How and Why to Pack Healthy Food for a Road Trip

Are you planning a road trip, but are worried about what to eat? You aren’t exactly enthused about buying food at gas stations? Don’t like the costs or the quality of their food?

If you’d like to avoid that, you might need to prepare the food yourself. Whether you’re traveling alone or with your family or friends, you don’t need to do that much work ahead of time. You’ll need to plan your daily meals and prepare them accordingly.

This guide will help you understand how and why to pack healthy food for your road trip. We’ll go over the basic aspects you should keep in mind, and our tips should help you get organized.

Steaming food tray with lid
image of meal kit ready for road trip

Is Eating Healthy on a Trip Important?

While you won’t cause any irreparable damage by eating junk food on your road trip, if you have the means, you should definitely invest in healthier snacks. That’s especially true if your diet is on the healthier side in everyday life. Doing that will allow you to continue eating healthily even when traveling.

Preparing healthy travel food will also save you from eating at diners or gas stations, so if you dread those kinds of places, you’ll have an additional excuse to pack healthy meals.

Tips in Packing Food for a Road Trip

Wrap Properly

When you wrap the meals, snacks, or ingredients properly, they won’t mix, all while remaining fresh longer. That way, you’ll avoid any odor cross-contamination, as well as the tastes of individual items.

You should pack them all separately, too. You’ll want to isolate breakfast from lunches and dinners, and you’ll want to keep snacks apart from regular meals.

Use a Cooler for Refrigerated Food

This goes without saying, especially if you’ll need to travel for several days. These coolers aren’t too expensive, either, and they can be lifesavers on longer trips. They can even help your meat last much longer, and your fruits and veggies should remain fresh as long as it’s necessary.

Use Sealable Containers

You’ll want to pack individual ingredients or meals into containers that can be fully sealed from the outside. That should help them last longer by keeping any additional air out, and it will preserve the food’s natural moisture and taste.

Bring Individual Condiment Packages

Another useful thing for road trips is small packs of condiments, those little packets that usually contain enough for a single serving. These are much more practical for long journeys, as they allow you to only open as much as you require, while the rest can wait until you need more.

Break Down Snacks into Small Servings

This can be useful to stop you from eating the whole package. Eating snacks can be distracting, and if your mind is focused on the road, it can be difficult to assess how much you ate. And if you have small packages of snacks, you’ll only eat as little as you have ready.

Avoid Glass Containers

While reusable glass containers can reduce the amount of trash, they aren’t as convenient. They also take up much more space and can be unwieldy or difficult to manage and store. They’re also much easier to break, and broken glass can be a nightmare on the road.

Plan Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

You should also plan every meal for each day of the trip. That way, you’ll know how many ingredients you need to take and how much you can eat for each meal. And, at the same time, with a proper plan, you’ll stop yourself from overeating and gaining weight while traveling.

image of lunch in nature

Food That Is Great for Traveling

Sandwiches

When preparing your sandwiches, you should use deli meats such as pepperoni, ham, or salami, because they can last longer. You can also use cheese or veggies, and the ingredients themselves are up to your preferences.

Cookies and Nuts

Cookies and nuts can be great snacks between meals, and they don’t require much preparation. You should plan out the number of servings, though. That will make it easier to reach them and you won’t go through your whole supply on the first day.

Fruits and Vegetables

Another great and healthy snack are fruits such as apples, oranges, grapes, or berries. You might need a cooler to keep them fresh, and you might want to prioritize them over other snacks, as they won’t last as long.

Drinks

Your choice of drinks depends on your preferences. You’ll probably want some coffee, so you should either fill out a thermos or have a sufficient supply of instant coffee. Other than that, it’s up to you to pack water, soda, tea, or something entirely different like smoothie.

Cooked Meats/Fish

These should also be placed in a cooler, and they can be a great solution for your lunches or dinners. That way, you don’t need to stop at restaurants or diners.

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Jerky

This is another great and healthy snack item. Best of all, they’re non-perishable, which means that you don’t need to store them in your cooler.

