I’ve loved a good road trip for as long as I can remember. Whether it was heading out of town with my girlfriends, going on a family trip with my parents and sisters, or planning a getaway with Chris, nothing is as re-energizing for me than a change of scenery.
But the game changed when I had kids. It's not as easy to pack last minute or fly by the seat of my pants in the planning department. And if you have kids, I'm sure you understand so I want to help your next road trip be a little less time intensive when it comes to planning and a little healthier when it comes to food and fun. Let’s look at how I approach road trips with kids these days, from the foods we pack to the activities I plan, plus a few extra road trip essentials to keep you hydrated and road trip food fresh!
If you know me, you know I love to start with a strong “why.” Our “why” is the driver behind the decisions we make (this is why I believe in developing mindfulness through meditation and journaling). Here are both some practical and higher-level questions to ask before a trip:
→ Do I want my child strapped into a car seat on a sugar high…is that fair to them?
→ How will these foods travel? Easy to open, pack or eat? How long will they stay fresh?
→ How do hours of screen usage affect my child’s behavior and happiness?
→ What food and screen time boundaries are appropriate for this age and stage?
Let your answers motivate your planning and your packing!
Road Trip Grub:
Creating balanced snacks to help our kids thrive is one of the many important jobs we have as parents. Just as the blood sugar roller coaster can cause us to crash, crave, and feel all the hunger-related emotions, it will cause your kids to experience the same thing without the impulse control we have as adults. By serving snacks high in protein, healthy fats, and fiber, you will keep blood sugar levels stable, especially in the car, for an extended time. Unfortunately, road trips have become synonymous with hyper-palatable and highly processed chips, crackers, cookies, and candies. But guess what? That gas-station junk food isn’t doing you or your kids any favors. Here’s my take on road trip food: I want it to be nourishing and healthy and easy to prep, pack, keep, and eat. I promise, though – it can still be special and fun! The goal is for me and my family to arrive at our destination feeling energized and ready to make some memories rather than sluggish, tired, and blah. Not to mention the negative effect junk food has on immunity. Vacation is not the time I want to self-sabotage our ability to fight off sicknesses!
Here are a few points when it comes to snacking:
Stick with the Fab 4 philosophy and hit as many as possible: protein, fat, fiber, and greens! My Fab 4 approach will keep you and your family balanced and satiated. We want to stay away from the constant grazing on high-sugar, high-carb snacks that give us a hit of energy (blood sugar spike!) only to leave us tired, sluggish, and craving more carbs (blood sugar crash!) an hour or two later. This roller coaster isn’t good at any time, but especially not when we’re stuck in a car all day together. Why? Practically speaking, an over-consumption of nutritionally-deficient calories will leave us feeling tired, hangry, irritable and moody. Instead, eat to balance your blood sugar, and it’ll help balance moods and cravings in the process!
Fab 4 Easy Pairings
- Fruit + Fat Dip: Fruits should be in whole (not dried, juiced, etc.) form to retain their fiber and they should be consumed with protein or fat to blunt the blood sugar spike. Example: Apples with nut butter.
- Veggies + Fat Dip: Water-rich veggies support your child's hydration naturally if your ascending a mountain without extra potty breaks. Example: Celery and carrots + hummus!
- Complex Carbs + Fat and Protein: Pairing your complex carbs with a fat + protein will slow the digestive process of glucose and keep you feeling fuller for longer. Example: Simple Mills crackers + tuna salad or plantain chips + guac cups!
- Protein + Sauce: Choose a complete protein and pair it with your favorite sugar-free dip for extra flavor. Example: Thinly sliced chicken breasts sliced into sticks or No fail meatballs + Primal Kitchen ketchup.
- DIY Trail Mix: Raw mixed nuts/seeds + small handful of dark chocolate (we love Hu Kitchen gems!)
Now that you know the formulas, let’s look at some of my favorite foods for travel:
- Veggies with Dips: I like to rinse and chop up our favorite non-starchy veggies, then store them in a Stasher bag to keep them fresh and serve with homemade Avocado Hummus, Wild Friends nut butter, Sunny Fine Foods Tahini Dips, or Primal Kitchen Ranch Dressing (use code KELLYSFAVORITES for 15% off your order of $40 or more).
- Pasture Bird Chicken: All you need to do is thinly slice chicken breasts, pop in the oven for 12-15 minutes at 400 degrees with a little salt and garlic, and store in a small Stasher bag for the road. When were ready for a snack, I serve it up with Primal Kitchen Ketchup or Chipotle aioli! Use code BEWELLBYKELLY for 10% off your order at Pasturebird.com!
