Most kids want to eat junk, junk and more junk—especially on vacation. Trying to get them to eat healthy snacks—let alone something they enjoy and might actually ask for—is just another battle. So we turned to the experts for some healthy, non-boring snack ideas for the road—and how to prepare them.
1. Make-Your-Own Bento Boxes
“Snacks are really just mini-meals, and need the same components in order to nourish our kids and keep them full until the next meal,” says Lori Zabka, a nutrition coach and personal trainer. “They need a combination of protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates.”
Zabka creates Bento boxes as snacks because there’s a compartment for each macronutrient. “Instead of handing my son a bag of chips, I might give him some rolled up organic turkey lunch meat ‘cigars,’ some gluten-free pretzels, an apple and carrot slices. I’ll add some ranch dressing for dipping.” Another Bento snack box idea: popcorn, string cheese, and grapes. If your child is more adventurous, try hummus, veggies, a few cheese blocks, and some blood orange slices.
Related: 9 Best Lunch Boxes for Kids
2. Make-Your-Own Trail Mix
Nuts, seeds, and dried fruit can be mixed together at home for trail mix. Zabka suggests giving kids some say in how much of each ingredient to use. Or, buy pre-made trail mix for an easy, healthy snack.
3. Cracker Stackers
“Try cracker stackers,” suggests Kerry Clifford MS, RD of Fresh Thyme Farmers Market. “Kids can start with a whole-grain cracker and top it with items such as sunflower seed butter, yogurt, berries, raisins, or even dark chocolate morsels.”
3. Yogurt and Berries
4. Greek Yogurt Dip and Veggies
5. Apple Chips (Unsweetened)
“Apple chips (unsweetened ones) are a good choice because they contain fiber and beneficial phytochemicals,” says Summer Yule, MS, RDN and Health Educator. (Phytochemicals are natural chemicals found in plant-based foods).
6. Hummus Packs
Shelf-stable hummus packs with whole-grain crackers are great for road trips, suggests Yule. Kids who like to dip things may find this option appealing. This snack contains protein and fiber from the hummus, plus B vitamins from the crackers.
7. Nut Butter and Banana
“Nuts and nut butters are great because they contain all three macronutrients: protein, fat, and carbohydrates,” says Zabka. Nut butter pouches are easy to travel with, and can be paired with an apple or a banana.
Not only is edamame good and good for you, but it’s fun to eat.
9. Air-Popped Popcorn
11. Cheese Sticks
String cheese is a good, easy choice—and it’s mess-proof.
12. Grass-Fed Beef Sticks
“I love combining items such as Lorissa’s Kitchen’s grass-fed beef sticks that are a good source of protein and low in sugar, with snack size mixes of cut-up veggies—like carrots, pea pods and jicama—for good carbs that are full of fiber,” says Christina Meyer-Jax, MS, RDN, and an advisor for Lorissa’s Kitchen.
“Blue Diamond Snack Almonds provide protein and healthy fat to help kids feel satisfied while providing a variety of additional nutrients, including fiber,” says Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN, creator of BetterThanDieting.com, and author of Read It Before You Eat It – Taking You from Label to Table.” Your kids will stay satisfied for the entire drive—and parents love them, too!”
How to Prepare Healthy Road Trip Snacks
Pair the right food. “From a nutritional standpoint, the main goal for a healthy snack is a balance between a healthy carbohydrate and a protein,” says Skylar Nelson, an RDN who focuses on non-diet, habit-based nutrition. “This helps to manage blood sugar and keeps snackers feeling full until lunch or dinner.”
Always provide options. If kids are picky eaters, Nelson suggests providing two healthy options and letting them make the final choice. “Kids like options and knowing they are making decisions,” he says.
Offer the same snack again and again. “Picky eaters need continual exposure to the non-preferred foods while they expand their palate,” says Summer Yule, MS, RDN and a Health Educator. What this means is that parents have to keep offering kids healthy food options over and over again—even when traveling.
Get the kids involved. One way to get kids to eat healthier snacks, such as fruit? Dehydrate it. “Make it a project,” says Michael Jay Nusbaum, MD, FACS, FASMBS, Surgical Director of the Metabolic Medicine and Weight Control Center for Atlantic Health and Chief of Bariatric Surgery at Morristown Medical Center. “Buy a food dehydrator, cut up the fruit with the kids and make it together. The kids become fascinated with the transformation. Suddenly banana chips are crispy and fun. Strawberry slices are chewy and filled with flavor.