Home » Eat Empowered » Vegan Snacks to Pack For the Perfect Road Trip
With the arrival of spring and warmer weather, road trip season has officially begun! Interstate car travel is great, but it can be hard to eat healthfully along the way—a self-care task that can be even harder for vegans. In addition to relying on apps such as Happy Cow to find vegan-friendly restaurants, it’s key to be well stocked before you even hit the road. That’s why we’ve assembled this vegan-approved list of nutrient-dense and (mostly) unrefined snacks to enjoy while you drive past amber waves of grain and purple mountain majesties.
Let’s get ready to hit the road!
Ready-to-Go Vegan Road Trip Snacks
Carrots, celery and apples
Of course it’s essential to eat some actual fruits and vegetables every day that you’re traveling! For your road trip, why not pack the ones that are easiest to transport and eat? Some fruits and veggies aren’t as easy to enjoy while driving (berries, peaches, and salads can all get messy), but carrots, celery and apples are basically ready to roll. Bonus: These firm snacks provide a toothbrush-like effect when you bite into them, which is always welcome when you’re spending the day in the car.
The tried-and-true go-to snack. Use it for dipping your celery or carrot stick into, or schmear it on crackers. And it doesn’t have to be peanut butter — pick whichever nut butter you like best. When on the go, we especially like single-serve nut butter packets like Justin’s or RX Bar. For reference, almond butter and peanut butter are both high in protein and healthy fats.
The ages-old blend of chickpeas and tahini is a handy and healthy food for eating with fresh veggies, crackers or chips. It’s best to keep refrigerated, but don’t sweat it: If you’re a hummus lover facing many hours in the car, you can probably power through a small container before the day is done—or pack it away in your handy road trip cooler.
Dried fruits are easy to eat wherever you are. If you prefer your snacks more crunchy than chewy, look for freeze-dried fruit, which has a longer shelf life and contains no sulfur dioxide (which isn’t always true of heat-dried fruit).
Always a healthy choice, as long as you buy them without too much added salt (or sugar). You also want to make sure to avoid any unhealthy refined oils that can be found in some processed nuts.
(Image: Protein Puck)
Energy bars are a natural choice for road trip snacks, but not all of them are vegan. Here’s a couple of brands you can choose from for vegan options.
Both vegan and gluten-free, hearty Protein Pucks (so named because of their circular shape) definitely fill you up. Depending on how hungry you are, you can easily split one puck between two people. Each one of the four flavors is nut-butter based, then packed with other delicious ingredients (e.g., cocoa and cinnamon; coconut, flax and dates). Worth noting: Some Protein Pucks have a decent amount of added sugar (5-6 grams per serving) and might not be the best choice if you’re looking for a snack with no added sugar.
Popular and gluten free, Larabars are made mostly with fruits and nuts. Not all of the flavors are vegan, but many are, including several with vegan-certified chocolate. The 100% plant-based options include banana bread, apple pie, carrot cake and cocoa coconut chew—all delicious.
(Image: Bienna Snacks)
Skip the chips and reach for Biena Chickpea Snacks, a popular vegan treat that never skimps on the crunch or taste but still packs plenty of protein and fiber into one serving. The six different flavors of Biena roasted chickpeas include sea salt, habanero and honey roasted.
Rhythm Superfoods Kale Chips are vegan, organic and gluten-free. They’re also packed with simple ingredients (kale, sunflower seeds, carrot, apple cider vinegar and lemon juice among them) and 5 grams of protein per serving to help fuel your day. (See below for some simple DIY kale and beet chip recipes.)
If you’re looking for some healthy crunch, you can’t beat Mary’s Gone Crackers seed crackers, which are minimally processed, non-GMO, gluten-free and organic. All of their products are also vegan with the exception of Kookies, which are made with sustainably sourced honey.
The perfect complement to your salty snacks is olives, a favorite on-the-go treat for Nutritious Life founder Keri Glassman. Briny, bitter olives are high in vitamin E, powerful antioxidants and heart-healthy oil.
“I love to reduce olives in wine to add a little kick. I also add a bit of dried rosemary or thyme for herbal tones,” says Keri. “If you don’t have time for the reduction, at least grab a package of olives at the market and you’ll still get all their important health perks.”
