Like hot dogs, roller coasters, and baseball games, a road trip has long been a cornerstone of a blissful American summer. But there are some drawbacks to this type of drive. The sting of a hot seat belt is irksome, as is hearing the same hit song repeat on the radio. But nothing can ruin a road trip quite like hearing this exasperated refrain from the backseat over and over again: "Are we there yet?"
Leave it to the frustrations of a confined space or the anticipation for what's around the corner, but kids don't exactly see the beauty of the open road in quite the same way as their parents. Still, don't plan on losing your cool just as the air conditioner hits the fritz. Instead, let us suggest avoiding meltdowns all together with a few healthy snacks.
"If we go on a road trip armed with healthy snacks to satisfy hunger and keep blood sugar levels stable, then it's a completely different experience for the whole family," Mandy Sacher, the Australian best-selling author of The Wholesome Child: A Complete Nutrition Guide and Cookbook, says.
Mandy has found that when she packs healthy snacks for her two children on her family's annual road trip, they're more relaxed—and the same can be said for parents, too. "A common complaint from adults is that when they start eating a candy bar or a bag of cookies, they can't stop until it's all gone," she says. "They often fool the body into thinking it's full, and then a short while later, hunger returns, and the body is tricked into craving these same nutrient-devoid snacks."
We asked Mandy for some advice on healthy road trip snacks to pack this summer, which she suggests storing in clean, airtight containers that make it into the car last out of convenience. "When you arrive at your destination, make it your first job to unload any hot or cold food and place it in appropriate temperature-controlled equipment—like the freezer, refrigerator or oven," she says. By that point, everyone should be in a good mood.
"Overnight pumpkin spiced oatmeal is an effortless way to prep whole grains while you sleep," Mandy says. "Combine one-part rolled oats to two-parts liquid (water, milk, or non-dairy milk alternatives), fruit, and seasonings like cinnamon, carob powder, nuts, and seeds. Then soak overnight in the fridge so that it's ready to heat and eat the next morning."
"Top my DIY coconut yogurt with berries and nuts," she says. "Did you know coconut can help boost your immune system? Plus, it's a great non-dairy alternative."
Sweet Potato Fries
"Drizzle popcorn in coconut oil," she says. "Popcorn is high in fiber and manganese for cognitive function, as well as magnesium for a better night's sleep."
Berry Trial Mix
"Who doesn't love a trail mix?" says Mandy, who makes hers with berries, nuts, cacao nibs, and coconut flakes. "Let your kids choose their favorite nuts and even allow them to make the mix for a fun activity, too."
"You might not think of meatballs as a snack, but they're a great grab 'n' go food," Mandy notes. "This version of beef and veggie meatballs uses carrot and zucchini, but feel free to pop any leftover veggies into the mix."
"The addition of high-fiber chia seeds and anti-inflammatory cinnamon in my banana bread makes it great for snack time," she says. "Not to mention, it's toasted with a little butter—yes, please."
Hard Boiled Eggs
"Hard-boiled eggs are inexpensive, versatile, delicious, and pack a protein punch," Mandy says. "Plus, they can instantly transform any dish into an early-morning crowd pleaser."
"Make veggie sticks with homemade dips," Mandy says. She also recommends putting fruits, veggies, and cheese on skewers for older children.
"My kids love munching on plain seaweed or using them to create their own nori wraps," Mandy says. "They can be purchased in single-serve packs; however, it's just as easy to buy the full-sized sheets and cut them into small squares—that's also a far more economical option!"