CarRentals.com
Select Page

Imagine this: you’re singing along to that new hit song with the windows down, driving through a beautiful, open desert. You’re catching that wanderlust feeling since there’s no one and nothing in sight. Then all of a sudden your stomach reminds you it’s lunchtime and that you’re in the middle of nowhere — plus that box of stale crackers won’t check hunger off the list. 

Well, it’s time to tell your stomach to be quiet — we have a list of 22 healthy road trip meals and snacks that will keep you energized the entire trip. We cover the wonderful benefits of packing and preparing your own food. We also show you how to efficiently pack your cooler for fresh road trip meals the whole route. 

Jump to Full Infographic

Benefits of Packing Your Own Road Trip Food 

Packing your own food can seem like a hassle at first but once you realize that the positives outweigh the negatives, you’ll want to make all our delicious recipes that are guaranteed to make you hungry. Here are a few benefits of packing your travel food.

real meals on the road benefits

 

1. You Save Money

As we all know, eating out is much more expensive than whipping something up in the kitchen. The average fast-food and fast-casual meal costs $6 and $12 respectively. This all adds up pretty quickly when traveling as a family. You may be cutting corners at first by not preparing meals, but in the long run, it’ll cost you.

2. You Use Less Waste

Reusable containers can cut your waste down to nearly nothing! Especially since you’ll want to eat every one of our road trip meal recipes. Drive-thrus use tons of plastic and wrappers to deliver your meal. An average restaurant produces 100,000 pounds of garbage per year! Help solve the waste issue by eating food you bring from home.

3. You Save Time

When you want to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible, frequent stopping isn’t on the list. Instead, you can reach into your cooler and pull out a delicious mason jar salad to keep you satisfied.

4. You Eat Healthier

We can all admit that we’re not too sure about all the ingredients in the food we eat out. One meal at a restaurant can hold all the calories you need in a whole day! You can skip those unwanted ingredients by serving up a dish from below.

Now that you know the benefits of preparing food at home or on the road, let’s dive into your road trip menu selection!

 

Healthy and Easy Road Trip Meals for The Entire Family 

healthy road trip meals

Perishable foods come and go but these recipes will last forever, or until you reach your last stop! If there’s limited space in the car, adding a large cooler isn’t helpful. It’s also not helpful when you’re worried about your food spoiling, so here are some tasty meals that can be served at room temperature. Be sure to read through each recipe carefully. We do recommend making some of these meals before you hit the road so that preparation goes as smooth as possible.

1. Peanut Butter Banana Sushi

Our creative twist on sushi that stays fresh. We also call this meal breakfast sushi because it’s a sweet meal to wake up to. You’ll want to make this meal ahead of time since it can get tricky to cut the meal in the car into sushi pieces. For this meal, spread peanut butter on a tortilla and add bite-sized banana slices. Then, sprinkle cinnamon on top and roll up all the ingredients in the tortilla. Lastly, cut the rolled-up tortilla into sushi-sized bites. The meal will stay fresh unrefrigerated until the end of the day.

Ingredients: 

  • 1 whole-grain tortilla
  • 2 spoonfuls of peanut butter 
  • 1 whole banana 
  • Sprinkle of cinnamon 
  • Roll up all the ingredients in the tortilla
  • Cut into sushi sized bites 

Benefit: Entertaining meals on the road perk up your mood, and bananas are also good for your energy! You’ll also get a load of antioxidants from the sprinkled cinnamon on top.

2. Banana Apple Toast

If you have a sweet tooth but want to stay healthy on the road, this is the perfect meal for you. We call it a grown-up version of the PB&J, plus it can be a tasty breakfast. You’ll want to make this before hitting the road. Toast one slice of whole-grain bread, then add thinly sliced apple slices on top along with bite-sized banana pieces. Drizzle with honey to finish. The meal will stay fresh unrefrigerated until the end of the day.

Ingredients: 

  • 1 slice of whole-grain toast
  • 1 apple into thin slices
  • 1 whole banana 
  • Honey drizzle

Benefit: Apples and bananas are good for your heart while honey contains antioxidants to keep you sharp.

