn. Our family really loved the Cheddar Cheese and Light Kettle Corn flavors. This fun snack will keep everyone happy and satisfied!
What you should know: Some of the flavors are a bit high in sugar (like the Salted Caramel, which has 2 tsp or 8 grams) so check out the nutrition label before you decide which flavor to buy. Also, remember to look at the serving size as it differs among the flavors.
Soybeans are loaded with protein, fiber, magnesium, and potassium. More importantly, they are tasty! Purchase cooked soybeans to keep in a cooler. Simply suck the bean out of the pod. This makes for a fun food experience and the process of eating them slows down the snack, allowing your body to recognize fullness.
In the mood for more crunch?! Try out roasted soy nuts. The edamame are baked and lightly salted to resemble a crunchy peanut.
What you should know: Serving size differs between fresh (½ cup of steamed edamame beans) and soy nuts (¼ cup).
05. Tuna & Salmon Pouches
For less than 100 calories, enjoy a single serving of high-quality protein in a portable pouch. These tuna and salmon pouches often come in flavors like lemon pepper or sweet ‘n’ spicy. Most 2-3 ounce pouches contain about 15-20 grams of protein and are low in fat.
What you should know: Sodium varies among flavors and brands. If you tend to retain fluid while traveling, high sodium foods will contribute to additional retention. Compare brands and flavors for the best option to meet your taste preferences and dietary needs. Wild Planet is my favorite brand that has a simple ingredient list and uses sustainable fishing practices.
Tuna and salmon pouches have reduced “fishy” scent and don’t need to be drained like canned fish, making them a viable option on a road trip.
These gluten-free crackers are made with nourishing ingredients including whole grain brown rice, quinoa, flax and sesame seeds. While many cracker brands are full of refined flours and processed fats, practically void of nutrition, Mary’s Crackers are quite the opposite. And, each serving contains 450mg of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids! Munch on 13 of these crunchy crackers for a serving and get 3 grams each of fiber and protein. When you grab a box, look for the Everything and Basil & Garlic flavors to keep your snacks interesting!
What you should know: Remember to eat these with some healthy fat or protein to stay full the longest. I like to pair the Original with Almond Butter (try these Justin’s Almond Butter packets for traveling!) and some of the flavored ones like Basil & Garlic with low-fat cheese (goat cheese is amazing!).
07. Sparkling and Flavored Water
Water with a bit of flavor and zing is our family’s favorite alternative to sodas. Ditch the fast food drive-throughs, sugar and caffeine. Opt for hydrating water with flavor!
What you should know: Some brands include artificial sweeteners in their sparkling water brands. Check the labels and ingredient lists carefully. Sparkling water can be found in 12ounce cans, glass containers, and plastic liters. Find the option that works best for you and your family (and fits in the cooler!). Grocery stores are everywhere! If you forget to stock up before you leave, use your GPS to find the closest one when you stop for a potty break.
This article has MORE flavored water ideas.
Don’t have time to bake up a batch up nutrition bars before your road trip? That’s okay because there are several brands that have raised the bar on quality, taste and nutrition. Not all protein and granola bars are a “glorified candy bar” in a health food wrapper. In fact some of them include real food that is minimally processed and taste fantastic. Redeeming qualities include real food ingredients, low in added sugar and contain fiber that comes from actual food.
I have personally sampled dozens of protein bars in the last many years and these are my absolute favorites:
- Oatmega– Just the right amount of sweet, perfectly chewy and great flavors!! The Vanilla Almond is stellar! Of course, you must try the Chocolate Coconut, Chocolate Peanut, Chocolate Brownie and Lemon Chia too.
- RX Bar– This brand discloses every ingredient… on the front of the wrapper. The only secret it is keeping is how tasty these bars truly are! Sweetened with dates and dried fruit, you can rest assured that there are no artificial or added sugars in these bars. Check out the variety of flavors including Blueberry, Mint Chocolate, Chocolate Sea Salt and the new seasonal flavor, Pumpkin Spice.
- Larabar– With a simple ingredient list and no added sugar (sweetened with dates), these bars are quite unique… and delicious! We love the Larabar Minis which are just the perfect treat when you want something sweet!
When in the mood for salty, crunchy snack foods, these bean chips will satisfy anyone and everyone! While these chips are still fried like any other, they do boast 4-5 grams fiber and protein per 1 ounce serving. They come in several flavors including Original, Hint of Lime and Nacho Cheese.The “Skinny Dippers” have 25% less fat than most traditional tortilla chips.
What you should know: The serving size is identified as 1 ounce on the package. However, there is no indication as to how many chips that would be. Most people don’t weigh their chips before eating so this makes portion control a gray area… not good for a car ride! Also, note that the “Twists” are lower in fiber and protein than the “Chips.”
If you have the discipline to place a handful on a napkin and put them away, then you are one-of-a-kind, but if salty, crunchy foods are your kryptonite, then these tasty bean chips might be a downward spiral for a car ride. You can find 1.2ounce single serving bags online that makes portion control much easier to swallow.
10. Cottage Cheese Cups
Often overlooked and undervalued, cottage cheese is a noteworthy protein snack that will fill you up! Most brands boast about 12 grams protein per ½ cup (4oz) serving. This cheesy, salty snack goes great with berries or sliced banana. You can even use it as a dip for some savory crackers (like Mary’s Gone Crackers Basil & Garlic!) Look for the single serving cups for a perfectly portioned snack in the car.
What you should know: Sodium varies among brands and can contribute as much as 400-500mg per serving! The fat-free varieties often have more than their low-fat counterpart. Definitely check out your favorite brand (mine is Breakstone) before buying.
11. Freeze Dried Fruit
When in the mood for sweet and crunchy, freeze dried fruit will satisfy! This no-mess snack is fun to crunch on with minimal calories. In fact, a large 1-ounce portion has about 100 calories and no added sugars.
What you should know: Dunk freeze dried fruit into yogurt for a great snack pairing!
Packaged snacks aren’t all bad. Look for these healthy and satisfying snacks in your local grocery store or click on the links to find out where and how to buy. Snack smart by choosing products with quality real food ingredients and keeping your portions appropriate.
For even more Healthy Snack Ideas, subscribe to my newsletter and grab my FREE printable, 15 Fast Snacks That Won’t Leave You Hungry.
Which ones are you packing for your road trip this holiday season?
DISCLOSURE: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through this link, your cost will be the same but Healthy Inspiration will receive a small commission to help with the operating costs of this blog. Thank you for your support!
This is NOT a sponsored post. All opinions are my own. Thank you to Biena Chickpea Snacks, Boomchickapop Popcorn, Mary’s Gone Crackers, and Beanitos for providing sample product for our family to test taste!