We’re heading out this afternoon on a 1,000 mile road trip up North to visit my husband’s family. I know a lot of folks moan and groan at the idea of road trips, but we actually enjoy them! Especially when we do it the way we’re doing this one—slow and easy. We could do the trip all in one day (I actually did it once, by myself when Craig and I were dating—not recommended), but we decided to take it slow and break the 16+ hours of driving up over two days. From personal experience, trust me, the last thing you want is to be dead tired while driving in the dark through the desolate forests of Northern Minnesota along the Lake Superior coast in November. Moose crossings and snowy roads and no cell service, oh my!
Anyway, part of what makes road trips so great for us is that we try to keep them as healthy as possible (that, and we get hours of uninterrupted time together to listen to podcasts and sing silly songs). It can be so tempting to just stop at the nearest fast food restaurant along the interstate or pick up a sticky bun from the gas station, but I’ve found a little bit of food planning can go along way to make sure you feel healthy and happy when you hit your destination. Part of the fun of road tripping is road trip snacks, so we try to still keep the eats fun, but without totally wrecking our systems. I thought I might share with you guys some of our favorite car snacks before we hop on I-65 North. See you soon, Canada!
Bags O’ Veggies
One of my biggest eating challenges during road trips is boredom eating. I just snack and snack and snack to pass time. For years I tried to just use sheer willpower to stop myself from mindless snacking, but a while back, I learned to just embrace my love of boredom eating and use it to my advantage. Now, whenever I feel boredom snacking coming on, I reach for giant bags of veggies! I pack carrot sticks, celery sticks and (my favorite) cauliflower florets in giant zip-top bags and give myself free rein to eat as much as I want. Not only does it give me something to do, but it also gets me lots of good nutrients in.
Same deal with fresh fruit. Slowly nomming on an apple for 30 or so miles is a great to way to pass some time (and fill your body with all kinds of great nutrients). When we’re traveling to Canada, we do keep both our fruit and veggies to only what we an eat on the U.S. side of the border. You can take fresh fruits and veggies across the border (depending on where it’s from and some other factors—including the mood of the border guard you get), but it’s been a bit of a hassle before for us at the border, so we usually just dump what we have left (which is usually not much) before we hit the border guards.
While Cheddar Bunnies might not be the healthiest of foods, they are definitely one of our traveling staples. Like I said above, part of the fun of road tripping is eating a little bit of junk, and Cheddar Bunnies are one of my favorite (cleaner) junk foods. Do they provide lots of nutrition? No. Are they really delicious and fun? Yes. We make sure to get the single-serving packets to keep portion control in check.
One of the issues with a lot of road trip foods—lack of protein. Chips, cookies, sodas—the gas station is packed full of carbs, so I try to make sure we have a good amount of protein-packed snack foods on hand. I don’t usually buy single-serve foods like Babybels for everyday stuff, but for road trips? Perfect-o. Plus, playing with the wax gives you at least a good 15 minutes worth of road trip entertainment.
When we’re road-tripping, we always pack a cooler in the back, and inside the cooler is almost always hard-boiled eggs. Just like with the Babybels, hard-boiled eggs are a super easy and portable source of protein. Just make sure you either (a) use older eggs so they’re easier to peel or (b) peel the eggs before you hit the road. Peeling a stubborn egg can be messy!
More specifically, Trader Joe’s Turkey Jerky. Jerky is a pretty common road-trip staple, but the options in most gas stations are chock full of chemicals and not-so-good-for-you things. We almost always pick up a few bags of turkey jerky from Trader Joe’s before we leave because it is an amazing source of protein, doesn’t have any nasty ingredients, and tastes incredible. It is a little pricey ($5 for a small bag), but we only really get it during road trips, so the splurge is worth it.
Another winner from Trader Joe’s, we usually pick up a couple different kinds of trail mix before we head out—one healthy (like the Go Raw Trek Mix, which is just nuts and raisins with no added sugar) and one not so healthy (like the one with the mini PB cups—YUM). I actually get sick of trail mix pretty quickly, so just a small handful or two does the trick for me. And trail mix has the added bonus of being a great snack food once you hit your destination. I almost always have a bag of trail mix in my purse. A few handfuls is a quick way to squash hunger (or at least hold you off ’til you can get some real food).
Okay, so Shot Bloks aren’t really real food, or really even a snack, but they work amazingly on a road trip if you feel yourself getting tired while driving. Sure, you can slam a giant cup of coffee, but Shot Bloks give you the benefits of the caffeine and sugar boost without making you need to stop at every rest area along the way or making you jittery. We always pick up a few packs of Shot Bloks before we head on a long road trip. We’ve found that just eating 2-3 of them does a ton to bring you back into the land of the living.