Buckle Up for a Dietitian’s Top High-Protein Travel Snacks Perfect for Your Next Road Trip

Buckle Up for a Dietitian’s Top High-Protein Travel Snacks Perfect for Your Next Road Trip

There are two essentials that every successful road trip needs: a great playlist, and some really good snacks. The latter is perhaps most important, because while you can stream the new Sabrina Carpenter single from nearly anywhere you are, there aren’t always the best food options on the interstate. (Or sometimes, many rest stops at all.) While you may not typically think of road trip snacks as “healthy,” we’ve rounded up several high-protein travel snacks to help balance your blood sugar and keep you satisfied through long hours on the road.

Having a few options to satisfy your taste buds can provide a much-needed break from focusing on the road—or the flight tracker, if your travel plans are taking you up in the air—and these tasty snack ideas really hit the mark from a nutrition standpoint.  Plus, many of these options are affordable and easy to find at gas stations, airport snack shops, and more.

Why is protein important?

Protein is responsible for aiding in muscle building and repair1 and supporting the immune system2. Like carbohydrates and fat, protein is just one part of the equation in an overall healthy and balanced diet. While carbohydrates are known to provide quick energy, protein is known to “extend that energy.” It does this by keeping blood sugar stable and enhancing satiety, thereby keeping you full for hours.

The daily recommendation for protein is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. (If you’re 150 pounds, that amounts to around 54 grams of protein per day.) Some people may feel better with slightly higher amounts depending on their age and activity levels.

No matter what eating pattern you follow, you need adequate protein every day, and ideally, in each eating occasion. Research has shown that your body is better able to use protein when you space out your intake throughout the day3 versus eating it all in one meal. In other words, each meal and snack should have protein in it, and diversifying your protein intake can ensure you’re getting a wide range of nutrients.

How to eat more protein while traveling

It can be challenging to stick with nourishing nutrition goals while you’re traveling—you might be on a long road trip where rest stops are few and far between, or at the airport so early in the morning that nothing is open. That’s why a little bit of preparation can go a long way towards eating healthfully on the road.

Being in the car (or hanging around the airport terminal) for long periods of time can lead to boredom snacking. Being prepared with healthy snack ideas can help combat this. I prefer my snacks to have at least seven to 10 grams of protein per serving to ensure they keep me full and satisfied for longer.

If you are able to pack a cooler, you’ll have some more options when it comes to snacking. However, a reusable bag or Tupperware container can also work for short durations. Here are some of our favorite high-protein travel snacks to pack along for your next trip.

1. Nuts and seeds

Nuts and seeds are efficient sources of plant-based protein and healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Pistachios, specifically, are a complete protein, meaning they offer all of the essential amino acids that the body can’t make.

Buy it: Wonderful Pistachios No Shells Variety Pack, $8 for nine pouches

Make it: No-bake peanut butter and pecan clusters

2. Tuna or salmon pouches

High in healthy omega-3 fatty acids and protein, shelf-stable tuna pouches offer nearly 15 grams of protein per pouch and don’t require a can opener. Eat them right out of the pouch, throw in a wrap or pita bread, or pair with some whole grain crackers.

Buy it: Starkist Tuna Creations Pouches, $6 for four

3. Beans and pulses

While we often think of canned beans for chilis and quesadillas, there are several portable options for pulses that provide protein and other nutrition benefits. From roasted chickpeas (5-6 grams of protein per serving) to snap pea crisps (5 grams of protein per serving), pulses can quench the salty potato chip craving while also providing protein, fiber and other micronutrients.

Buy it: Snapea Crisps Harvest Snaps Wasabi Ranch, $15 for three 3.3-ounce bags

Make it: Roasted chickpeas

4. Jerky

Jerky is an easy, high-protein option for on the go. You can find low-sodium jerky and flavored options at many gas stations. Aside from beef jerky, turkey, salmon and tuna jerky are also wonderful and easy shelf-stable protein options for traveling.

Buy it: Krave All Natural Pork Jerky Black Cherry BBQ Seasoned, $7 for 2.7 ounces

Make it: Mushroom jerky

5. Protein bars

There are a wide range of protein bars available that cater to nearly every dietary preference. Try to aim for those with at least eight to 10 grams of protein and less than eight grams of added sugars. Some protein bars are made with artificial sweeteners, which don’t sit well with everyone. If you don’t want to be dealing with digestive discomfort while traveling, stick to those that you eat and enjoy regularly that don’t cause stomach issues.

Buy it: Magic Spoon Treats, $39 for pack of 16

Make it: 3-ingredient blueberry almond energy bars

6. Edamame

Edamame is a wonderful, soy-based plant protein option, offering 13 grams of protein per one-third cup serving. Whether you prefer your edamame shelled, chilled or dry and crunchy, this healthy option is also high in fiber, iron, and magnesium.

Buy it: The Only Bean Crunchy Roasted Edamame Beans Wasabi Soy Sauce, $14 for three 4-ounce bags

Make it: Edamame hummus

6. Hard boiled eggs

At 6-7 grams per egg, hard boiled eggs are an easy-to-prep snack that’s perfectly portable. Add a little salt or EBTB seasoning and enjoy this protein-packed snack, which also offers B-vitamins, choline, and iron.

Buy it: Good & Gather Cage-Free Hard-Cooked Eggs, $2 for two

Make it: Easy hard-boiled eggs

7. Cheese

A string cheese or slice of cheese offers 7 grams of protein, which pairs nicely with some fiber-rich fruit or vegetables.

Buy it: Sargento Natural Mozzarella String Cheese, $5 for 12

8. A (mini) sandwich

Whether you’re a PB&J lover, or prefer a sandwich with deli meats and cheese, using whole grain breads for your sandwich can amplify your protein and fiber intake. For mini sandwich options on-the-go—or for kid-friendly portions—consider using whole grain rolls or bread thins. I also like the new rolls from Dave’s Killer Bread, which are high in protein and fiber.

Buy it: Dave’s Killer Bread Rock ‘n’ Rolls, $7 for 12 rolls

Make it: High-protein vegetarian sandwich recipes

9. Greek yogurt or cottage cheese cups

Both Greek yogurt and cottage cheese are protein-rich options that also offer calcium and vitamin D, and most offer probiotics. Opt for plain Greek yogurt and add your own toppings and sweetener to reduce the added sugars content, or try some fun store- bought flavors. You can also make a high-protein dip out of your yogurt or cottage cheese and take it to go with some cut-up veggies and crackers to add fiber (and crunch).

Buy it: Oikos Triple Zero Vanilla Nonfat Greek Yogurt, $5 for four 5.3-ounce containers

Make it: Cottage cheese queso dip

Well+Good articles reference scientific, reliable, recent, robust studies to back up the information we share. You can trust us along your wellness journey.

  1. Carbone, John W, and Stefan M Pasiakos. “Dietary Protein and Muscle Mass: Translating Science to Application and Health Benefit.” Nutrients vol. 11,5 1136. 22 May. 2019, doi:10.3390/nu11051136
  2. Tourkochristou, Evanthia et al. “The Influence of Nutritional Factors on Immunological Outcomes.” Frontiers in immunology vol. 12 665968. 31 May. 2021, doi:10.3389/fimmu.2021.665968
  3. Johnson, Nathaniel R et al. “Evenness of Dietary Protein Intake Is Positively Associated with Lean Mass and Strength in Healthy Women.” Nutrition and metabolic insights vol. 15 11786388221101829. 16 Jun. 2022, doi:10.1177/11786388221101829

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