Easy, portable meal ideas to make ahead for a road trip

by Beth Graham

I have a vegan daughter so traveling is always a challenge, whether we’re looking for a local restaurant or facing a long-haul flight. We were recently faced with a 16-hour flight to Australia and were challenged to come up with meals that would keep for a long period of time without losing flavor or integrity. I’m sorry, but airline food just doesn’t cut it. So I’m always on the hunt for healthy food ideas for road trips.

I came up with five great dishes and healthy snack ideas for road trips that are easy to prepare and are portable. You’ll certainly want to pack a cooler and may choose to leave out certain ingredients depending on the length of your trip.

Healthy food ideas for road trips

Sesame noodles 

These could not be simpler and are one of the best lunch ideas for road trips. You can use regular pasta (I like linguine for this dish) or udon noodles. Simply boil the noodles, drain and toss with sesame oil. You can add in a range of raw, fresh veggies that will hold up. Try matchstick carrots, edamame beans (a great protein source), water chestnuts, and broccoli. You can add a bit of grated ginger for more flavor or a sprinkle of red pepper flakes.  This is one of my favorite recipes for sesame noodles.

Roasted chickpeas

These might be the most portable food ever and certainly one of the the best snack foods for road trips! And you can customize them to your taste. Start with canned chickpeas or I prefer raw chickpeas that are soaked overnight and then boiled – just follow the package directions. Lay the peas out on a kitchen towel to dry – this can take a couple of hours, but they need to be completely dry in order to get crunchy. In a small bowl, mix one tablespoon of olive oil, and 1 teaspoon each of cumin, chili powder, smoked paprika and salt. (I also add 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper because I like them spicy.) Toss the chickpeas with the seasoning and spread onto a baking pan, making sure the peas are in a single layer. Roast in a 450º oven for 30-40 minutes, stirring often, until crunchy.

Brussels Sprouts salad 

I promise you, even if you don’t love sprouts, you’ll love this salad. It’s raw so more like a cabbage slaw than cooked sprouts. Use a mandolin to shave the sprouts really thin – carefully! Add dried cranberries and chopped walnuts. Make a vinaigrette of 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 tablespoon of white wine or champagne vinegar, salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon.  Here’s another alternative recipe to try.

Fried cauliflower rice 

This is my go to dish any day of the week and I’ve found that it’s a great take along dish as well. It’s great at room temperature so is one of my favorite dinner ideas for road trips. Rice a cauliflower (although you can now buy it in the grocery store already riced). In a pan over medium high heat, add olive oil, along with a bit of garlic and ginger (you can use fresh or powdered). Add the cauliflower rice. Don’t stir it for a couple of minutes to allow it to get a little crispy. Add 1 tablespoon of soy sauce or tamari and stir. You can also add raw veggies (similar to the sesame noodles).

Black bean wrap

I am SO over grabbing deli sandwiches at restaurants only to unwrap them hours later and find wilted lettuce and soggy bread. My solution is black bean wraps. These are one of the healthy food ideas for road trips and one of the best lunch ideas for long road trips. Use whole grain wraps. Open a can of black beans and drain them well. Lay them out on paper towels to dry – this is important to ensure they don’t make your tortilla soggy. I add some seasoned rice to mine, as rice travels well. Just make a cup of your favorite rice, and season it with cumin and a squeeze of lime. Mix the beans and rice with a chopped red pepper. Be sure to wrap the tortilla in a paper towel and then in foil to keep it from getting soggy. Put a sliced lime into a separate bag and squeeze it on the wrap when you’re ready to eat it, to add some moisture. If you feel like you need to add veggies, I find that the pre-package broccoli slaw travels well and holds up better than lettuce, which tends to wilt.

Try these recipes for healthy food ideas for road trips.

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