Traveling with kids typically means longer than normal travel time due to more frequent stops, and the potential for tired and hungry kids. Enter my best dietitian-approved ideas for road trip snacks for kids here to make your life easier during your travels.
Safety first: eating in the car
It is important to note that eating in the car poses a choking hazard. Some foods that are increased choking hazards are nuts, popcorn, carrot sticks, and whole grapes.
Eating in a moving vehicle may increase the risk of choking. Before you plan to allow your child to eat a snack in the car, wait until you know that your child can eat food safely at home. I also recommend that your child is facing forward so that you can see and hear them.
You may even consider only eating snacks while you’re stopped!
Road trip logistics
Before you start planning away, consider how long you will be traveling for, if your travel time overlaps with a meal that you will stop for, and other planned pit stops.
If possible, try to align snack time with a planned pitstop to allow kids to stretch their legs outside and get some fresh air. Chances are, they will eat a better snack during this confined time rather than out of boredom when the car is moving.
Planning is key
Pack the road trip snacks for kids ahead of time. This will save you time and hassle on the travel day. Planning a variety of nutritious snacks will give you the peace of mind on an unusual travel day, that the snack options available are healthy options for your kids.
Get your kiddo involved
Kids typically enjoy having some control over what they eat. If you are able to involve your children in planning the snacks for travel, they will know what to expect on the travel day and will be excited for the new car snacks they helped prepare!
Think Low Mess
If you choose to give your kids a snack in the car, consider low mess snack options. Items that will melt, get gunky, or very crumby may cause quite a mess. Instead, choose items that are self-contained and easy for child hands to eat by themselves.
Clean up tips
Pack wipes, a trash bag that can get tossed at the next rest stop, extra napkins or paper towels to help with cleanup!
Travel containers like a lunchbox, snack box or stasher bags make good containers for snacks while traveling. Similarly, simple items you already have on hand like a small bowl with lid or a Ziplock bag work very effectively too and don’t require any dish washing. Remember to bring a spill proof water bottle (filled!) for each child and remind them to stay hydrated!
Pack snack food in a cooler with ice packs or frozen items. Store food in leakproof containers to prevent spilling or leaking. Keep the cooler in the air conditioned car, rather than the trunk, for efficient cooling. Consider your car space and the size of cooler you will need. For food safety, ensure that the cooler stays 40 degrees or colder.
How to build a healthy snack
Think about the major food groups, how many snacks you’ll be needing for your trip, and plan to mix and match as needed, plus a few extras in case you get stuck in traffic.
I try to include a protein option and a healthy fat option so that my kids feel full and are not asking for another snack 10 minutes later. For some ideas on how to build a healthy snack, check out my post on healthy snacks for toddlers.
Here are some of my favorite road trip snacks for kids
- Store bought bars: Nature’s Bakery Fig Bars, Clif Z Bars, Larabars – I like these bars for the overall nutrition content. Some have more added sugar than I like to give my kids on a regular basis, and I accept that they are a part of the travel day’s food intake when I feed them to my kids.
- Homemade energy balls/bites or bars: peanut butter oatmeal balls, pumpkin balls, cinnamon apple balls – You have the freedom to choose from most any flavor combination your kids may enjoy!
- Whole wheat crackers: Wheat Thins, Triscuits, Goldfish, Annie’s Cheddar Bunnies, Graham Crackers, Hippeas Chickpea Puffs, Pretzels
- Whole grain dried cereal: Cheerios
- Turkey or ham roll up (or cut into bites), beef sticks cut into bites, hard boiled egg white
- Blueberries (cut for little ones), apple slices, clementine, banana, strawberry slices, dried fruit (raisins, apples, mango, craisins, blueberries)
- That’s It fruit bars
- Sliced bell peppers, sliced cucumbers, shelled edamame, roasted chickpeas
- Cheese: string cheese, cheese round
- Yogurt tube
- Stay hydrated! Keep water easily accessible in a spill proof insulated water bottle for each child.
- Usually, a road trip means something special, and I like to have treats just like the next person on my road trips! Throw in some special snack treats that your kids love, and you don’t have often and enjoy time together on your special trip!
What’s in my Car Snack Bag?
When we travel, I usually pack a combination of all of the above to have on hand. The beauty of packing extra snacks is that if we don’t consume the snack item in the car, it will usually serve well as a snack while we are away from home. My girls love combinations like apple slices and string cheese, Goldfish and bell peppers, pretzels and cheese round, chickpeas and strawberries, and fig bars. Plus, I always pack a special treat like fruit snacks, M&Ms or potato chips. Sweet and salty for the win!
Remember, if you feed your kids a snack of only simple carbohydrates or processed sugar, you may find that you’ll have to deal with a cranky or hangry child. They may have experienced a sugar high and then crashed. In this case, they will need real nourishing food stat.
Benefits of planning road trip snacks for kids
While traveling, well-timed and balanced meals just might not happen, and kids may want to snack more often. That’s ok! Sometimes, kids snack out of boredom or if they are tired. Keeping simple and healthy snacks handy will fill nutritional gaps during a time when normal eating routines may be disrupted.
Tell me – are you taking any road trips this summer? We are heading to a lake house to meet cousins for a week!
Best road trip snacks for kids: key takeaways
- Plan ahead, and plan to bring extra snacks
- Pack multiple food groups for to combine for maximum nutrition
- Keep it fun!
Ready for more help? Let’s connect to see how I can help you!