Protein Bars and Crackers

Crackers and protein bars are healthy snacks. You can dish them out between meals to your kids, or you can eat them yourselves to help you manage your hunger until the next meal.

image of protein bars

Salads

When bringing salads, you should pack them separately. You should only apply condiments when you’re ready to eat them. That should help preserve the flavor. You can store them in your cooler.

Eggs

Hard-boiled eggs are a great source of protein and they can last a day or two, which can make them an ideal addition for shorter trips.

Sweets

Whether you’ll pack any sweets (our top 10 delivery services) depends on your personal preferences. If you’re traveling with children, they may be necessary, but you should be careful of giving them too much at once.

Additional Things You Need When Packing for a Road Trip

Disposable Trash Bag

When you’re on a road trip, you’ll need a bag just for trash. You’ll place any packaging there, as well as any leftovers, spoiled food, and single-serve plates, forks, or spoons.

Plastic Spoon and Fork

Single-use plastic utensils can be a great way to avoid bringing your silverware on your road trip. You’ll use them and throw them away when you’re done.

Paper Towels or Wipes

Paper napkins, wipes, or towels are another must. They’ll help you minimize the staining while providing you with a means to clean yourself up after a meal, especially if you’re driving.

Hand Sanitizer

Since you most likely won’t have running water on your road trip, you’ll need a way to clean your hands up before eating. Hand sanitizers are a great way to do that.

image of products in plastic containers

How to Extend Your Food's Shelf Life on the Road

There are several ways to extend your food’s shelf life while traveling. You can use a cooler that you can fill up with ice packs, and that will keep most of your perishable food from spoiling. There are also electric versions that get their power from your car’s battery.

Another way to maintain the freshness is to pack each ingredient individually, and only open them when you’re planning on eating them.

Benefits of Bringing Road Trip Food

Money-saving

By bringing your own food you’re saving all the money you’d otherwise spend on gas stations, diners, or restaurants. And, at the same time, the costs of ingredients are also lower, which further increases the amount you’ll save. This can be especially prominent if you’re a frequent traveler – in the long run, these costs can add up and get quite big.

Time-saving

You’ll also be saving much more time by eating in your car, regardless of whether you’re stopping somewhere along the road or driving the whole time. You won’t have to find a parking space, you won’t need to wait for your turn and as soon as you’re done, you can continue driving right away.

Less Food Waste

When you plan out your meals for the duration of your trip, you’ll usually end up eating everything. You won’t have as much wasted food, and your reusable containers will reduce the amount of packaging you’d otherwise leave behind you. That also means that you won’t waste any money on food you won’t eat.

Time-saving Healthier Food Options

Whether you’re eating healthy food in your everyday life or not, when you prepare the meals for your trip yourself, you know exactly what’s in them. You also know which ingredients you used and in what quantities, which can make planning your daily meals much more manageable.

Steaming food tray with lid

Frequently Asked Questions

What food should I eat when driving alone?

When traveling alone, it might be safest to keep your cooler and food stash away from you. You can still keep a bottle of water nearby, and you can eat anything you want when you’re making a stop, whether it’s for refueling, restroom, or a break to rest.

What are the best road trip snack recipes?

It depends on your preferences. Maybe you’d prefer a good sandwich or some jerky, or maybe you’d like some veggies like carrots or fruits such as oranges or apples better. Whichever of these options you choose, you’ll need to pack them accordingly and eat them before they go bad.

What healthy car snacks are great for kids?

If you’d like a healthy snack for your kids, you might try nuts as long as there are no allergies. These will keep them busy, and they contain enough nutrients to be worthwhile. Alternatively, you could pick dried fruits, or you could give them dry cereal. These should cover most kids’ tastes.

Conclusion

You don’t need to eat junk food while traveling. With a little preparation, you can continue eating healthy meals even while driving. And, at the same time, you’ll save the time and money you’d otherwise spend on gas-station food or restaurants.

With a little planning, you’ll eat all the food you take, and you’ll still know exactly what you’re packing and how it will affect you while you travel. That way, you don’t need to stop your healthier lifestyle and rely on junk food. You’ll also produce less waste.

All of that can be especially meaningful if you travel frequently – these costs do add up and can get quite large in time. These savings will only be more meaningful the more you’re on the road.