This healthy road trip foods list highlights easy storage, no mess, and quick clean up. These dietitian-approved road trip foods are perfect for kids, teens, and adults.
As a registered dietitian nutritionist, I am always looking for healthy food options that not only make you feel good but taste good, too! After a recent 14 hour road trip, I've came up with the best healthy road trip tips and discovered some new travel-friendly food favorites.
These are truly the best foods for the road, all designed with the road in mind! This healthy road trip food list includes snacks, drinks, and meals (yes, shelf-stable meals!) that are quick to grab and don't make a mess!
DIETITIAN'S TIP: Choose road trip foods that are both filling and satisfying. High fiber and high protein foods are going to keep your hunger and blood sugars from fluctuating. Stable blood sugars mean stable energy levels and a more predictable appetite, so you can better focus on the road.
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🥨 Healthy road trip foods list
For every food item listed, I give recommendations on what to look for on the nutrition label. After this list, you'll find my handpicked favorite road trip foods all linked below so you don't have to do any research.
Shelf-stable and non-perishable:
Every item on this non-perishable healthy road trip foods list can be safely enjoyed at room temperature and doesn't require ice or refrigeration.
- Shelf-stable yogurts (look for high protein and low sugar)
- Squeezable applesauce (look for high fiber and no sugar added)
- Shelf-stable smoothies (look for high protein and no sugar added)
- Fruit bars (look for high fiber and no sugar added)
- Whole wheat crackers (look for high fiber, low fat and low sodium)
- Popcorn (look for high fiber, low fat and low sodium)
- Rice cakes (look for low added sugar and low sodium)
- Trail mix (look for low or no sugar added and low sodium)
- Seasoned mixed nuts (look for low sugar and low sodium)
- Loose breakfast cereal (look for high fiber and low sugar)
- Travel-sized peanut butter packets (look for low or no sugar added)
- Hummus (look for shelf stable and travel-sized with high protein and low sodium)
- Jerky (look for low sodium and low sugar)
- Protein bars (look for high fiber and low sugar with no sugar alcohols - ingredients ending in "ol", like sorbitol)
- Tuna to-go kits (look for low sodium, packed in olive oil or water, and low/no sugar added)
- Shelf-stable, ready-to-eat meal kits (see my top recommended brands below)
- Sparkling water or regular bottled water
Perishable // no refrigeration needed:
You need to eat these foods within a week or two but they do not need refrigeration and can be stored and enjoyed at room temperature.
- Easy-peel mandarin oranges
- Cherry tomatoes
- Slices of bread (toast beforehand if you don't want them to get super soft)
Perishable // refrigeration or cooler required:
These food items need to be stored below 40˚F. Check at my cooler section below for more tips!
- Baby carrots
- Celery sticks
- Snap peas
- Sliced bell peppers
- Sliced cucumbers
- Broccoli or cauliflower florets
- String cheese (look for low fat, low sodium, and high protein)
- Drinkable Greek yogurt (look for low sugar added and high protein)
- Hard boiled eggs (peel beforehand)
- Dessert hummus (look for low added sugar)
- Kombucha (look for low added sugar)
- Deli meat (wrap around cheese sticks or assemble a quick sandwich - see tip below)
Sandwich assembly tip: No one likes a soggy sandwich! Keep bread slices and deli meats in separate, individually portioned ziplock baggies. Spread condiments between the deli slices beforehand. You can also add sliced tomato, pickles, cheese, and lettuce to the individually portioned ziplocks. When ready, just pull everything out for mess-free assembly!
➕ Extra items to pack
- Hand sanitizer
- Hand wipes // moist towelettes
- Several plastic shopping bags for loose trash that you can toss at each rest stop
- Roll of paper towels
- Plastic forks and spoons if needed
* = requires refrigeration // cooler storage
❄️ Cooler packing tips
- Keeping your cooler cold: If you are packing perishable refrigerated foods, make sure your cooler stays below 40˚F. Use an appliance thermometer to check your cooler temperature. Be sure to use a high quality cooler filled with ice or frozen reusable gel packs. Once your food is all packed, fill all remaining open space with ice.
- Food safety: If your cooler goes above 40˚F, you need to eat or toss your refrigerated foods within two hours or one hour if your car is warmer than 90˚F.
- Bring two coolers: A road trip tip from the USDA recommends bringing one smaller cooler or insulated bag for non-perishable drinks that can be opened and closed more often. The second cooler is for perishable food that won't be opened as often, keeping the temperature consistent.
🚫 Road trip foods to avoid
Not all foods are road-trip-friendly! Some foods will make you go.. and it's not to your final destination, if you know that I mean.
Some naturally occurring compounds, like fructose, sugar alcohols, and salicylates can cause digestive distress and should be avoided when on the road. The last thing you need while driving through the middle of nowhere is an emergency bathroom!
On the road, we have a tendency to mindlessly overeat and easy-grab fruit can quickly get over consumed, causing potential digestive distress. When you get to your final destination, all fruit should be back on the table!
Fatty foods should also be avoided because they can trigger nausea more easily. Carbohydrates on the other hand soothe the stomach and can combat nausea. Other ways to ease nausea is with cold or room temperature food that have little to no smell.
As far as coffee or other potential digestive triggers, you know your body best and should stick to your usual, predictable foods.
GOING ON A TRIP? Let me know in the comments below where you're going and what road trip foods you're packing!