Road trip: Healthy snacks that satisfy your kids’ cravings

Taking a family road trip is one of the great experiences each summer, but when hunger sits in the car quickly turns from family fun to ravished scavengers looking for a feed. Thankfully, with a little pre-planning and preparation, you can avoid the fast-food rest stops and offer everyone in your car a fun and healthy snack to keep them satisfied on the road.

We gathered our writers and asked them to submit their favorite road-trip snacks. Next time you head out on the road, consider one of these yummy treats that travel well, taste good and are a healthy alternative to greasy french fries and milkshakes (just don’t tell the kids).

Peppy Popcorn

12 cups air popped popcorn
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon chili powder
cooking spray

Mix salt and chili powder in small bowl. Spread popcorn out on large baking sheet. Spray lightly with cooking spray. Sprinkle with salt mixture. Stir popcorn to coat evenly. Scoop into sealable plastic bags. Makes 12 – 1 cup servings.

Not Quite Kettle Corn

12 cups air popped popcorn
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon powdered sugar
cooking spray

Mix salt and powdered sugar in small bowl. Spread popcorn out on large baking sheet. Spray lightly with cooking spray. Sprinkle with sugar mixture. Stir popcorn to coat evenly. Scoop into sealable plastic bags. Makes 12 – 1 cup servings.

Contributed by Mary Berg

Apricot Bars

1 tsp baking powder
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup uncooked quick oats
2 tablespoon sunflower seeds
15 dried apricot halves (diced)
2 eggs
1 tablespoon butter

Preheat oven to 350 Coat an 8 inch baking pan with cooking spary
Mix dry ingredients (wheat flour, brown sugar, quick oats, sunflower seeds)
Whisk in butter and eggs
Mix in diced apricot halves to batter
Pour into prepared pan and smooth the top
Bake 20 minutes or until bars are firm
Cool and cut into bar size of your choice

Contributed by Melissa Johnson

Peanut Butter Banana Tortillas

This easy to make recipe is both filling and nutritious. As an added bonus, you don’t have to refrigerate this snack since there are no ingredients that will spoil. Whether you’re planning a road trip for adults or your entire family, everyone can enjoy this fun snack.

Prep time: 10 minutes

Flour tortillas
Peanut butter
Crushed walnuts

1. Spread peanut butter on one side of a flour tortilla.
2. Chop a banana into thin slices and place the slices on top of the peanut butter.
3. Sprinkle crush walnuts over the bananas and peanut butter.
4. Roll the tortilla up like you would a burrito and store in a plastic bag.

Contributed by Wendy Rose Gould

Tart Cherries and Chocolate Trail Mix

A well-designed trail mix combines nuts, dried fruit ,and maybe just a taste of chocolate to satisfy the palates of children and adults. Dried cranberries and raisins are common ingredients in many traditional trail mix recipes. In our family favorite mix, we substitute dried tart cherries for the cranberries for a delightful change of pace. The dried cherries are larger and chewier than dried cranberries or raisins.

This is a heart healthy, low-sodium trail-mix packed with protein, healthy fats, and anti-oxidants.

2 cups roasted, unsalted almonds 2 cups roasted, unsalted peanuts 1 cup dried tart cherries (Montmorency cherries are great-find them at Trader Joe’s among other places) 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

For an extra layer of flavor, substitute 1/2 cup of roasted, unsalted cashews for 1/2 cup of peanuts.

Contributed by Doug Donald

Strawberry and Cream Cheese Sandwiches

1 tablespoon of reduced-fat cream cheese
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
2 slices of whole-wheat sandwich bread
2 medium strawberries, sliced

Combine cream cheese with the orange zest in a bowl. Spread bread with the mixture. Place sliced strawberries on 1 piece of bread, top with the other.

Contributed by Dana Hiles

Road-trip Pizza

2 flour tortillas (white or whole wheat)
2 TBS. pizza sauce or thick marinara sauce, or 1TBS. prepared pesto sauce
1 oz. shredded or crumbled cheese (mozzarella, feta, blue, etc.)

Optional ingredients: mushrooms, olives, peppers, pepperoni, thinly sliced cooked chicken, ham, sun-dried tomatoes, pine nuts or whatever else strikes your fancy — be creative!


Heat a large non-stick skillet on medium. Spread your choice of sauce on one tortilla and place it in the pan, sauce side up. Sprinkle the cheese on top, and then add optional ingredients. Sprinkle on the rest of the cheese and cover with the second tortilla. Cook until the bottom tortilla begins to brown and the cheese begins to melt. Carefully flip the pizzadilla over, and cook the other side until lightly brown. Place on a cooling rack and cook the rest of the pizzadillas. When thoroughly cooled, cut the pizzadillas into quarters, place in storage bags or containers, and refrigerate until ready for the cooler.

Contributed by Julie Thompson

Pumpkin Muffins

These pumpkin muffins are a healthy version of a delicious treat that my mom and I developed while doing weight watchers, so they are family friendly and heart healthy.

