Family Travel

Road Trip! Healthy Meal Ideas for Families on the Go

March 8, 2016
Road trip food

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.

Road Trip Food

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.

Road trip food

Eating fried chicken at Walmart; fried chicken from a gas station somewhere; the best portable food I could find at Walmart and our favorite road trip staple, PB&J.


Essential Snacks:

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:

Toronto with Kids

Indoors & Out with Kids at the Ontario Science Centre

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Cohen Family Nature Escape

Cohen Family Nature Escape

You may already know that we love the Ontario Science Centre. It’s close to home and an annual membership gets us unlimited visits. Rain or shine and in all seasons, it’s a great place for the whole family!

On a recent visit, we discovered the newly opened Cohon Family Nature Escape – an outdoor, urban nature space and trail in the forest surrounding the building. There’s a 125 year old tree trunk slide, nest house and graceful log benches where the kids can run around and connect with nature. One of the best parts though, is the very welcome diversion from all the stimulation inside.

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Family Travel

Overnight at Great Wolf Lodge Niagara: Quick Review

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Great Wolf Lodge Niagara

I spent my birthday this year twirling with my niece in the giant toilet bowl at the Great Wolf Lodge Niagara Falls water park and had a blast!

Niagara Falls is a great little getaway spot and it’s only about a 1.5 hour drive from Toronto. There are always hotel deals to be found – even for Great Wolf Lodge (just sign up for their email blasts to find out about upcoming sales). As I’ve written about before, Great Wolf Lodge is one of three indoor water parks in Niagara, and while it’s the most expensive, it’s also the best.

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Toronto with Kids

Indoor Fun in Toronto: ROM with Kids

March 21, 2015
Toronto Museum with Kids

Although it’s a typical school trip destination, I cannot believe that in my 11 years of being a parent I haven’t once brought my kids to the ROM or Royal Ontario Museum.

The ROM is super amazing! It’s modern, spacious, educational and kid-friendly. It’s perfect for indoor fun (which we really need here in Toronto over the long winter months) and can be visited and explored over and over again without worry of boredom.

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