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Take-along snacks for a car trip

By Matthew Thompson, August 2, 2012 - 2:03pm

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Taking off on a road trip seems like an essential part of summer. According to a recent study, over 140 million Americans are planning to travel this summer—with 69% opting to go via car. That’s a lot! I have at least two car trips planned for this summer—and I couldn’t be more excited.

But one thing I’m not psyched about: the terrible snack options at convenience stores and gas stations. Who wants to fill up on chips filled with who-knows-what, day-old pastries or nuts coated in sugary gunk? Not me.

Instead, I’m packing my own snacks this year. That way I know they’ll all be fresh, made from wholesome ingredients, cheaper and better for me than the usual crud you find along the road. And I have some great EatingWell recipes to rely on in making them. While a whole host of foods can make for great car snacks, a little planning can go a long way in making sure your take-along treat is road-trip ready. Here are some easy ways to gear up for healthy, delicious eating in the car.

1. Use a Cooler—Packing a cooler with ice or freezer packs doesn’t just ensure you have a supply of cool drinks, it also helps you keep safe. Many healthy, tasty snacks (such as celery sticks or cheeses) are perishable and, if you don’t have a way to keep them cool, can become unsafe on a long car ride. If you’re not going to pack a cooler, skip any food items that would normally be refrigerated.

2. Avoid Sticky Items—No, they won’t make you sick, they’ll just make your car gross. As anyone who’s ever eaten a bear claw on the way to work will tell you, that sugar gets everywhere. Avoid sticky items unless you want to spend the next two hours of driving stuck to your steering wheel.

3. Bite-Sized is Best—If you’re driving, fiddling with a GPS and chatting with passengers, you don’t want have to worry about wielding a big honking sandwich. It’s messy, distracting and more than a little unsafe. Instead, opt for something you only have to handle in bite-sized portions. That way you can keep your hands on the wheel where they belong.

4. Eat Your Vegetables—It’s hard to get enough fruits and veggies when you’re eating at restaurants (which people often are when they’re on the road). By cutting up some fruits and veggies into bite-sized portions (and keeping them in your cooler), you can help make sure you get enough of these essential foods, and ensure you feel your best while on vacation!

5. Don’t Forget Clean-Up—Once you’re done with your snack, it’s good to have a place to put your trash. Don’t forget to bring a bag to put your garbage in as well as some paper towels or napkins to clean up messes.

Here are a few tasty snack suggestions plus one can’t-miss recipe for a delicious take-along snack your whole family will love.

You might know it as “trail mix,” but this combination of raisins and peanuts is good no matter how you slice it. Try customizing this basic recipe with your favorite dried fruits and nuts.

Lemon-Parmesan PopcornLemon-Parmesan Popcorn
Perk up your popcorn with a bit of lemon pepper and Parmesan cheese.

Spicy Party MixSpicy Party Mix
Our more sophisticated version of crunchy party mix gets its irresistible, rich taste from olive oil and a bit of Parmesan cheese rather than the better part of a stick of butter or margarine. With two-thirds less fat (none of it saturated) you can forget about that other stuff.

Garlic & Herb Pita ChipsGarlic & Herb Pita Chips
You can make your own tasty pita chips in a matter of minutes. Just cut pita bread into wedges (stale pitas work very well), brush them with a little olive oil and bake. Not only do homemade pita chips save you money, you'll also cut calories by 16 percent.

Five-Spice PistachiosFive-Spice Pistachios
Chinese five-spice powder is a blend of cinnamon, cloves, fennel seed, star anise and Szechuan peppercorns; it adds subtle flavor to these pistachios. Look for it in the spice section at the market or with other Asian ingredients. Omit the added salt if you use salted pistachios.

And here’s a recipe I think you’ll love:

Spiced Chickpea “Nuts” (pictured above)
When roasted in a hot oven, chickpeas become super crunchy. They’re a great low-fat substitute for nuts when salty cravings hit.

What is your favorite healthy snack to pack for road trips? Tell us what you think below.

TAGS: Matthew Thompson, Food Blog, Budget meals, Cooking tips, Family meals, Good choices, Nutrition, Recipe Makeover, Snacks, Vegetarian

Matthew asks: What is your favorite healthy snack to pack for road trips?

Tell us what you think:

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