Dietitian Approved Snacks for Your Summer Road Trip

Snacks for Adults & Kids. Plus, An Easy Road Trip Snack Recipe

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At least 175.1 million Americans have received the COVID vaccine and restrictions are lifting in many places around the U.S., which has many of us eagerly awaiting some planned vacation fun throughout the summer.

The pandemic has impacted many things, including how some Americans are choosing to travel. According to AAA, Memorial Day road trips increased 52% compared to 2020. If the good old-fashioned road trip is the trend for 2021, then travel snacks are paramount to fueling those long hours on the road, and perhaps even preventing a few toddler meltdowns on that stretch of highway where there are no available exits with convenience stores or restaurants. 

The snack combination I recommend to most of my clients is one that pairs carbohydrate with protein for a quick energy boost—and will keep you full until your next mealtime. A little pre-planning to pack a few food items will go a long way to satiate hunger and give you the peace of mind that you don’t have to make any extra stops for food on the road. 

I’ve rounded up a few of my favorite snacks recommendations for your next road trip this summer. 

Favorite Snacks for Adults: 

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Wonderful Pistachios (no shells) 

A great heart-healthy, plant-based protein snack that will satisfy your taste buds and keep you full. The convenience of no-shell pistachios for traveling—the portability and minimal clean-up makes this a go-to snack recommendation for many of my clients that are managing various conditions like diabetes (great combo of lower carb and protein), celiac disease (nuts are naturally gluten-free) and heart conditions (lightly salted pistachio option is only 65mg of sodium and provide a great source of healthy fat to the diet). 

Serving Size: 1/4 cup

Nutrition Facts: 150 calories, Total Fat: 13g, Total Carbs: 8g, Fiber: 3g, Protein: 6g

Flavors: Roasted & Salted, Lightly Salted, Salt & Vinegar, BBQ, Honey Roasted, & Chili Roasted 

Photo by Jade Wulfraat on Unsplash

Bars

There are so many options when it comes to bars. The specific type of bar that I recommend for clients really depends on the individual health needs and taste preference. When it comes to my personal preferences, I’m looking for a bar with simple ingredients, no or minimal added sugar, and some protein or fiber to help keep me full. 

Lara Bars: (Dairy-free, Vegan, Gluten-Free)

I’ve been a longtime fan of the simplicity of the Lara bars, which can be found in most grocery and convenience stores. The combination of the natural sweetness of dates with nuts and other simple ingredients creates a chewy treat that tastes like a dessert. The nutrition facts vary slightly depending on the flavors, but most are low-sodium and provide heart-healthy fats from the various nuts, along with a little protein, fiber and carbohydrates for a quick fuel-boost. I also like that this does come in a mini version, which is great for kids or a smaller adult snack. 

Apple Pie Nutrition Facts: (1 bar) 200 calories, Total Fat:9g, Total Carbs: 25g, Fiber: 4g, Protein: 4g

Rx Bars: (Gluten-Free, Kosher)

Rx bars are readily available at most grocery and convenience stores. Simple ingredients with a bit more protein for added satiety, these bars are great for those times when I know it is going to be a bit longer until my next meal. Egg white is the protein of choice in most of the bars, unless you select a bar from the newer plant protein line. 

Chocolate Chip Nutrition Facts: (1 bar) 210 calories, Total Fat: 8g, Total Carbs: 23g, Fiber: 3g, Protein: 12g

Kind Nut Bars:

I’ve long been a fan of the Kind Nut bars, packed with dried fruit and nuts and subtly sweetened with honey. They are the perfect thing to satisfy my sweet tooth and curb hunger. I also love that they have the mini option, which fits perfectly in a purse or diaper bag for any of my last minute snack emergencies that might arise when running errands or during a day event.

Blueberry Almond Pecan Nutrition Facts: (1 bar) 170 calories, Total Fat: 13g, Total Carbs: 18g, Fiber: 5g, Protein: 4g

Photo by Edgar Soto on Unsplash

Popcorn

A whole-grain, complex carbohydrate snack, naturally low in fat and calories, popcorn has long been a personal snack favorite. Eating 3 cups of popcorn is equal to one serving from the grain group. It’s a tasty way to add more fiber to your diet.