1 1/2 cups of ground oatmeal (a blender will grind it into a fine powder
1/2 tsp of pumpkin spice
1/2 tsp of baking soda
1/2 tsp of baking powder
1/2 tsp salt Combine these ingredients, sift well and set aside to begin working with the ingredients below.

1 cup of Fat free plain yogurt
1/2 tbsp of vanilla extract
3/4 tbsp of splenda (you can use real sugar here, we use splenda because it has no calories)
2 large egg whites
1/2 cup splenda
1 cup canned
100% pure pumpkin (no sugar added)

1. In a large bowl combine yogurt, egg whites, 3/4 tbsp of splenda, and vanilla and beat with whisk until thoroughly blended. 2. Add pumpkin and 1/2 cup of splenda whisk to blend.
3. Stir in oatmeal mixture and mix well. (Note: if the batter is too thick add 1-2 tbsp of water and 1-2 tbsp of yogurt until smooth batter forms.)
4. Spray a mini muffin tin.
5. Cook at 350 degrees for 8-15 minutes depending on the oven. Watch closely. 6. Refrigerate after cooling for 5-10 minutes.

Contributed by
Jessica Meschke

Foraging for Berries

1 1/2 cups of blueberries
1 1/2 cups of strawberries
1 1/2 cups of red raspberries
1 1/2 cups of blackberries
1/2 tsp. of ground cinnamon

Wash and drain all the berries. Slice the strawberries in half. Place all your berries into a bowl and add the 1/2 tsp. of ground cinnamon. Mix gently and let stand for 30 minutes.

Place in sandwich bags for individual treats.

Contributed by Patricia Mason

Sesame Coconut Bars

3 cups sesame seeds
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
2 tablespoons peanut butter
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with non-stick spray. Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl. It will seem dry. Do not add water! Empty onto the prepared baking sheet and press the mixture down evenly. Bake for 30 minutes or until browned. Let cool and cut into bars. Wrap individually in plastic wrap, or place in a covered container to take on the road.

Contributed by Sylvie Branch

Ham Scoopers

6 Kaiser Rolls
2 cups of cubed ham
1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup of chopped black olives
1/2 cup of mayonnaise
1/4 cup of mustard


Mix together all ingredients except for bread.
Store in a container and place in the ice cooler.
Cut off the tops of rolls.
Hollow out the rolls, keep bread in plastic bag for freshness.
When ready to eat, scoop the ham mixture into the bread and enjoy.

Contributed by Eve Gandy

Spicy Sugar Nuts

This easy recipe provides the perfect road trip snack. With nuts as the primary ingredient, this on-the-go munchy includes protein, fiber and healthy fat. Bake the entire recipe in one shot and then divvy it all up so passengers have their own serving. Or to put it another way, they don’t have to share. Since the finished product lasts five days, assuming you don’t polish it off before the first toll, you can get a few miles if not states out of it.

1 egg white
1 tsp water
3/4 cup of sugar
1 1/2 tbsp of cinnamon
1 tbsp of cayenne
4 cups of roasted salted nuts

Instructions: Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

In a large bowl, whisk egg white and water together. Continue until consistency is frothy. Fold nuts into egg white/water mixture. Add all remaining ingredients and stir until nuts are well coated. Pour mixture onto a large sheet pan and bake for 50 minutes. Let cool before using a spatula to release the nuts from the pan. Store in a sealed container to maintain freshness.

Contributed by Paige Levin

Oatmeal Bars (with a twist)

2 cups of old fashioned oats
1 cup of skim milk banana
1/2 cup of unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup of Splenda
1/2 cup of eggbeaters
1.5 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Cooking Directions Preheat oven to 325. Spray an 8×8 baking dish with baking spray. Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir until well mixed. Pour the batter in the baking dish and bake for roughly 45 minutes. Allow to cool completely and cut into 8 equal pieces.

Contributed by Benjamin Williams

Apple Sandwiches

I’ve served these apple slice sandwiches to my daughter’s classroom and my ladies’ dance class. Everyone thinks it’s a platter of cookies until they notice they are apples. It’s a tasty, easy, surprise treat that everyone likes. One apple makes about 3 sandwiches. I like to use Braeburns or Granny Smith varieties. If you have peanut allergies or prefer not to use the peanut butter, the apples sliced and dusted with cinnamon are great all by themselves.

To make:

Use an apple corer to remove the center of your apple/s.
Next slice the apple (leave skin on) horizontally into 1/8″ rounds.
Dunk the slices into a mixture of water and lemon juice so they won’t turn brown.
Pat dry and spread a layer of your favorite peanut butter on one slice, add some raisins or dried cranberries if you like.
Top with a second apple slice and sprinkle lightly with cinnamon.

Looks like a cookie, but oh so much healthier! Store in an airtight container.

