Road-Trip Eating 101: Snacks, Drinks and Everything in Between

Road-Trip Eating 101: Snacks, Drinks and Everything in Between

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, many people are itching for a chance to get away safely for a few days. It’s important to continue following recommendations to wear masks and maintain physical distance, so many have taken to road-tripping instead of flying for vacations this year.

Picture it: The car is packed, the playlist is ready, and everyone is loaded in. Sounds fun, right? And it is—until someone gets hungry.

Nothing turns a long car ride sour faster than a hungry—or should we say hangry—passenger. Don’t let hunger get the best of you; take note of these road-trip tips to prep for a physically distant getaway.

Assess the situation. How long is the road trip? Are snacks enough or should a smaller meal or two be prepared to save money and prevent unnecessary stops? Do you have a small cooler to keep perishable foods cold? Consider what’s needed for your trip and make decisions from there.

Hydration can be a fluid situation. Staying hydrated is always important, and warm weather makes it even more essential. Although making fewer pitstops for the restroom can help you reach your destination more quickly, it’s not advisable if fewer stops means sacrificing adequate hydration. We don’t advise speeding either, so do some pre-planning about places you can stop safely and efficiently along your route, and build plenty of time to do so into your itinerary.

Consider food safety. Do you have perishable foods that need to stay cold? Take along a small cooler or insulated bag to prevent foodborne illness while traveling. Fill your cooler with ice packs or frozen water bottles (to drink later) to keep things extra cool.

Think variety. You’ve probably heard of the different types of food groups—grains, protein, vegetables, fruits and dairy. Bringing along a good mix of them will help keep flavors and textures interesting.

Be mindful. With several options available in the car, it might be easy to eat more than you intended. Even while road-tripping, it’s helpful to tune in to hunger and fullness cues. Think about where your hunger is on our “eat-moji” scale before and after eating to help you determine the amount that’s right for you. Aim to stop eating between levels 5 and 7, especially as you near your destination or if you are planning to have a meal upon arrival.

Here are a few food and beverage suggestions as you prep for your road trip:

  • Sliced veggies. You can never go wrong with sliced veggies (e.g. tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers or broccoli). They’re the perfect addition to any meal or snack.
  • Dried fruit. Dried fruit contains fiber and various vitamins and is easily portable. If you’re trying to lower your added sugar intake, be sure to check the label to choose varieties that are lower in sugar or do not contain added sugars.
  • Hard-boiled eggs. Eggs are full of nutrients like choline, lutein, zeaxanthin and protein. Protein can help us feel fuller for longer periods of time, which can come in handy while on the road.
  • Cheese slices. Cheese slices contain protein, fat, calcium and other nutrients. Slices will need to be kept at refrigerated temperatures, so be sure to prepare accordingly.
  • Beef sticks. Beef sticks are a good source of lean protein, have a long shelf-life and are easily portable. Enjoy these as part of a meal or eat when you start to feel those hunger pangs.
  • Whole-grain crackers. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend eating at least half of our grains as whole grains. Whole-grain crackers contain fiber, B vitamins and minerals like selenium, iron and magnesium. Not to mention, they pair well with other foods like cheese and are easily portable.
  • Sandwiches are a go-to for obvious reasons. Whether it’s peanut butter and jelly, turkey, ham and cheese, veggie and hummus or another delicious combo, sandwiches are a necessity on long road trips when reducing the number of stops is a goal.
  • Trail mix. Get creative and make your own or opt for packaged varieties. Similar to dried fruit, check the Nutrition Facts label to compare between products and think about choosing versions that are lower in added sugars and higher in fiber.

Hopefully these road-trip tips will help keep you satisfied so you can soak in the scenery and enjoy the ride! And don’t forget to bring your mask and hand sanitizer and to wash your hands when possible to practice good hygiene and stay safe on the road.

This article includes contributions from Kris Sollid, RD.