When you're on the road with the family, the last thing you want is a car filled with hungry kids. The familiar cajoles of road trip games and playful conversation can quickly turn sour if the children in the backseat go unfed. But what are you going to feed them?
If you packed enough snacks to keep the kids satisfied, it's no big deal. When they start squirming or asking for a bite, you can just pass them whatever you have on hand. But if you don't have enough with you — or just can't get them to eat what you brought — the situation can get dangerous.
You might not pass any stores or restaurants for miles. So you stop at the gas station.
But gas station snacks aren't exactly nutritious. Faced with the aisles of potato chips and whatever sodium-packed snack mix companies have conjured up lately, you might struggle to find something suitable for kids to eat.
We talked to Mitzi Dulan, registered dietitian and mother of two, to ask what she recommends parents pick up. Since she owns her own company that sells homemade and kid-friendly snacks, she knows what parents should look for in snacks with quality nutrition. Here are her top three recommendations.
There's no need to resort to fruit snacks — those are basically candy. Real, whole pieces of fruit are the way to go, Dulan says. It might not look as fresh as fruit from the farmers market, but most gas stations do offer fruit for purchase.
"Full of quality nutrition, this is always a good gas station choice," she advises. Fruit has fiber, natural sugars, and lots of micronutrients; perfect for growing kids who are craving something sweet.
2. Natural Beef Jerky
Not all classic road trip snacks are terrible for you. Beef jerky can be a healthy, lean option for car snacking.
"This is an excellent option that is overall low in calories for the amount of protein that it offers," Dulan says. "It's one of the best on-the-go protein options."
When choosing from all the brands on the shelves, look for bags of beef jerky that are relatively lower in sodium and that use simple ingredients.
3. Nuts and Seeds
You can find snacks like peanuts or sunflower seeds almost anywhere, and they're surprisingly nutritious. Even a simple trail mix can offer a pack of protein and healthy fats that other gas station options can't compete with. Dulan suggests buying any kind of nuts or seeds your children enjoy for a nutrient-rich snack that'll keep the whole car satisfied.