Healthful snacks to pack on a road trip

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Summer is here and that means road trips! Along with your suitcases, you will want to pack some snacks! Whether it is for your hunger or the unexpected road delay like excess traffic or road delays, packing your snacks helps you be prepared.

What do Canadians want from their snacks?

Healthy, convenient, easy, variety, and portability – these are the snack food qualities that consumers most want, according to an industry report (1). Health-conscious consumers want snacks that are low salt/sodium, low sugar/sugar free, low calories, small portion sizes, high in fiber, whole grain and high in protein (2). As consumers age, they tend to seek healthier snacks, and snack more on fruits and cheese (2). Have you ever thought about what you want from your snack?

Despite these preferences, sales data (1) shows that the top 5 snacking categories in Canada in 2014 were:

  1. Potato chips, corn snacks
  2. Prepacked cheese
  3. Chocolate
  4. Yogurt
  5. Baked desserts

The top 5 categories showing the most sales growth were (1):

  1. Candied snack
  2. Meat sticks
  3. Fruit and nuts
  4. Dried fruit
  5. Chips, corn snacks.

How does this data fit with your snacking preferences? Do you prefer sweet? Salty? Savoury? Creamy? I favour a salty-snack, followed closely by a sweet preference. With this information in mind, here are some food ideas of what to pack for your next road trip.

Snack ideas for your next road trip:

Using the top 5 snacking categories from 2014 (1) as an organizing framework, here are some snack ideas for your next road trip:

Salty and/or crunchy snacks:

Who doesn’t occasionally enjoy potato chips and corn snacks? If you want something salty or crunchy, but want alternatives to potato chips and corn snacks, here are some ideas:

  • Popcorn

  • Roasted chick peas (store bought or home made)

  • Pistachios
  • Trail mix (for nuts and trail mix, be mindful of your portions – these are ideal for a road trip with some active stops in some of our country’s fabulous parks and hikes along your way.)

  • Roasted seaweed snacks (my kids love these)
  • Roasted soy nuts
  • Snap peas and hummus
  • Crackers + mini cans of tuna
  • Small baggies filled with cereal
  • Edamame beans

  • Apple wedges with nut butter (in a small container)
  • Flavoured mini rice cakes
  • Frozen grapes

Creamy snacks:

Cheese is a creamy and flavourful snack to pack along in your cooler. You can find individual cheese slices at most delis or cheese sticks in the dairy case. Of course, you can also slice up your own portions of your favourite cheeses.

Take a trip to the cheese bar at your grocery store and create your own mini cheese platter with an assortment of your favourite cheese…brie, manchego, smoked Applewood cheddar…that sounds gouda to me!


Sweet snacks:

Love chocolate? Me too! Pack along some dark chocolate squares in your cooler. Their flavour can be intense, allowing you to enjoy chocolate and feel satisfied with less. Experiment with different dark chocolate flavours and brands…flavours include added sea salt (the salt intensifies the sweetness), chocolate orange, cayenne (sweet with heat) and more!  Choose a bar and share with your travel companions.

If you are looking for something sweet, but not chocolate, here are a few more snack ideas:

  • Fresh fruit from a fruit stand along the way. Stop by your local farmer’s market before you go, or, stop along the way to enjoy farm-fresh cherries, apricots, peaches, blueberries and more!

  • Fruit sauce – consider going with apple sauce over a berry sauce to help prevent stains in the case of an accidental spill.
  • Individual pudding cup
  • Chocolate milk
  • 100% whole grain fig newton
  • Fruit leather or dried fruit

  • Bars – There are lots of bars available. Some bars are better than others. Look for bars with real food ingredients, fiber, protein. If you select a bar, choose bars that are ~ <200 kcal. Here is my review of Solo Bars GI(R).



Pack along individual pots of yogurt. Some of my favourites are the Oikos Greek Yogurt Creations. These individual pots of yogurt boast flavours like orange chocolate, chocolate raspberry, lemon meringue, passionate fruit and more! And, with ~ 100 calories/serving, these flavourful little snacks feel like a creamy indulgence. This is my opinion and is #notsponsored.

Other ways to enjoy yogurt include tzatziki with bell peppers or pita.


Baked desserts:

 Of course, who doesn’t enjoy baking on a road trip? Here are a few personal favourites for baking snacks.

If you aren’t packing your own snack, the nutrition food facts label can help guide your choices.Of course, remember to eat safely. If you are the one driving, pull over and enjoy at your next rest stop!


Snacks are snacks…

With snacks, remember that they are snacks – not main meals…or are they? Four out of 10 Canadians use snacks to replace meals (1, 2). This is an interesting consumer trend, and one to reflect on for your eating habits and preferences, both in terms of what kinds of snacks you choose, how much you eat, and how this fits in with your wellness goals.

Keep your portion size in mind as it relates to your hunger and fullness.

Want a list of DIY 100 calorie snack packs? Contact me and I will share with you!


One final thought about snacking in the car – are you hungry or bored?

Road trips can get boring! While many of us like to snack to relieve our boredom, if you are on a long trip, that can be a lot of snacking!

Here are some additional ideas on relieving boredom on a road trip, beyond just eating:

  • Make and listen to a new music playlist. Or hit shuffle on your music and enjoy tapping your toes to your old favourites.
  • Listen to a new audio book. It is like having your own live book club where you can share your insights with your travel companions!
  • Consider subscribing to satellite radio for your trip. You’ll have access to hundreds of stations.
  • Create conversation cards – My husband and I have “conversation cards” – where we save big topics needing discussion for road trips. Conversation cards can be about finances…how are we doing with our financial goals? What is on our wish list for the next year, two years, five years…. Other conversation cards include travel (where do we hope to travel), personal fitness goals, personal eating goals, career goals, interesting books you have read and so on.
  • Play car games – road trip bingo, counting yellow vehicles (“chicken”), 20 questions and more.

I’d love to hear your ideas for passing the boredom of driving.

Happy snacking!



1) Nielsen Market Track, National All Channels + Convenience and Gas (C&G) – 52 Week period ending September 2014.

2) Fernando J. Competitiveness and Market Analysis Branch, Alberta Agriculture and Forestry. Snacking and mini-meal trends in Canada: How to take a bite out of Canada’s snack food market. Consumer Corner. February 2016, Issue 35.

Kristyn Hall
Kristyn Hall
Kristyn Hall MSc, RD Nutritionist and Registered Dietitian Calgary, AB.


  1. Corinna says:

    Great ideas! Thank you!

  2. Kristyn Hall says:

    You are welcome Corinna! Do you have any other favourites you like to pack along that I missed?

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