If you’re planning to embark on a family road trip, one of the keys to finding yourself in a car with happy children is staving off the dreaded “hanger.” But, finding healthy snacks for kids that are also crowd-pleasers can feel like searching for a needle in a haystack (or that last spilt pretzel in the crevice of your backseat). Why is it that the nutritional snacks always get a bad rap?
We put together a list of parent-approved road trip snacks for kids that you may even want to steal a bite of (and not feel guilty about).
- Homemade Trail Mix
This trail mix [link to future trail mix recipe] is the perfect combination of salty and sweet! Make sure the ratio of nuts to chocolate is closer to 2:1 so kids get a nice dose of protein and healthy fat with their M&M’s. Add pretzels for some extra crunch and pack individual portions in plastic bags for your kids (or you!) to enjoy on the go. Our advice: put some stickers with their favorite characters on the bags.
While the ingredients can vary, the key to being the ultimate snack mix master is a balance between sweet or savory snacks you know your little ones like, and maybe a few additional healthy ingredients they didn’t know they liked. And if you’re looking for some other family road trip trail mix favorites, here are some other combos to try.
- Cheerio, Goldfish and cherry trail mix
- Nut-free trail mix with cereal and mixed seeds
- Movie night trail mix (and some other healthy ideas)
Tip: Have a nut allergy? Swap nuts for pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds.
Spread apple slices with a thin layer of peanut butter or your favorite nut butter (adding too much can cause a bona fide backseat disaster) and sprinkle with granola before topping off with another apple slice. You’ll get the ease of a sandwich with the crunch of an apple. Plus, a little birdie told us that an apple sandwich a day keeps the doctor away! Make cleanup easy by packing some fun napkins in their favorite theme from a party store (or if you have any left over in the house from a past birthday). Encourage your child to put one on their lap while they eat to catch any falling ingredients.
If apples or peanut butter aren’t your thing, here are some alternate sandwich ideas we’d gladly pack in our trunk cooler.
- ALT (avocado, lettuce, and tomato) sandwich
- Hummus club sandwich
- Road trip sandwiches with five ingredients or less
Here’s a kernel of wisdom for you—popping your own popcorn is easier than you think! Plus, you can leave all of the butter and salt behind. All you need are unpopped popcorn kernels, oil, salt, and a pot. Let it cool and store it in gallon-size bags to keep it fresh. If you’re running short on time, just grab a bag or two of Skinny Pop at the grocery store before you head out of town.
And popcorn doesn’t have to be plain, so grab a seasoning (Kernel Season makes a ton of great flavors) so you can go beyond plain corn. You can also make a popcorn trail mix (see above), or, if you have some extra time, make these chewy popcorn balls for easy snacking on your next family road trip.
- Veggie Sticks and Dip
We know, getting kids to eat their veggies can be an uphill battle. But, when you pair baby carrots, celery sticks, or your kids’ favorite veggies with a dip, the chances of them eating their veggies goes up exponentially. If you have time, you can assemble your own at home using a divided tupperware—but if not, grocery stores have premade versions too.
Think of a soft granola bar in the shape of a ball, and voila—you have an energy ball! Comprised of oats, peanut butter (or seed butter), and chocolate chips, these energy balls make for a great pre-vacation activity. Plus, kids love anything with chocolate, right?
Tip: No time to assemble before your road trip? Some grocery stores sell these in the bulk foods section, like this version from MadeGood, but if not opt for granola bars.
- Fruit Strips
Fruit strips, also known as fruit leather, fruit roll-ups, or the beloved Fruit by the Foot, are an age-old natural sweet treat. They’re just like dried fruit, but disguised as something fun that your little ones are much more likely to eat! So, ask your child(ren) what their favorite flavor is (they typically come in just about every fruit under the sun) and pick that up on your next grocery store trip. Some of our favorite fruit strip brands include Stretch Island, Annie’s, and Trader Joe’s (which come in awesome combo flavors, for when they can’t decide). And if you’re feeling really inspired, you can even make your own!
The key to getting your kids to eat (and be excited about) these healthy snacks is to get them involved. Have them choose their mix-ins, and even come up with their own variation, take them on the grocery store trip (or help you order online if you need some sanity saving), and let them decorate their tupperware and treat bags. They get snacks they’ll happily munch on, and you get a drive-thru free family road trip. We can’t help with the bathroom breaks, though—you’re on your own there. Happy traveling!