I have spent so much time searching online for decent road trip meal ideas in hopes of finding some really great, healthy ideas to feed my family when travelling by car – but really, all I came across was a lot of junky food ideas.
Through all of our road trips from Toronto to Florida, we have eaten in restaurants along the highway many, many times – however the food options are limited to fast food and I’m not even sure you can call it food. Even some of the more reputable restaurant chains have been discouraging with healthy options very limited! If memory serves correct, about 95% of the times we have stopped along route to eat have been a mistake!
So, after five extensive road trips to and from Toronto to Florida and over 9000 km with young children, I think we are pretty much doing a good job of planning decent meal ideas on the road for the whole family.
*This is our road trip meal plan…..and while we strive to pack as much as possible to avoid stopping at yucky fast food places or restaurants that end up costing a small fortune, we still do always manage to purchase some prepared food along the highway on our road trips.
Top Tips for Eating on the Road:
1. Invest in a car cooler – you can buy one of these for under $100 and save quadruple that by bringing your own food on the road. It plugs into the lighter slot, and is small and light enough to bring into hotel rooms. In this, we store yogurt, milk, hummus, cream cheese and hard boiled eggs.
2. Pack minimal dishes: all we use is a sharp knife for cutting fruit (or buttering bread), a spoon or two, some paper or plastic plates and paper towel. Prepared food is packed in foil or plastic baggies that get thrown out.
3. Bring peanut butter and jelly because when you’re all really hungry, this is the best!
4. Ensure everyone has their own reusable water bottle that can be refilled.
5. Pre-plan to avoid stopping at fast food outlets along the way, that although are cheap and easy, will make you regret the indulgence!
6. Remember, it’s okay to be hungry – as long as everyone is drinking, snacking and getting some protein, no one will die of starvation!
Healthy Lunch & Dinner Ideas (most items must be kept cool in the plug-in car cooler):
1. Spanakopita – Not sure this is available everywhere, but I usually buy a big round spanakopita at my local Greek bakery, bake it, pack it up and it makes a great healthy snack. We love it so much!
2. Boiled eggs – So compact yet a great source of protein. Cook for less time than usual and these stay perfect for at least two days.
3. Peanut butter & jelly sandwiches – If I had a dollar for all the PB&J we eat on the road, I’d be a millionaire! We always pack or buy all natural peanut butter and organic jam so we don’t worry about sugar overload.
4. Deli meat and cheese on buns – I’m happy if I don’t have to eat another sandwich at this point, but on the road, these fill the gap!
5. Canned tuna (with easy-to-open lids) – a great source of protein that can be eaten alone or on crackers.
6. Cooked chicken sticks – We can usually only bring these when we first leave for the trip, but make a great first day dinner.
7. Packaged smoked salmon – Can be eaten alone or on buns.
1. Apples – for some reason, apples can be quite pricey in the US, but we always go through at least two big bags on every trip.
2. Bagged mini carrots (organic) – a great snack for the car that doesn’t leave a mess!
3. Rice cakes (MSG free) – not sure how nutritious these are, but better than potato chips.
4. Trail mix and/or granola bars – Hard to find ones that aren’t sugar-laden but still a filling snack.
What You Really Don’t Need:
These are some of the things we have eliminated from our road trip food planning:
1. Juice and/or other bottled drinks – completely unnecessary. If someone must have juice on the way, we can buy some from any of the many gas stations we stop at.
2. Cookies, donuts or other space-consuming, crumb-making squishables – Junk food and snacks can be very inexpensively bought along the way if necessary and eaten out of the car at rest stops.
Healthy Snacks/Drinks To Buy on the Way:
Even with pretty good planning, after a few days on the road, there comes a time when we all just want a plate of cooked food or a healthy salad. Although it is very difficult to find healthy food choices off the highway on our route, these are some of the things we usually buy.
1. Smoothie juice – real juice mixed with veggies, not that syrupy imposter from Mc. D’s.
2. Greek yogurt – so much cheaper in the US!
Not So Healthy Foods We Buy on the Road
1. Fried chicken – artery clogging goodness. When you hit the southern States, you can find cheap and tasty fried chicken everywhere. Not good for your health, but great for everyone’s happiness! If food stock is really low, you can pick up a cooked chicken at any of the many, many Walmart’s for under $7.
2. McDonald’s – always a bad choice, but often the one we think is best among our pickings among the highway.
There are so many more travel tips for families road tripping to Florida! See some of my other posts:
- Florida Road Trip Again! Rest stops, finding hotels & hotel breakfasts >
- Driving to Florida: The First Two Days >