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Perfect snacks for a perfect road trip

By Stacey Stein

With international travel plans on hold, many of us have whiled away the summer exploring local destinations. From day trips to nearby beaches and hikes in provincial parks to weekend cottage respites and extended camping trips, we’ve found many different ways to make the most of this unique summer. The good news is, with several more weeks of mild weather ahead, there’s still time to fit in a road trip – or two – before cooler climes set in.

Whether you’re planning a day trip or a longer road journey, fueling yourself with energy-packed foods is just as important as fueling your car. Loading up your vehicle with grab n’ go processed snack foods might seem convenient, but this won’t provide you with much sustenance. And no one wants to be cranky and hungry when faced with countless hours on the road.

Fear not: we have several smart snack solutions to ensure your “last hurrah” of the season road trip is a success.

Smart snacking on the road

What defines a smart road trip snack food? The snack should give you long-lasting energy, it should be easy to pack and store, and ideally it won’t create much mess in your car. When looking for snacks that will keep you energized, registered dietitian Shannon Crocker says you should seek out whole food ingredients – think cheese, nuts, whole grains, veggies and fruit.

“If you’re buying a packaged snack, look for something that isn’t ultra-processed beyond something you recognize,” Crocker advises. And while we may want to cram the car with our favourite sweets, there’s good reason to resist this temptation. “Sugary snacks will make your energy crash and leave you feeling even more hungry,” she says.

Crocker adds that you’re best off packing items that have at least one of these satisfaction-boosting ingredients: protein, fibre, and healthy fats.

Snack type: crunchy

Chips, pretzels, cheezies… these popular snacks might seem like perfect road trip fare, but lots of salt will leave you feeling thirsty while empty calories won’t satisfy hunger pangs for long.

Enter Ivanhoe Nothing but Cheese, which Crocker describes as “cheese with a crunch.” It does a great job at satisfying crunchy snack cravings, but is packed with good-for-you ingredients. “It’s an awesome snack because it’s 100 percent Canadian cheese,” says Crocker, adding that cheese is high in protein and also has calcium. “Each 60 gram serving has 11 to 12 grams of protein, there’s no added sugar, plus it’s keto-friendly and gluten-free. It’s also the ultimate in convenience because it’s packable.” It gets even better: you can now conveniently order Ivanhoe Nothing but (in both the Monterey Jack and Cheddar flavours) on Amazon, saving you a trip to the grocery store. “Grab a bag, put it in the car and away you go,” says Crocker. “It’s great for active living and an on-the-go lifestyle.”

Ivanhoe’s Nothing but is also versatile: use it to make this crunchy cheddar popcorn mix, which will help fuel you during long stretches on the road. “Popcorn is whole grain and gives you gut-loving fibre, which helps you stay fuller longer, so it’s a satisfying snack,” says Crocker.

Another good crunchy snack option is a homemade trail mix, which Crocker says is “super nutritious,” thanks to the protein and healthy fats in the nuts. It’s also easy to make: toss some nuts, seeds and dried fruit together and you’re good to go. You can make a big batch of trail mix ahead of time and pack it into individual containers.

You can also opt for the original crunchy snack food: good old-fashioned veggies, like fibre-filled sugar snap peas or carrot sticks.

Snack type: sweet

When thinking of grab n’ go snacks that will satisfy our sweet cravings during countless hours of driving, granola bars are often the first thing that come to mind. Store-bought granola bars can be loaded with sugar, so check the ingredient list to make sure the bars are low in added sugars. Crocker says to look for energy bars made with whole food ingredients like nuts, seeds and dried fruit.

As an alternative, you can opt to make your own energy balls – try these protein-rich berry coconut bliss balls. Healthy fats from the almond butter and almond flour provide a nutritional boost, while the sweet berry flavour will make these a hit with pint-sized road trippers. “Protein from the Nordica Smooth cottage cheese and healthy fats from the almond butter and flour combine together to make this a satisfying snack,” says Crocker.

Muffins are another perfect road trip snack that will help satisfy your sweet tooth. Loaded with fibre, these cinnamon orange bran muffins are both portable and healthy. Crocker recommends replacing the sour cream with smooth cottage cheese for an extra hit of protein. To up the healthy factor even more, add in some shredded carrots or grated zucchini.  

Fruit is the ultimate grab n’ go sweet travel snack food. “It comes in its own little travel pack,” says Crocker, adding that several fruit are in season right now, such as peaches, nectarines and blueberries.

Snack type: chocolatey

Chocolate bars seem tailor-made for road trips: they’re highly portable, provide a jolt of energy, and satisfy the chocoholic in us. But the downside is that they’re packed with calories and fat, lack nutritional value, and the sugar high is followed by an energy crash.

Replace sugary chocolate bars with healthier alternatives that will still satisfy your chocolate cravings, like this chocolate chip-studded baked banana chip oatmeal to go or these oatmeal everything cookies, which include dark chocolate chips. These chocolatey snacks are just as portable and packable as a chocolate bar, but provide longer-lasting satisfaction.

To make these snacks even more nutritious, Crocker recommends replacing the sour cream with Nordica Smooth cottage cheese in the oatmeal to go, and mixing in some extra nuts, seeds and dried fruit when preparing the oatmeal everything cookies.

Snack type: cooler fare

The humble cooler is a road trip mainstay, so what should you pack in yours? Crocker recommends nutrient- and protein-rich snacks to keep you energized on the road. Individual packs of Nordica Smooth cottage cheese are low in calories and high in protein while being mess-free and easy to store (just be sure to pack a spoon). Cheese also scores big points for long-lasting satisfaction thanks to its high protein content. Pack some cubed Black River cheese into your cooler for the ultimate in snacking convenience. Veggies and dip is a perennial favourite, loved by kids and adults alike. Sugar snap peas, baby carrots and peppers all pair nicely with protein-packed hummus or a flavourful Nordica Smooth dip.

Last but not least….

Stocking your car with beverages for your road trip is just as important as packing snacks. “Staying hydrated is the key to staying alert,” says Crocker. Loading up on water bottles will prevent you from picking up sugar-sweetened beverages on pit stops. If you want more variety, you can fill insulated thermoses with iced coffee, homemade iced tea or homemade lemonade.

Finally, don’t forget to pack snacks for the four-legged members of your crew! Made with cottage cheese and Ivanhoe’s Nothing but Cheese, these cheesy peanut butter dog biscuits will keep your furry road trip companion happy and satisfied.

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