- Hard Boiled eggs: I love Vital Farms hard-boiled egg packets (or make your own!)
- Beef Sticks: Chomps Beef Sticks or Thrive Market beef sticks are delicious sugar-free options, serving up 8-10 grams of protein per stick.
- Dried Fruit: For when we’re craving something sweet, dried apple crisps from Bare Snacks or fresh apple slices dipped in Wild Friends nut butter travel packs is a go-to of ours.
- Pork Rinds: Another fan favorite and convenient high-protein snack for on the go! Epic Bar pork rinds are the perfect salty, crunchy snack to keep blood sugar levels stable.
- Organic Nuts: Macadamia nuts and cashews from Thrive Market provide heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, fiber, and a decent amount of protein to keep you satisfied between meals. For extra sweetness, antioxidants, and other important minerals, I love to throw in some Hu Kitchen chocolate (use code BEWELL for 15% off your order).
- BWBK Protein Powder: If I am heading somewhere with a blender, I love to bring my protein powder with me to have Fab 4 smoothies for an easy to make breakfast.
- Wild Friends x Be Well Blends: I bring a jar of Wild Friends Be Well Blends to enjoy on the road and to use in Fab 4 smoothies.
- Canned/ Packets of Tuna or Salmon: I like Wild Planet or Safe Catch for canned seafood to make easy and quick tuna/salmon salad with crackers!
- Chips: To satisfy chip/popcorn cravings, I lean into healthier brands like Lesser Evil snacks, Barnana plantain chips, Siete tortilla chips or Bare coconut or apple chips (I am looking for seed oil-free options as much as possible, while also realizing they are omnipresent, and I am not here to be perfect!)
- Make Your Own: Get adventurous and try out my favorite high protein, fiber-rich snacks! Dairy Free Perfect Bars, Kitchen Sink Muffins, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Protein Balls, and Blueberry Muffins.
- My Serenity Kids Pouches: For smoothies on the go, Serenity Kids Dairy-Free Smoothie + Protein pouches are a convenient way to incorporate the Fab 4 smoothie on the go. You can use the discount code FAB4 on their website for 15% off your order and they sell them on Thrive Market, too!
- Beef Chomplings: Chomps Original Flavor grass-fed mini beef jerky are the perfect size snack for your kids, made with four simple ingredients!
- Seaweed snacks:
- Thrive Market Olive Packs: Olives are a great source of gut-friendly fiber and healthy fats that support blood, cardiovascular, and cell health. Olives also offer vitamin E for to strengthen the brain, skin, and vision, and make a delicious snack to pair with protein.
- Eat Poshi veggies: Eat Poshi all natural steamed & marinated veggies are the perfect phynonutrient and fiber-rich snack for on the go.
- Whole Fruits/Dried Fruit: I recommend skipping the fruit juices and apple sauce, and stick to fresh fruits, like clementines, oranges, avocados. or apples. If your choosing dried fruits, make sure it is without any added sugar, and pair it with nut butter to balance blood sugar. We love Bare Snacks dried fruit with Wild Friends Be Well Blend.
- Organic Nuts: Pili Hunters, Wonderful Pistachios (shelled), and slivered almonds or pecan pieces are my favorite small and soft nuts to feed toddlers.
- Crackers n Dip: Our favorite crackers with extra protein + fats are Flackers, Simple Mills gluten-free crackers, Mary’s Gone Crackers super seed crackers, and Hu Kitchen grain-free crackers (use code BEWELL for 15% off your order). We also love Thin Stackers rice cakes with avocado mash or nut butter.
I suggest being more of a minimalist in the drink department, especially for kids. Most kids drinks are full of either added sugars or microbiome-disrupting fake sugars. But here are some of my favorite healthier alternatives that travel well, especially for Chris and me:
If you’re looking to stock up on healthier snack foods and pantry items pre-road trip, you want to consider ordering via **Thrive Market. You’ll get the best foods at a significant discount, and with my link, you’ll get a 30% off your first order and a FREE $60 gift!
This is the part where I offer some (judgment-free!) alternatives to screens. First, let me say I understand – screens are an easy button for both entertainment and babysitting - and we use them on airplanes where a meltdown may impact other travelers. But we have to at least acknowledge what research tells us and that is, extended screen time has negative effects on emotional and behavioral health in children. Not exactly the environment we want to create when we’re together in a car for several hours! It’s up to you to choose your boundaries when it comes to screens, but I’m going to equip you with other options:
- Stickers: Buy easy-peel stickers that are easy to remove and let your kid have at it!
- Drawing: Magnetic drawing pads, Etch-a-sketch, Drawing board, No-mess coloring books, and Window markers (for the car)
- Books: Have you seen some of our favorites on my Amazon storefront?
