How to Eat Healthy on a Road Trip

how to eat healthy on a road trip by Detail Oriented Traveler

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It is spring break at my house this week. Since we live near a touristy area (Hello, Disney!) we tend to stay home or close to home for spring break. But, this time of year always gets me thinking about summer and jonesin’ to get on the road. Fortunately, hubby and I have a trip to St. Pete Beach coming up soon and while that’s not a long drive for us, I’ll still pack a cooler for the road and our stay.

Can I just tell you I love driving versus flying. I know you can bring your own food (within reason) to the airport. But I much prefer to have a cooler full of my own food or be able to stop at a grocery store rather than be stuck with the options from a food court. And, what I bring tends to be much healthier or at least less expensive than what you’ll get at the airport too.

So, with that, here’s how we eat healthy on a road trip.

Pack a cooler

Pack a cooler for easy access to munching on the road. When driving long distances, we make eating times flexible and allow for snacking in between meals. For snacks and food eaten in the car, we try to avoid anything that might make a mess, mostly in the form of crumbs. Save crackers, granola bars and the occasional cookie for rest stops. Pack in individual disposable bags (I don’t want to do dishes on the road!) Bring along some wipes to clean hands before and after.

Some good cooler items

  1. String cheese
  2. Grapes
  3. Hard-boiled eggs, peeled
  4. Water
  5. 100% Juice – limited to 1 or 2 per kid per day.
  6. Yogurt (don’t forget plastic spoons!)

A list of dry snacks that are not messy

  1. Bananas
  2. Milk – Chocolate, white or strawberry. In the dry milk aisle of the grocery store they sell individual servings that do not have to be refrigerated. (a treat in our house!)
  3. Nuts
  4. Blueberries
  5. Apple slices –either the pre-cut kind from the store, or make your own and sprinkle with a little lemon juice to prevent browning
  6. Dried Cranberries, raisins or cherries
Pack a cooler and don’t forget to pack the kids!!

Plan a picnic

We usually plan to stop at a rest area along the way for a picnic lunch, dinner or even breakfast and it is an ideal way to eat healthy. Not only do I know what is going into my family’s tummies, it is less expensive and often takes less time, allowing us to get back on the road and on our way.

Many of the rest stops along the interstate have shaded picnic benches and plenty of space for little ones to run off some energy away from the parking lot and traffic. Some of the larger welcome centers are often beautifully landscaped making it a nice place to take a break.

Picnic items

  1. Homemade hoagie or sub sandwiches – hoagie bread won’t get as mushy as traditional sandwich bread
  2. Make your own Lunchable – cheese cubes, pepperoni or salami and whole wheat crackers
  3. Veggies – cherry tomatoes, baby carrots, cucumber slices
How to eat healthy on a road trip
Picnic time after a day tubing down the river


Eat at the Fast Food Chain

They’re everywhere and inevitable. And there will be times where you’ve run out of food. But the good news is many of the fast food chains are trying to appeal to the health-conscious eater. Salads, smoothies and fruit cups are options. However, if you can’t pass up the “I want fries with that” for yourself or the kids, keep driving on.

Additionally, if you want to get out of the car (a good time for a stretch anyway) you can pop into one of the healthier sandwich shops for a quicker healthier bite to eat.

Don’t forget to plan for the return trip home. Bring extra plastic baggies and give yourself enough time to stop at a grocery store the night before you leave.

What does your family eat on road trips?

how to eat healthy on a road trip by Detail Oriented Traveler

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About The Author

22 thoughts on “How to Eat Healthy on a Road Trip”

  1. Love your tips. I always try to take healthy stuff with us as I know that, once we are actually on holiday, we’re more likely to eat unhealthily! We always take apples, and also carrots, plus popcorn and water too.

  2. Great trips. I find myself eating the most horrible things when I am on the road. That’s mainly because I am very bored, but traveling with children makes you act more responsibly, so want to set a good example.

  3. Excellent tips! I often go on road trips and often just eat at restaurants and fast food chains because I’m too lazy to put anything on a cooler. Thanks for the motivation to carry one!

  4. Flying was not an option for family vacations when I was a kid. I remember stopping at a store and buying sandwich meat bread and other things and Mom would make lunch in the car while we drove. Occasionally we would stop at a roadside park and have a picnic. If my brother and I complained enough we might even get lucky and stop at a burger joint on the side of the road once during the trip.

  5. Loved these family pics and definitely agree with most of the tips .. “Veggies – cherry tomatoes, baby carrots, cucumber slices” are a great way to eat healthy on the road..

  6. I need to follow some of your tips! Its hard staying healthy on the road but there are so many things you can do to have good snacks at hand. Local grocery stores are brilliant for stocking up and putting picnics together. Great advice

  7. You’ve got some great healthy meal ideas here! I love packing yoghurt, nuts and fruit personally. It’s good to be reminded that if you really get caught out, pit stops are offering healthier options more and more.

  8. Very helpful blog for food junkies like me, who never thought anything before eating something extra especially when it was a packed or fast food during travels…

  9. Hi Tonya,

    Those are some excellent tips. I also get a cooler with me. I make cheese and turkey sandwiches, they fill you up fast and they are healthy. I also love fruits, veggies and milk as well. If I crave those fried potatoes, well I will stop and get them. Only for one time of course!


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  11. Love the tips! Planning ahead makes everything easier – and cheaper, too, when it comes to food! Great post on keeping the healthy habits going even on the road!

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