3. No-Bake Oat Bites

These energy-filled bites will help you get your day started. Preparing this meal at home is advised. You’ll simply mix all the ingredients together and roll into bite-sized balls. It’s important to let them sit for an hour before eating. The meal will stay fresh unrefrigerated for about two days. Make sure to not leave the meal in a hot car, as it will melt.

Ingredients: 

  • 1 cup of rolled oats
  • ½ cup of almond butter
  • A handful of craisins
  • ⅓ cup of honey
  • 5 drops of vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup of Dark chocolate chips

Benefit: This tasty ball of energy is packed with nutrients and is the perfect way to start your day on the road.

4. Avocado Honey Bagel

This meal is perfectly nutritious and delicious to get your day started. This may be easier to prepare at home, but can still be done in the car. You may store all these ingredients in a reusable bag. If being done in the car, make sure to bring a knife and a plate to make preparation easier. You’ll start by cutting your bagel in half and smearing avocado on each half. Then top with a handful of evenly distributed pistachios. Lastly, drizzle with honey and place in a sealed container for the car. The meal will stay fresh unrefrigerated until the end of the day.

Ingredients: 

  • 1 whole-grain bagel 
  • 1 avocado
  • Handful of pistachios
  • Honey drizzle

Benefit: This is perfect for those who enjoy unique flavors and need a jumpstart to their day.

5. Tuna Salad

When it’s time for lunch, you’ll “tuna”-round those cravings with this salad. This meal is to be prepared in the car right before consumption. You may store all these ingredients in a reusable bag. Make sure to bring a fork, a knife and a bowl to make preparation easier. First, you’ll take your tuna out from the can and empty it into a bowl. Next, mash a whole avocado and add it with the cranberries into the tuna. Use whole-grain crackers to dip into your tuna salad.

Ingredients: 

  • 1 large can of tuna
  • 1 avocado
  • ½ cup of cranberries
  • A packet of whole-grain crackers

Benefit: This is a well-balanced meal that will satisfy your tummy and is filled with lean protein and healthy fats.

6. Chicken Salad Sandwich

For those long road trips, this meal is the one for you. This meal is to be prepared in the car right upon consumption. You may store all these ingredients in a reusable bag. Make sure to bring a can opener and a plate to make preparation easier. First, open the canned chicken (any size will do, depending on how many people you’re feeding) and empty onto a slice of whole-grain bread. Then, throw on top pickled veggies from an unopened jar. Lastly, spread packaged condiments of your choice on the bread and sandwich altogether.

Ingredients: 

  • 1–2 cans of chicken
  • 1 jar of pickled veggies
  • Packaged condiments
  • 2 slices of whole-grain bread

Benefit: One of the only unrefrigerated meals that you can get veggies in to keep you energized on the go! Plus you get the satisfaction of a sandwich for lunch.

7. Bean and Cheese Burrito

Burritos are one of the most filling meals you can indulge in on a road trip. Make sure to bring a can opener and a plate to make preparation easier. This meal is to be prepared in the car right upon consumption. You may store all these ingredients in a reusable bag. The recipe is easy too. Simply wrap and distribute all ingredients as you please within the tortilla. 

Ingredients: 

  • 1 whole-grain tortilla wrap
  • 1 medium-sized can of black beans
  • Gouda cheese slices

Benefit: Incredibly simple and a healthy guilty pleasure to pick you up when you’re feeling the road trip slump.

8. Taco Bowl

It’s a road trip fiesta when dining in your car with this meal. This meal is to be prepared in the car right upon consumption. Make sure to bring a can opener and a bowl to make preparation easier. You may store all these ingredients in a reusable bag. This meal is easily crafted since you’ll throw all the ingredients in a travel container. Make sure to keep canned/jarred food closed until consumption.

Ingredients: 

  • 1 can of beef
  • ½ of a small jar of salsa
  • Bag of tortilla chips
  • 1 can of beans
  • 1 avocado

Benefit: This meal is very nutritious and gluten-free as well. The meal is balanced in carbs, proteins and healthy fats to keep you full on the road.

