Do you need some ideas for healthy travel snacks this summer?  It’s that time of year when millions of Australians jump into their cars to migrate across the continent to spend a week with the relatives for Christmas or at the beach for their holidays.  Is that you?

What we snack on can make a big difference to our overall health.  Whatever health goal you have in mind, be it weight loss or just plain healthy eating, what you snack on can make or break whether you achieve your goal.

Relying on roadside cafes is not generally a healthy option – yes, some are quirky and have great food and coffee – but most aren’t particularly quirky and have pretty nutritionally lousy food.  It’s easier to stick to your healthy eating plan if you aren’t tempted by hot, fatty, easy snacks when you are tired from travelling.

Plan ahead with healthy snacks and avoid the roadside cafes for the best healthy food options when you are travelling.

So what to pack for the journey?

First of all, get yourself a decent esky.  The longer the journey the fancier the esky.  You may consider an electric esky (portable fridge) which can be plugged into the car, or just an esky big enough to hold all the snacks and drinks you need at the right temperature.  Either way, don’t pack the esky under a week’s worth of suitcases/camping equipment. Your esky needs to be handy to access so snacks can be retrieved as required.

family picnic

Save money by buying larger portions and decanting them into single serves.  This makes it easy to keep a few snacks at hand in the car.  Consider how you will pack your snacks, too.  Are you environmentally minded and planning to use re-usable containers or will buy zip-locked bags or small pre-packed portions?  And don’t forget your keep cups!

Enjoy the journey as well as your destination!

woman on holiday at the beach

Next, consider how long the trip will take.  You’ll need to stop about every two hours for a leg stretch and toilet break.  Having a snack or something more substantial after every four hours gives you a chance to rest from the driving and increase your arousal levels so you aren’t nodding off behind the wheel.  Pack the esky so you can access snacks in order of requirement – first snack on top, main meal under that and so forth.

Foods to pack

  • Fruit – either whole or chopped up in wedges.  Keep anything juicy for roadside stops.
  • Vegetable sticks – celery, cucumber, carrots, green beans, capsicum strips, snow peas, and whole cherry tomatoes
  • Decant crackers from packets into small containers, accompany them with even smaller containers of dips or cheese
  • Nuts – keep quantities low and choose unsalted varieties so they don’t make you thirsty.  Again, decant from large packs into small containers
  • Very small amounts of dried fruit and other treats like chocolate covered coffee beans and home-made muesli bars or banana bread
  • Small tins or containers of baked beans, 3 bean mix, corn or leftovers
  • Home-made pop corn (yum!)
  • Sandwiches and wraps – choose lots of crunchy salad items (iceberg lettuce for super crunch, grated carrot, beetroot) with a protein food (cheese, tofu, nut butter, mashed cooked legumes, cold meat) and something to give it a bit of z-i-n-g-! like gherkins, relish, mayonnaise, or chillies.  Go for grainy bread and wraps for slower energy release
  • Bottles of cold water – add a couple of slivers of fruit to some bottles to give a variety of flavours. Part freeze bottles if you are travelling a long way, or want to slow down the kids’ drinking
  • Cold tea – there’s nothing like cold fruit teas to quench the thirst, cold coffee doesn’t inspire me but if it’s good for you then go with it

You might pre-plan where to stop, so toilets and maybe a park are handy for the family to run around in – check out state based driver reviver rest stops or just check the map for local parks – or you may choose to wing it.  Either way, travel with extra water for hand washing, hand sanitizer, a spare towel or two (there might just be a great water hole to take a dip in!) and a spare roll of toilet paper (just in case).

What if you are caught without snacks and on a relatively short trip?  Find a country bakery and fruiterer – grab a sliced loaf of sour dough and wrap a slice around a peeled banana!  Easy!

Eat well and stay safe!  

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Post byDale Cooke

I'm a nutritionist, dietitian and personal trainer with 29 years of experience helping people improve their health. I really like using a non-diet philosophy to achieving a healthy lifestyle. Can I help you improve your health?