It can be customized based on preference. Air-popped (30 calories per cup), oil-popped (35 calories per cup) and lightly buttered (80 calories per cup) popcorn all make good choices, so change the preparation method to vary the flavor. My preference is always to pop popcorn myself so it is fresh and I can season it as I like. If I’m on-the-go and looking for a more portable option, my favorite is Wegman’s brand Organic Himalayan Salt Popcorn popped in olive oil and the Sweet & Salty version popped in coconut oil.

Nutrition Facts: (3 cups air-popped popcorn) 90 calories, Total Fat: 1g, Total Carb:18g, Fiber 4g, Protein: 0g

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Portable Seasonal Fruit

All fruit can be portable, but some is less prone to needing refrigeration or bruising. My summer favorites for road trips include cherries, plums, nectarines, peaches and sliced melon. 

Favorite Snacks for Kids: 

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Sun-Maid Sour Raisin Snacks

My kids love fruit including all kinds of dried fruit. Dried fruit is accessible year-round and is a better-for-you alternative than popular gummy snacks. Our family recently tried the Sun-Maid Sour Raisin snacks, which are golden raisins with natural fruit flavoring. They taste similar to Sour Patch Kids, the best combo of sweet and slightly sour (the watermelon and blue raspberry are my personal favorites). The best part: Raisins provide additional fiber, vitamins and minerals to the diet.

Watermelon Sour Raisin Nutrition Facts: (1 packet) 60 calories, Total Fat: 0g, Total Carbs: 15g, Fiber: 1g, Protein: 1g

Note: Raisins can be choking hazards for children 6-12 months old, so dried fruit is a better snack choice for older children.

Beechnut Fruity Oat Bars

Not all bars marketed for children are created equal. That’s why it is so important to look at the ingredient list and nutrition facts. Both of my toddlers have been fans of Beechnut Bars, and they get this dietitian’s stamp of approval as well for their no sugar added and simple five ingredient or less list. A chewy take on a granola bar, Beechnut bars combine oats, dates, raisins, dried fruit and sunflower oil to create a simple snack that is a smaller portion size than standard bars.

Strawberry Fruity Oat Bar Nutrition Facts (1 bar) 80 calories, Total Fat: 2.5g, Total Carbs: 15g, Fiber: 1g, Protein: 1g

Wyman’s Just Fruit & Greek Yogurt Bites

You’ll find these Wyman’s Just Fruit & Greek Yogurt Bites in the dessert or frozen fruit freezer section in your grocery store.

There are four delicious flavors:

  • raspberries & strawberries;

  • wild blueberry;

  • wild blueberries, strawberries and banana bites; and

  • wild blueberries and mangos.

They are frozen snacks, so they need to be consumed quickly after removal from the freezer. They are great for assembling a quick on-the-go breakfast or snack before heading out the door for a day trip or longer vacation. Mix with yogurt and granola, right in the portable cup for additional protein and fiber or pair it with eggs and toast for satisfying start to the day.

Wild Blueberries & Mangos Nutrition Facts (1 cup): 45 calories, Total Fat: 0g, Total Carbs: 10g, Total Fiber: 1g, Protein: <1g

What are your favorite snacks for road trips?

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Chocolate Dessert Date Balls: Perfect Packable Snack

These are the easiest and most delicious dessert date balls ever. It’s a family recipe that my mom makes at the holidays. Chewy with a fudge-like texture, they are great for keeping in the freezer and eating to curb a sweet tooth or packing for road trips. There are all kinds of cake pop and energy or dessert ball recipes on the internet. I love this version because it contains a few of my favorite things:

  • Chocolate

  • Coconut

  • Dates

  • Graham Crackers

Don’t be afraid of the sweetened-condensed milk, it provides this dessert with a little boost of protein, potassium, and calcium. The dates also are a fantastic source of fiber and potassium. A diet rich in potassium and low in sodium is important for heart health and may reduce the risk of high blood pressure and stroke. So, grab a few more dates the next time you go grocery shopping and you’ll always have a healthy snack available and the ability to make this easy recipe anytime.