 

Creative and Healthy Kid Snacks On The Go

healthy kid snacks on a road trip

We rounded up some of the most entertaining and filling snacks to keep your kiddos energized during the drive. Yes, some of these are snacks for the kiddos but who said you can’t join in on the fun? To keep the kids busy when they aren’t snacking, check out these road trip games.

9. Caterpillar Kabobs

This snack is bunches of fun and made from bunches of grapes. You’ll want to make this before hitting the road. You’ll first grab a paddle skewer (safe for the kids) then wiggle grapes on one by one. Place in a reusable container until ready for consumption. The snack will stay fresh in an ice cooler for three days.

Ingredients: 

  • 5–7 paddle skewers
  • A bunch of green grapes

Benefit: Grapes are jam-packed with nutrients including vitamins C and K. Plus, these caterpillar sticks are too cute to not try.

10. Ant Logs

Don’t let this meal name scare you! This snack is a great mix of fruit and protein to keep kids full. You have the choice of making this meal beforehand or while in the car. If preparing in the car, make sure to bring a knife and a plate to make preparation easier. Spread peanut butter on top of celery sticks and add craisins on top, which resemble the ants. If you are to make this meal before hitting the road, place in a reusable container and the snack will stay fresh in an ice cooler for three to four days.

Ingredients: 

  1. 5–7 celery sticks
  2. Peanut butter
  3. Craisins 

Benefit: These are highly entertaining, easy to create and can be served at room temperature.

11. Apple Cookies

Kids sometimes need a little sweetness for long car rides. You’ll want to make this before hitting the road. Cut an apple into slices that resemble a cookie, then layer the rest of the ingredients in between two slices to make the snack look like an apple sandwich. The snack will stay fresh in an ice cooler for two days.

Ingredients: 

  • 2 green apples
  • Peanut butter
  • Dark chocolate chips
  • Almond slices

Benefit: Your little one will be tricked into eating a nutritious sweet remix of a cookie!

12. Necklace Snack

A snack that you can wear and enjoy! You have the choice of making this meal beforehand or while in the car. If preparing in the car, make sure to bring a plate to make preparation easier. You’ll loop together Cheerios and pretzels on a string to resemble a necklace for your kiddos to wear and snack on. Store these snacks in an airtight bag to keep them fresh longer. 

Ingredients: 

  • String
  • Cheerios
  • Pretzels 

Benefit: This snack keeps your little ones busy for a while.

13. Cheese and Apple Pirate Ships

Ahoy, matey! These cheese and apple pirate ships are adorable and something you’ll love to have on the road. You’ll want to make this before hitting the road if you do not have pre-cut apple slices or cheese squares. Cut the apples into wedges to look like the base of a boat. Attach the cheese to toothpicks and stick on the apple to resemble a flag. Pack into a reusable container and bring out for snack time! The snack will stay fresh in an ice cooler for two days.

Ingredients: 

  • Pack of toothpicks
  • Bag of apple slices
  • 6–8 tiny squares of cheddar cheese 

Benefit: Apples are a great source of fiber and antioxidants and cheese is a great source of calcium. This snack will surely amaze your little ones.

 

Healthy Road Trip Snacks to Hold You Over

healthy road trip snacks

Sometimes road trips can feel a little dull, especially right around the midway point. In the middle of your journey, you start to think there’s nothing that will motivate you to reach your destination. It’s sometimes boring and you’ll likely lose energy the longer you’re in the car. Luckily, we have a list of snacks to hold you over.

14. Healthy Trail Mix Remix

When you need a substantial snack, trail mix is the perfect choice to keep you energized. You’ll want to make this before hitting the road. We also remixed the recipe so don’t worry about feeling fatigued after. Simply mix all the ingredients together and pack into reusable bags to eat later. This trail mix can stay fresh unrefrigerated for up to a week if not left in a hot car.

Ingredients: 

  • ½ cup of craisins 
  • ¼ cup of pumpkin seeds
  • ¼ cup of dark chocolate
  • ⅓ cup of almonds 
  • ½ cup of walnuts 
  • 1 ½ cups of plain popcorn

Benefit: Pumpkin seeds are very nutritious and contain protein, iron, magnesium and more. The craisins will help boost low blood sugar when you’re feeling tired.