- Marker/crayons + Paper: Prompt your child and be surprised with their creativity. Ask: "What do you see out the window?” “What do you think we’ll see when we get there?” “What was the funniest thing you did on vacation?”
- Toys: Action figures, trucks, and/or dolls to play with. You can also use Waxed yarn sensory sticks, Wooden lacing toys or Fidget toys to keep their hands and mind occupied.
- Games: We love “I spy” with books, cards, or just impromptu out-the-window, tossing feathers (who knew watching them float into your kid’s lap could be so fun?!), or a Dollar store bag of “surprises” for every hour of the trip.
And while we’re on the topic of road trip entertainment, I’m not going to forget about the adults! I have an Amazon storefront with some of my favorite books (including those I’ve written!), so you can level up your health game while on vacation. More of a podcast person? I’ve got you covered there, too!
Remember, your child will see, sense, and follow your lead regarding their attitude toward the trip. Are you dreading the drive? They likely will, too. Are you approaching it with a sense of positive expectation and adventure? They’ll be much more excited about the journey! And if you need to pull over at some point for everyone to reset? Do it! The memories made will be worth it. PS - If you’re interested in learning more about the intersection of technology, health, and children, a great starting place would be to listen to the podcast episode I recorded on setting healthy screen boundaries with Tech-Wise Littles.
We’ve got a plan for the food and the fun, but now everything needs to be packed up and portable! These are my go-to’s for making travel mess-free and convenient:
For the Boys:
- Yeti junior
- Hydroflask kids
- Thinkbaby stainless sippy
- Lalo little cup
- Planetbox lunch boxes or Austin Baby Co bento box
Sample Road Trip Menu
Here is exactly what we took on our Spring Break 2023 Trip to Mammoth:
- Hydration: I always bring LMNT electrolyte packets for trips, especially when we are heading to higher altitudes. High altitude and exposure to cold are associated with significant levels of dehydration due to cold-altitude urine output, high energy expenditures, and poor access to water. LMNT ensures we are properly hydrates and helps to prevent altitude sickness. As a kid, I experienced altitude sickness frequently so I took this 6 hour drive up the mountain very seriously with our boys, reminding them to take small sips of LMNT the entire time. Traditional sports drinks, like Powerade, which is sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup, and Gatorade, which contains dextrose, both do a number on blood sugar, liver health, and the sugar isn’t needed to properly hydrate. It's so easy to toss a couple packets of LMNT packs into my travel bag, pour one into my Yeti, ½ a packet into my boys water bottles, and stay hydrated while on the go! You can head to DrinkLMNT.com/KellyLeVeque to receive a FREE sample pack with any purchase.
- Supplements: When I am on traveling more than usual, I lean on Athletic Greens to fill in any nutritional gaps, keep my immune system strong, and support my multivitamins and multi-minerals needs. I brought along 5 AG1 travel packs as an easy way to still get greens, vitamins, minerals, and probiotics into my diet while I am away from my normal routine. Athletic Greens is a sugar-free, vegan, paleo, and keto-friendly supplement that you can incorporate into your routine when traveling. You can try out Athletic Greens for yourself, and get 1 FREE year of Vitamin D immune support along with 5 FREE travel packs at AthleticGreens.com/BeWell. I also brought one bag of vanilla and one bag of chocolate BWBK Protein with us to make Fab 4 smoothies once we arrived!
Snack Prep: We covered all the bases with our snack prep, serving up protein, fat, fiber, greens! For protein, we brought Pasture Bird Chicken sliced into sticks for easy dipping (use code BEWELLBYKELLY at checkout to save at Pasturebird.com), Chomps Beef sticks which serve 8-10 grams of protein, and hard boiled eggs. For greens, I rinsed and chopped my favorite non-starchy veggies (we took a bag of carrot chips, one head of celery, four Persian cucumbers, and two peppers) and for fiber, we took two chopped apples then stored them in Stasher bags to keep them fresh and serve with homemade Avocado Hummus, Wild Friends nut butter, or Sunny Fine Foods Tahini Dips (we packed the entire container since it’s a road trip). For healthy fats, protein, and fiber, we snacked on organic macadamia nuts and cashews. And of course, we needed something crunchy, so we packed Bare Snacks dried apples dipped in Wild Friends Be Well Blend for something sweet, and Epic Provisions Pork Rinds for something salty!
You can head over to Instagram to see all the behind the scenes of our latest trip and see more of my go-to road trip tips for snacky travelers. Whether you've got a long road trip or you know you'll be away from food for a couple hours, these snacks are a great and super easy way to add veggies, fiber, and hydration to your travel day.