Contributed by Jane Nichols

Happy Trails Hummus

2 15-oz. cans garbanzo beans
1/2 cup tahini (sesame seed paste)
3 to 4 tbsp fresh lime or lemon juice
3 tbsp olive oil
1/8 teaspoon curry powder
Salt & pepper to taste

1. Drain garbanzo beans, reserving liquid.
2. Combine beans, tahini, lime or lemon juice, curry powder and olive oil.
3. Process in a food processor until smooth.
4. Add enough of the reserved bean liquid to make desired dip consistency.
5. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Contributed by Nanette Wiser

Gadling product review – You Bars customizable nutrition bars and trail mix

Today’s quick product review is going to introduce you to You Bars. You Bars is a line of completely customizable nutrition bars, trail mix and protein shakes.

Portable snacks have passed through Gadling before – back in March, Annie reviewed Jerky for us, so it only makes sense that we keep that trend going with other travel friendly snacks.

For the review, I ordered a box of “Gadling Trail Mix”, and a box of “Gadling Bars”. The You Bars web site is of course where you’ll start the order process.

For the Gadling Trail Mix, I ordered the following ingredients:

Almonds, Macadamia nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, pistachios, organic coconut, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, sweetened blueberries, mini pretezls, oat bran, crystallized ginger, organic cacao nibs, sun drops chocolate candies, pineapples and cherries.

Needless to say that this is way, way more impressive than most store brand trail mix products.

For the Gadling nutrition bar, I ordered the following ingredients:

You Bar base (almond butter and organic dates), organic clover honey, whey protein, chocolate chips, almonds, blueberries, cherries, coconut, organic brown rice, cocoa nibs and a vitamin infusion (adds vitamin A and C)

So, how did the final product taste? Since I am the one that picked the ingredients, it would be silly to say anything other than “great”. And I am happy to report that the trail mix and bars do indeed taste fantastic.

The trail mix has all the items I selected perfectly balanced, and every single bag had all the ingredients I ordered, which is quite an impressive feat considering how many items I had picked.

The trail mix I ordered came in 45g bags, and I found each portion to be more than sufficient as a snack, or to keep me going till my next meal.

The trail mix contained more of the kind of ingredients I like, and probably not enough of the kind of stuff that is really good for me. Because of that, a full serving comes in at 233 calories. In addition to this, it also has 16g of fat and 20 of carbs. It provides very little in the way of vitamin A or C, but does serve you 40% of your RDV of iron. The recommended “enjoy by” date is 4 months from the production date.

The You Bar nutrition bar is equally impressive. Each bar is also 45g, and my “Gadling Bar” had a very dense consistency, making it the perfect snack for keeping me going. It was sweet, but not too sweet.

As with the trail mix, this bar was put together with some less than healthy ingredients, the serving contained 203 calories and 11g of fat. The bar also provided 8g of protein, with decent levels of calcium (24% RDV) and iron (18% RDV). The recommended “enjoy by” date is 2 months from the production date.

The order process is about as simple as it can get – you start at the top with the base ingredients, and make you way down through fruits, nuts, canides and other ingredients.

Each ingredient section shows how many items you can add, and allows you to tweak the portion of each section (more or less of each). As you build your product, a nutrition facts counter shows your progress in the right, allowing you to build your bar based off its nutrition, rather than how tasty it’ll be.

This nutrition information is printed on a label, along with all the ingredients, and is attached to every product you receive.

Once you are satisfied with your selection, you can place the order. Each bar, trail mix or protein shake you design is assigned a unique code, making reordering much easier.

The name you give your product is also printed on the bag (trail mix and protein shakes) or wrapper (nutrition bar).

Trail mix can be ordered in three sizes; small (33g), regular (45g) and large (55g). Each order ships in batches of 13 bags, and costs $24.57 for the small ($1.89 per bag), $25.87 for the regular ($1.99 per bag) and $28.47 for the large ($2.19 per bag).

The nutrition bars also come in three sizes; small (35g), medium (45g) and large (55g). Each order ships in batches of 13 bars, and costs $37.57 (for the small ($2.89 per bar), $38.87 for the medium ($2.99 per bar) and $41.47 for the large ($3.19 per bar).

Protein shakes also come in packs of 13 pouches, and ship in the same three sizes as the other products. The price of the shakes is the same as for the nutrition bars.

Shipping is $7.99 for the US, $19.99 for Canada and $39.99 for international destinations. Orders can be set to ship on a recurring basis, with new batches being sent bi-weekly, tri-weekly or monthly. Customers who take advantage of the recurring shipment program also receive free gifts with their order.

I’m very impressed with the product and the ordering process. There is something extremely cool about going online to build your own trail mix, nutrition bar and protein shake, and have your personal selection show up on your doorstep. Of course, if you screw up, and mix really lousy ingredients, you can only blame yourself for the end result.

Building your own personal product is perfect if you just want a really tasty snack for on the road, or if you need a specific selection of ingredients and nutrition from each snack. The price is on the high end of what I’d be willing to pay for on-the-road snacks, but it sure as hell beats paying $10 for a lousy snack box on your next flight. Best of all, you get to snack on something filled only with stuff you like.

You Bars can be ordered from