15. Mason Jar Hummus

A very healthy snack that curbs any bad cravings, hummus is a delicious choice for the road. Make sure to pack your hummus into the mason jar first and then the veggies. The snack will stay fresh in an ice cooler for three days.

Ingredients: 

  • 1 mason jar
  • 1 cup of hummus
  • Carrot sticks
  • Celery sticks

Benefit: Hummus is filled with plant-based protein and can help fight inflammation.

16. Zucchini Chips

This snack takes some prepping but won’t slow you down on the road. You’ll want to make this before hitting the road. You’ll cut the zucchini into thin slices then drizzle lemon juice, dill and salt. Put in the oven on low (225º F) for two hours and voila! The snack will stay fresh unrefrigerated for three days in an airtight container.

Ingredients: 

  • 2–3 zucchinis
  • A handful of fresh chopped dill
  • Lemon juice
  • Salt to season

Benefit: This snack is perfect for when you’re “bored hungry.” Zucchini has loads of vitamins and anti-inflammatory qualities so you don’t have to feel guilty about eating the whole container.

17. Almond Butter Strawberry Sandwich

This snack is a cute little sandwich made from fruit that’s extremely tasty and easy to make. You’ll want to make this before hitting the road. You’ll slice each strawberry in half and smear the inside with almond butter, then put the halves back together. The snack will stay fresh in a cooler for two days in an airtight container.

Ingredients: 

  • 6–8 strawberries
  • Almond butter

Benefit: Strawberries are incredibly rich in antioxidants while almond butter fills you up with healthy fats and protein.

18. Peppers and Guac

A spin-off of chips and guac that will leave you feeling light and satisfied. You’ll want to make this before hitting the road. There are many ways to craft guacamole but use our ingredients below as guidance. Mash together with a whole avocado with chopped tomatoes, diced onions, cilantro and seasoning. Slice the bell pepper into sticks to dip. The snack will stay fresh in a cooler for two days in an airtight container.

Ingredients: 

  • 1–2 avocados
  • 1–2 tomatoes
  • ½ an onion
  • Cup of cilantro 
  • Salt and pepper
  • Tablespoon of lemon juice
  • 3-4 bell peppers

Benefit: Avocados are packed with potassium, fiber and healthy fats. They are said to boost brain power as well!

 

Road Trip Food That Requires a Cooler

Bringing an ice cooler on the road with you opens up a whole extra category for meals, and they are quite tasty too. If you’re able to bring a cooler along, try out these recipes to satisfy all cravings you may have. We do recommend making these meals before you hit the road so that preparation goes as smooth as possible. You can follow our ice cooler packing tips below to make sure everything is organized and tidy. Be aware that each meal has a different expiration date when packed on ice.

19. Mason Jar Salad

For all you super health nuts out on the road, this to-go salad is perfect for your road trip lunch or dinner. You’ll want to make this before hitting the road. Make sure to put the vinegar and oil in first so it stays at the bottom of the jar until you are ready to mix and eat the salad. The meal will stay fresh in a cooler for two days in an airtight mason jar.

Ingredients: 

  • 1 mason jar
  • ⅛ cup of vinegar
  • ⅛ cup of oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Spring mix lettuce
  • Chopped carrots
  • Chopped celery
  • ¼ cup of pumpkin seeds

Benefit:  No need to worry about eating badly since this is an easy way to bring a salad on the road.

20. Turkey Pinwheels

A fun and incredibly tasty pinwheel meal on wheels. You’ll want to make this before hitting the road. You first will layout the tortilla, then layer with cheese and turkey. Lastly, roll up the ingredients inside the tortilla and cut into round slices. The meal will stay fresh in a cooler for one and a half days in an airtight container.

Ingredients: 

  • 1 whole-grain tortilla
  • 2 provolone cheese slices
  • 3–4 turkey lunch slices

Benefit: This is a very easy meal to eat without having to pull over. Plus, you get your healthy fats and lean protein in for the day.

