13 Healthy Snacks to Pack for Your Next Road Trip
Be honest: What do you picture when you think of road trip snacks? Pringles? M&M’s? Those cereal and milk bars that can’t possibly be less than 97 percent high fructose corn syrup? On my last car-bound, cross-country jaunt, I had a Dairy Queen blizzard for dinner one night, something I would not even consider as an option in my off-road life. It’s just that road trip rest stops are such an easy excuse to eat wherever you happen to be driving past when you’re hungry.
It’s not really your fault. There are far more roadside signs for fast food restaurants than health-conscious choices. And gas station convenience stores lead you right into the rainbow-colored candy aisle and tuck whatever healthy snacks they do stock back by the car accessories.
Your body is already going to feel drained from sitting in the same position in your car for hours on end. The blood sugar spikes from a lot of America’s favorite snacks — most have some form of added sugar or syrup whether they taste sweet or not — will only make it worse.
One asset to staying healthy while traveling long distances in your car is having a trunk to store food in. Your best bet is always fresh fruits and veggies, but you also need options that aren’t likely to melt or go bad when left in the trunk while you’re off exploring the nation’s national parks.
In this case, it’s easier to buy and bring pre-packaged snacks. You can’t go wrong with nuts and dried fruits, but some other snacks with a healthy reputation aren’t exactly the best for sitting in a car all day — protein bars, for example. Any excess protein your body doesn’t use is converted to fatty acid and stored, so save those for the days you’re heading out on a hike or going to be actively moving for 30 minutes or more.
Below, we rounded up some really tasty low-calorie snacks that are made with real ingredients, minimally processed, and low on sugar. And bonus, they’re all gluten free.
Biena Chickpea Snacks
These crunchy roasted chickpeas are full of flavor, protein, and fiber (six grams of both per serving). They’re made from scratch in the U.S. with no artificial ingredients, and they’re naturally free of gluten, nuts, and dairy. The sea salt version is made with just chickpeas, sunflower oil, and sea salt — that’s it. The barbeque and cinnamon maple flavors are also worth a try.
To buy: amazon.com, $29 (pack of 6).
Trader Joe’s Roasted Plantain Chips
I love Trader Joe’s plantain chips in particular because other brands’ chips are often sweet, and these are salty, making them an excellent potato chip alternative. These are made with sunflower oil — mostly unsaturated fat — instead of palm oil or palm olein — largely saturated fat. Plus, they’ve got loads of potassium and zero grams of sugar.
To buy: amazon.com, $24 (pack of 6).
When you read the nutrition label of any Lärabar, you can actually pronounce and recognize all of the ingredients. For example, the apple pie bar — one of my favorites — has dates, almonds, unsweetened apples, walnuts, raisins, and cinnamon. All of their bars — including flavors like blueberry muffin, peanut butter cookie, chocolate chip cookie dough, and banana bread — are minimally processed and GMO-free.
To buy: amazon.com, $19 (pack of 16).
Vermont Smoke & Cure Meat Sticks
Vermont Smoke & Cure has been crafting smoked meats and meat snacks since 1962. They use humanely raised meats whenever possible, and source simple, local ingredients like Vermont maple syrup and apple cider. Combined with high-quality spices and herbs like tamarind and quarter crack pepper, these meat sticks make for a delicious, protein-filled snack. A variety pack will let you try flavors like BBQ beef, chipotle beef and pork, and ancho pepper turkey.
Brad’s Raw Kale Chips
This sneaky snack packs the familiar crunch of a chip and the nutrients of a salad into one bite. All of Brad’s products are made of 100 percent organic veggies, seeds, herbs, and spices that are air crisped under low heat, a process that retains more nutrients and enzymes than baking or frying. They’re also perfect for dipping in hummus!
To buy: amazon.com, $7.
If you tend to be tempted by the bright orange of artificial cheese snacks at the gas station convenience store, you need to give these a try. Moon Cheese uses a patented technology to remove only the moisture from cheese while retaining all the nutrition and flavor. That means these crunchy puffs are really just 100 percent cheese. They’re full of calcium and don’t require refrigeration.
To buy: amazon.com, $15 (pack of 3).
Harvest Snaps Snapea Crisps
I didn’t think I’d ever find myself addicted to any sort of food made with peas, but these light, salty snack pods proved me so, so wrong. Thankfully, a serving is just 110 calories for 22 pieces. They’re baked and are mostly made of dried peas and a little rice, making them super dense in fiber and protein.
To buy: amazon.com, $12.
If you’re known to eat olives straight from the jar, you'll love these tasty flavored olive snacks. The olives are pitted and sealed in with just a splash of oil, and they don’t need refrigeration to stay fresh, making them perfect for on-the-go snacking. Some featured flavors are lemon and rosemary green olives, basil and garlic green olives, and chili and garlic black olives.
To buy: amazon.com, $26 (pack of 24).
Oh Snap! Pickling Co. Pickles
These individually packaged pickles have no liquid brine, meaning no mess! They’re fresh, super crunchy, and naturally free of fat, sugar, and gluten. They are a little high in sodium, but drinking plenty of water will balance that out. And these guys do need to be kept in a cooler.
To buy: walmart.com, $1.
Pure Organic Fruit Strips
Some fruit snacks can be secret sugar bombs, but these natural fruit strips are made from certified organic fruit and vegetable juices and purees, with no added cane syrups or cane sugar and no artificial flavors or colors. These tangy chews are only 45 calories with 10 grams of sugar per strip and they’re non-GMO, vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, kosher, and produced in a peanut-free facility, kicking pretty much all food sensitivities to the curb.
To buy: amazon.com, $30 (pack of 36).
TERRA Vegetable Chips
These real vegetable chips are made from a seasonal mix of root vegetables like taro, sweet potato, yuca, parsnip, and batata. They’re super crunchy, lightly salted, and packed with three grams of fiber per serving.
To buy: amazon.com, $18 (pack of 24).
Bare Coconut Chips
If you often have sweeter cravings to satisfy on the road, try Bare’s coconut chips. They’re baked without oil until they’re crunchy, and have a super simple ingredient list. The chocolate coconut chips are made with just coconuts, coconut nectar, and unsweetened cocoa. Bare’s banana chips are also really tasty, but that comes at about double the sugar.
To buy: amazon.com, $20 (pack of 7).
Joy Bauer, the New York City Ballet’s nutritionist and a bestselling author, founded the Nourish snack brand to make healthy snacking more convenient and more delicious. The line has really fun flavor combinations for every type of craving, and they’re all certified gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, and non-GMO. If you love spicy snacks, you need to try the Holy Habanero roasted and seasoned corn kernels.
To buy: nourishsnacks.com, $36 (pack of 20).