Well, we need at least one sweeter indulgence, and what better option than chocolate? If you prefer milk, then you do you! That said, dark chocolate wins the nutrition war between the two choices. Milk chocolate tends to be higher in sugar; it’s definitely lower in its percentage of cacao, which is where the nutrition lies. Pro tip: The higher the cacao number, the more fiber, minerals and antioxidants you’ll enjoy.
DIY Vegan Snacks to Prepare Ahead of Time
Homemade vegan muffins
Who doesn’t love a good muffin? If you’ve got time to bake a day or two before you leave, do it yourself. You can go traditionally sweet, as with this chocolate gingerbread muffin (enriched with protein powder), or opt for a more savory, high-protein corn muffin.
Few delicious snacks are as easy to prepare as your own version of trail mix. The best part is: You decide exactly which ingredients you want to include! Of course, it’s a good idea to use mostly unsulfured dried fruit and unsalted nuts. But if you hate raisins? Skip ’em! Love coconut? Add it! Don’t forget other yummy options, like sunflower seeds. Here’s a suggested recipe for “Almost Everything Trail Mix” from The Simple Veganista.
A classic snack food, popcorn is fiber-rich and naturally low in calories. It’s also high in antioxidants. Whip up your own batch of organic popcorn before you get on the highway; season it lightly with sea salt and a healthy oil (such as olive oil). Need a new flavor kick? Add nutritional yeast.
Kale or beet chips
If you’ve ever tasted them, then you know how (surprisingly) good they are. And they’re easy enough to make at home: We’ve got ready-to-roll recipes for spiced kale chips (garlic and cayenne optional, of course) and roasted beet chips.
Vegan Snacks to Prepare on the Road
Just because you’re traveling doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice hot food. Most gas stations have an array of self-serve coffee machines, and many of them have a hot-water spout on the side. Take advantage of it! For starters, if you’re a bit of a coffee snob, you could always bring your own grounds and French press, and fill it up with hot water when you stop to gas up the car.
You can also take advantage of that hot-water spigot to prepare easy-to-consume containers for a quick meal of healthy whole grains. Instant oatmeal in a cup is one option—and surprisingly, it’s got pretty much the same nutritional profile as the kind that needs to cook for 10 or 20 minutes. (Just look for a variety that doesn’t add a ton of sugar.) If oats aren’t your thing or you have a taste for something savory, then try: single-serve quinoa or rice cups, or healthy ramen, such as Lotus Foods rice-based versions. They can be prepared the same way.
Indulgent Treats: It’s a Road Trip, So Why Not?
We get it: Sometimes you just feel like indulging in a splurge of empty calories, right? And sometimes you just need a blast of sugar or salt to help get you across the endless open plains of Nebraska. But you might be surprised to learn that, junk food or not, these particular snacks are vegan!
Start with cookies. Maybe you’ve heard that Oreos are vegan? That’s true. Classic Oreos, as well as Golden and Double Stuff Oreos, do not contain animal-derived ingredients. This doesn’t mean we’re going to suggest that you eat these highly processed treats, but there are some healthier alternatives out there that happen to be vegan as well. For example, Trader Joe’s own version of the sandwich cookie, Joe-Joe’s, are all vegan (even some of the seasonal varieties), and they offer a gluten-free version as well. Another option is Back to Nature Classic Creme Cookies, which are plant-based with no hydrogenated oils or high fructose corn syrup.
On the savory side of the spectrum, Siete’s Nacho Tortilla Chips are free from grain, gluten, dairy and soy but still pack a flavor explosion in your mouth. They’re also low in sodium and sugar.
Finally, for your non-chocolate, sweet snack cravings, may we recommend a vegan version of Swedish fish? Not all gummies contain gelatin. There are several gelatin-free brands ideal for vegans, but our favorite is Smart Sweets Sweet Fish. These yummy plant-based wonders contain 13 grams of fiber goodness, but what we love most is their sugar content (or lack of!). Sweet Fish contain no sugar alcohols, artificial sweeteners or added sugar. Sweet!
Wherever and whenever you head out on the highway, this list of vegan-approved road trip snacks and treats should keep you happy, healthy and full. Safe travels and happy trails!
By: Web Behrens
Chicago-based writer/editor Web Behrens has spent most of his career covering arts and culture, mostly for the Chicago Tribune and Time Out Chicago. He counts cooking and baking among life's joys, having learned his way around a kitchen from his Bavarian grandmother and from being a strict vegetarian throughout the ’90s and ’00s.