21. Chicken Caesar Kale Wrap

A classic wrap that’s easy to take with you on the road. If you don’t find time to cook the chicken, grab some precooked chicken strips that are just as delicious. We recommend preparing beforehand. First, layout the tortilla, then smear the avocado onto the tortilla. Next cut the tomato into bite-sized pieces and lay on the tortilla. Then add the chicken strips, parmesan cheese and kale. Lastly, drizzle with caesar dressing. The meal will stay fresh in a cooler for one and a half days in an airtight container.

Ingredients: 

  • 1 whole-grain tortilla
  • 1 cup of cooked chicken strips
  • 1 roma tomato
  • 1 avocado
  • Parmesan cheese sprinkles
  • 1 cup of kale 
  • ¼ cup of caesar dressing

Benefit: One of the main benefits is how delicious this guilt-free wrap is! The meal is perfectly balanced to get all the necessary nutrients in one meal.

22. Tuna Salad Nori Wraps

This wrap whips up some creativity in the kitchen and requires preparation beforehand. Lay all ingredients (starting with the tuna) on the seaweed and wrap them up tightly to complete the dish. Lay the carrot sticks and cucumber sticks vertically inside the seaweed. Cut the avocado into slices and lay them out vertically as well. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper before wrapping up. The meal will stay fresh in a cooler for one and a half days in an airtight container.

Ingredients: 

  • 6 nori seaweed sheets
  • 1 large can of tuna
  • Olive oil drizzle
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 avocado 
  • A handful of pre-cut carrot sticks
  • A handful of pre-cut cucumber sticks

Benefit: This wrap is on the lighter side since the base is just seaweed, but it will satisfy you with lots of healthy nutrients.

23. Cream Cheese Ham Wheels

A fun and incredibly tasty pinwheel meal on wheels. We recommend preparing beforehand. You first will layout the tortilla, then layer with cream cheese and ham. Lastly, roll up the tortilla and ingredients and cut into round slices. The meal will stay fresh in a cooler for one and a half days in an airtight container.

Ingredients: 

  • 1 whole-grain tortilla
  • 3 tablespoons of cream cheese
  • 3–4 ham lunch slices

Benefit: This is a very easy meal to eat without having to pull over. Plus you get your healthy fats and lean protein in for the day.

 

How to Pack an Ice Cooler

Sometimes the food we crave requires some upkeep to stay fresh. Read on for a handful of tips to keep everything chilled and make your ice cooler food last. 

ice cooler packing tips

 

Tip 1 – Use Ice Packs and Ice Cubes to Fill Crevices

Ice packs stay cold longer and keep intact, which is essential to keeping your food safe. Ice cubes help keep crevices that ice packs can’t reach colder for longer. Don’t worry if your ice melts — keep it inside the cooler and take a look at the next tip to see why.

Tip 2 – Keep You Cooler Shaded, Closed and Do Not Drain Melted Ice

Keeping your cooler shaded and closed may be obvious, but we want to emphasize the importance of this to keep all your delicious homemade travel meals safe! Another tip that may surprise you is that you’ll want to keep the melted ice inside the cooler because it can still help keep your food fresh.

Tip 3 – Prechill Your Cooler and Freeze Food/Drinks That Will Be Used Later

You can easily prechill your cooler by filling it with cold tap water and adding a bag or so of ice. For best results, do this 12 hours before your trip begins. Right before you start packing, dump out the ice water. You can also use frozen drinks, such as water and juice, as ice packs.

Tip 4 – Avoid Plastic Bags and Use Airtight Containers for Freshness

Plastic bags aren’t the best way to keep your food fresh since air can still potentially get through. Airtight containers are much better since they don’t allow air in to spoil the food as quickly. Plus, they’re better at preventing leaks.

Tip 5 – Keep Warm Items and Beer out of the Cooler to Save Space

As important as it is to bring beer on a road trip, you might want to save it for the trunk. Bottles and cans take up space and don’t keep cold well, making it inefficient to place next to food that needs to stay cold.

 

Even though you’ll save time with all your delicious homemade goods in the car, we still caution you to drive according to the law. If you’re flying in and renting a car or starting from home, we hope that one of these recipes fancies you and your fellow riders. Check out some of our other road trip hacks for the best ride yet.