If you are anything like me, road trips and snacking are synonymous and that can either be a fun experience for everyone involved ... or like I found out a couple years ago, not so much! See, normally I'm pretty straight-edge and go for cookies or crackers, and maybe some Twizzlers Twists or other candy that doesn't melt. During a stop in Maytag, Iowa though I was overcome by how cheap Maytag blue cheese was and so I just had to buy some. Let me tell you - after a few hours sitting on the dashboard a few things happened. First - the car smelled really bad. Second - I started to feel sick (eating blue cheese in a hot car during the summer is just dumb). Third - my brand new car earned it's first "love mark" since the cheese melted a bit and the enzymes and grease ate a spot on the dashboard that two years later I still can't get rid of!
Don't do that! Be smart! Here's some tips to make sure your summer road trip snack plan goes smoothly for everyone (including your car!).
Choose Snacks that Don't Crumble
Choose snacks that don't crumble is a key thing to consider when putting together your shopping list. This doesn't mean that cookies are completely out, but let's go for sandwich cookies vs chocolate chip since the later is more likely to break apart and leave crumbs and dust that are a pain to clean up later.
Fresh Fruit from Road-Side Stands Is a Great Option
Part of the fun of traveling is trying new things and one of the healthiest options is fresh fruit such as berries and apples. However, depending on where you are, there might even be some other options such as cherries in Northern Michigan or dates while driving through Eastern Arizona.
Beware of Temperature and Melting Points
"American Chocolate" candies may taste great, and I know I'm a fan of chocolate candy but this is NOT a good idea for taking on a road trip since they tend to melt and no one loves a melted candy bar - especially not the person who has to clean up. Similarly other foods such as cheese and meats aren't always the best choice for road trips because they tend not to fare well when they get hot.
Avoid Heavy Greasy Choices
Unless you are in an RV with a washroom, greasy fingers are something you want to avoid. Sorry guys, chips and other greasy snacks aren't allowed in my car.
Portion Control is King
No matter what you pick for your road trip snack of choice, it's all about portion control. Sometimes it's for health - other times it's for convenience. For instance, even though you could probably eat 10 pounds of baby carrots and still be healthy, it's just not a good idea. My solution is to create portioned snacks using sandwich baggies. This way you can put carrots, trail mix, or whatever in them and only eat what you need instead of just having a big bag open to graze from.
To twist things up a bit - instead of going for baby carrots, try carrot chips like I did instead - it adds a bit of extra fun to your snacking.
Eat Regular Meals
You are in the car for a long time, but honestly it's not healthy to skip meals. So make sure to have a good breakfast and lunch and use snacks as a "filler" instead of a meal replacement. You'll be much happier and so will your body.
Drink Lots of Water!
While not technically a "snack", staying hydrated is critical and so you need to make sure to drink plenty of water during your road trip. Water will help with concentration as well as digestion and since there are no artificial colors there's nothing to worry about if it spills. I even find that sometimes when I am "hungry" I am really just thirsty, so after drinking some water that's all I need and I can avoid the unnecessary calories.
Honestly I always recommend re-usable bottles and while that's not always practical, what I like to do when traveling is buy a gallon of water and pour that into the individual cups. It's typically cheaper and better for the environment too.
Pack a Cooler for Perishable Items
Even though I generally don't like to have perishable items with me on a road trip, sometimes there are things such as hard boiled eggs that are better when "cool". Plus, having a cooler for water means you won't have to stop to re-hydrate as often.
Protein is King
If you can, pack protein - it will keep you going longer and keep you more full. Great protein snacks that I recommend include mixed nuts and hard boiled eggs. Both of those travel really well and are easy to eat. However, in regards to the eggs - either de-shell them before the trip or buy a de-shelled bag. You don't want to mess up the car with pieces of eggshell everywhere!
Pick Foods That Improve Concentration
Along with making sure you pick foods that will keep you hungry it's important to choose snacks that will help your concentration. This is especially true for the driver. Great choices here include Blueberries and dark chocolate. However, dark chocolate tends to melt at a lower temperature compared to milk chocolate, so leave it in the cooler until you are ready to consume it.