The Ultimate Road Trip Snack Packs

Tori Schmitt, MS, RDN, LD11/20/17

Hitting the road this holiday season?  The fall and winter holiday periods are among the busiest long-distance travel times of the year.1 And, traveling can create some challenges in one’s healthy eating efforts.  So, this holiday season, gear up for a ride that is both delicious and nutritious.

Here is what I recommend when it comes to eating well when you are on the road:

Tip No. 1: Pack Your Pantry

Well, not your entire pantry, of course!  But packing non-perishable staples like air popped popcorn, dry whole grain cereal and whole grain crackers, can provide a source of fiber-rich carbohydrates to keep you fuller, longer, while you are on the road.  And, consider pairing your fiber-rich foods with pantry-based proteins and healthy fats, like those found in nuts, seeds and nut/seed butters for even better nutrition.

Snack Pack: Make a trail mix with items from your pantry before you hit the road!  Combine one cup of oat or bran cereal with 1/4 cup of walnuts, 1/8 cup of cacao nibs (it is what chocolate is made from!), 3 tablespoons of hemp seeds, and 2 tablespoons of dried cranberries for a trail mix treat to share with your fellow passenger.  Walnuts and hemp seeds are sources of the healthy omega-3 fatty acid ALA, and though the conversion to of ALA to DHA is limited, these foods still provide helpful nutrition to the diet.2  

Tip No. 2: Consider A Cooler

A small cooler in the back of your car is a helpful place to store items like fresh cut vegetables and fruits, dunkable dips and spreads like hummus and guacamole, and refrigerated protein foods like hardboiled eggs, Greek yogurt and homemade energy bites and bars.

Snack Pack: Tote along cut celery, cucumber, cauliflower and broccoli and dip it into single serve portions of hummus or guacamole for a nutrient-rich snack full of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients (special nutrients found only in plant foods!).  And, remember to pack a water bottle (or more!) in your cooler to help keep hydrated during your trip.

Tip No. 3: Canned Items Count

Canned items – including oily fish like canned tuna, wild salmon and sardines – are easily hauled for long car rides, and they make a perfect starter ingredient for a healthy meal on the road.  Oily fish provides a rich source of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which supports the health of your brain and heart.3-4  Want more details on why you should get DHA omega-3 in your diet each day?  Check out my blog on DHA Omega-3 101

Snack Pack: Cucumber, canned oily fish and your favorite hot sauce are all items that can be easily packed, so take them with you while you are on the road.  When stopped and ready for a meal, cut one cucumber in half (long ways) and hallow out the core.  Then, open a can of tuna and instead of draining the oils, mix the tuna together with its own oils so that you retain more of the healthy omega-3 fats.  Add the tuna to the hallowed out core of each half of the cucumber.  Depending on your flavor preferences, drizzle hot sauce or mustard on top (or both!).  Enjoy, and add a piece of fresh fruit – like in-season pears, apples or oranges - on the side!

Tip No. 4: Be Selective at Convenience Stores

Pit stops to fuel up your automobile might also provide an opportunity for gas-station treats.  But energy-dense and nutrient-poor foods found at gas stations -- plus a holiday season that can also be full of sweet goodies -- might add up to too much added sugar.  Consider: what treat is your favorite when it comes to taste, texture and overall appeal?  Is it the candy bar at the gas station or is it the homemade cookie or pie that you like more?  When it comes to treating yourself, treat with what you love most – not what you pass by – and savor each bite.

During holiday travel, it can be a challenge to eat well, but hopefully these tips make it a little bit easier to say “YES!” to healthy snacks and meals full of fiber-rich carbohydrates, wholesome proteins, and healthy fats like DHA while you are on the road. Share your thoughts and your questions with me on Facebook @YESNutritionLLC (Link: http://www.facebook.com/yesnutritionllc

References:

  1. Bureau of Transportation Statistics [Internet]. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Transportation. [cited 2017 September 1]. Available from: https://www.rita.dot.gov/bts/sites/rita.dot.gov.bts/files/publications/america_on_the_go/us_holiday_travel/html/entire.html
  2. Williams CM and Burdge G. Long chain n-3 PUFA: plant v. marine sources. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society. 2006;65:42-50. doi:10.1079/PNS2005473. https://www.cambridge.org/core/services/aop-cambridge-core/content/view/S0029665106000061
  3. Horrocks LA, Yeo LK. Health benefits of docosahexaenoic acid. Pharmacological Research. 1999 Sep;40(3):211-25.
  4. Bernstein AM, Ding EL, Willet WC, Rimm EB. A meta-analysis shows that docosahexaenoic acid from algal oil reduces serum triglycerides and increases HDL-cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol in persons without coronary heart disease. The Journal of Nutrition. 2012 Jan;142(1):99-104. doi: 10.3945/jn.111.148973. Epub 2011 Nov 23. http://jn.nutrition.org/content/142/1/99.long

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