If you thought it was a challenge keeping little ones fed and happy on a road trip, wait until you have to road trip with ravenous teens. It seems like they can never get enough food. Never fear! These healthy snacks for teens go way beyond granola bars and trail mix. They are virtually guaranteed to keep teens satisfied whether you serve them as special treats during a road trip or every day as after school snacks.
When my kids were little, they required a steady stream of snacks in the car, particularly my youngest, who would usually puke the moment we started driving, then announce that she was ‘done’ and needed food. On the plus side, this cut down on the appetites of everyone else in the car.
As anyone who has ever raised, and tried to feed, a teenager knows: They can’t get enough food. And teens often seem to have mysterious sources of income (cat-sitting is quite lucrative in my neighborhood) so if I didn’t have a stash of relatively healthy food, they would produce their own money at gas stations and use it to buy sugary snacks, chips or other junk food.
Individually packed snack foods are best for road trips; you don’t have to worry about resealing a bag and it limits the amount of food that can be spilled in the back seat.
You might have exceedingly neat children. Lucky you! If that’s the case, don’t shy away from messier healthy snacks like Greek yogurt. Personally, I would never try that. Instead, I stick with the following snacks that are both healthy and relatively mess-free.
One of our fave to-go items is the hummus-to-go from Sabra- pretzels and a mini tub of hummus. Or you can make your own hummus from canned chickpeas, garlic, tahini, and olive oil using this easy recipe, and cut up whole wheat pita for healthy eating on the road. Or substitute edamame for the chickpeas using this recipe.
If you prefer, cut up veggies for dipping in the hummus, especially sliced cucumbers, celery sticks and baby carrots. Veggies are a great snack anytime.
Read More: Three yummy road trip snack recipes.
Peanut Butter Packets
We often bring the jar of peanut butter, particularly if our family of five is traveling together. But airplanes frown on PB, somehow classifying it as a liquid (seriously, we had a 16 ounce jar thrown away at security – have they not heard of how peanut butter gets stuck to the roof of your mouth? Try that with orange juice).
So the individual packets of peanut butter or other nut butter work well. We like Justin’s organic, which comes in squeeze packets. There are also almond butter varieties, and snack packs with pretzels. Our kids like to squeeze their peanut butter on a banana, or a finger.
Nuts to You
The one healthy snack you can usually find at gas stations is a packet of nuts, but they can cost so much that I make sure to buy them in advance. Emerald makes 100 calorie packs of almonds that are just ideal for the car, or to carry in your pocket if you are feeling peckish.
SheBuysTravel Tip: Nuts are strictly a teen or tween snack; I would never advise giving nuts to a toddler in a car; it’s a choking hazard.
My youngest daughter used to bring low-fat squeeze packages of unsweetened applesauce with her for breakfast in high school, so there’s no shame in eating what could be – indeed is – considered baby food.
A new company has organic fruit pouches packed with vegetables too, but they taste just of fruit. Upon a Farm makes cold pressed pouches; by not using heat, the nutrients remain. The banana – chocolate – avocado is a big hit, along with the mango, for my family. The mango is also great for smoothies at home, if you find slicing up a mango to be too annoying (plus there’s no waiting for a mango to ripen).
The packets have to be kept refrigerated, but they can stay out for four hours (about the time they would be in a lunchbox) so they are fine for a road trip. And they can also be frozen, and used as an ice pack as they defrost.
Dried fruit is one of the healthiest ways to stave off the sugar cravings. Fresh fruit is best, but try eating fresh blueberries in a car without staining the beige colored plush seats!
For that reason alone we prefer dried fruits over fresh. And one piece of dried fruit contains about the same amount of nutrients as fresh fruit, but condensed in a much smaller package. By weight, dried fruit contains up to 3.5 times the fiber, vitamins and minerals of fresh fruit, according to Healthline. Just be sure to buy dried fruit with no added sugar.
Raisins, dried cranberries, bananas and mangoes all make yummy healthy snacks for teens. And it’s definitely better than eating ice cream!
Cheese and Crackers
Cheese — take your pick of cheddar, mozzarella, swiss or any other variety — is an easy way to slip some protein into your teen’s snacking rituals.
If you don’t want to buy the pre-packaged string cheese sticks, you can buy bricks of cheese and cut it into slices the kids can put on whole grain crackers for a satisfying snack.
Teen-Friendly Trail Mix
Yes, we said this list would go beyond granola bars and trail mix. But both are tried and true healthy snacks for teens. The key is to go easy on the sweet treats and high fat ingredients when concocting a home-made healthy version of trail mix.
Choose options that offer healthy fats like dark chocolate chips, cashews, walnuts and sunflower seeds to mix in with the dried fruit and M&Ms.
Read More: Check out our favorite healthy trail mix recipe.
More Little Kid Packs that Big Kids Love
Sometimes you just have to have a chip. Kiddlylicous has a line of vegetable crisps that satisfy that crunch desire, but are so much healthier than potato chips.
The sweet potato chips actually have small amounts of vitamin C and iron, and the carrot ones have some protein and calcium to boot.
No, they are not multi-vitamins, but they aren’t loaded with salt and fat and they taste great. They also have a long list of no’s: no gluten, high fructose corn syrup, lactose, GMO ingredients.
Don’t Forget the Water
Cars come loaded with cup holders for a reason; no one seems to go anywhere anymore without a drink or three. I drove a Ford Edge recently that had eight cupholders, in a vehicle that only has room for five people.
Make sure everyone in the vehicle has a refillable water bottle to cut down on soda and soft drink consumption and to save on waste.
Judy Antell is an empty-nester mother of 3 who spends a lot of time visiting her daughters. Why don't they live in Brooklyn? Judy and her husband love to travel, by bike, car, or plane, whether to see their kids or have friend or couple adventures, mostly centered around vegetarian food.