Balanced Snacks on the Go


by Selva Wohlgemuth

Registered Dietitian

Summer vacation is around the corner and with that comes family fun and adventures. Whether you’re on the road or flying, it’s all about the snacks. As a dietitian and mom of two small kiddos, I know how to be properly prepared. I always have something on hand that will help fill up, satisfy, and fuel my children.

Ensuring balanced meals and snacks can be a game changer for mood and stable energy for kids and parents alike. Simple carbs are easily accessible no matter where you are. Unfortunately, they will leave your kids constantly hungry and moody. To make the trip enjoyable for everyone, I have a travel cheat sheet for kid-friendly snacks and mini meals.

Whenever possible, provide enough protein and fat. Together, they help stabilize blood sugars and help increase satiety. Without enough protein and fat, kids get hungry faster and ride the blood sugar roller coaster with constantly fluctuating moods. Fat often is present in protein-rich foods, so making sure you have protein on hand is the key.

Offer your children one or two protein-rich foods paired with one easy complex carb. Choosing complex carbohydrates rich in fiber also help stabilize blood sugar and increase satiety. Then, hopefully, you will not hear “Mom, I’m hungry!” every 30 minutes. Make sure to pack food options that are familiar to your kids, too. Trying new foods while traveling often doesn’t bode well. I have provided some easy examples below to help inspire the best snacks for your family.

Tried-and-True Combinations

  • Apple with string cheese
  • Banana with nut butter packet
  • Salami or liver paté with crackers
  • Baby carrots or sugar snap peas with single-serve hummus packet
  • Granola with single-serve whole milk yogurt
  • Berries with single-serve cottage cheese
  • Popcorn added to trail mix
  • Canned smoked oysters with fruit
  • Jerky or pepperoni stick with fruit or veggie
  • Pitted dates filled with nut butter
  • Hardboiled egg, olive packet, and nuts

If you’re a planner, you can opt to make tasty snacks in advance. Here’s a roundup of recipes that are so simple, the kids can help, too. Nut balls always are a welcome treat in my family. Same goes with nutritional yeast popcorn — the kids just can’t seem to get enough. If your trek isn’t too long, or you’re able to keep your perishables safe, the turkey cream cheese roll ups and the gelatin fruit cups also are big hits.

Make Ahead

  • Nut balls
  • Nutritional yeast popcorn: Mix 1 tablespoon olive oil with ¼ cup popcorn kernels and pop on the stove. Toss with olive oil, nutritional yeast, and salt.
  • Turkey cream cheese roll ups: Simply spread cream cheese or goat cheese on a slice of deli turkey and roll it up.
  • Sandwiches (tuna, turkey & cheese, peanut butter & honey, etc.)

Just like adults, kids love a fancy, packaged treat here and there. If you are in a pinch, the following packaged snacks are well-balanced alternatives to have on hand.

Packaged “Fun” Snacks

  • Bars with at least 10g of protein
  • Bean/legume-based puffs
  • Seaweed snacks
  • Chocolate-covered nuts
  • Nut butter-filled pretzel bites
  • Popcorn

Armed with your snack cheat sheet, I hope your summer travel adventures are filled with fun, memorable moments, and less “Mom, I’m hungry!” exclamations. Happy travels!