Packing Summer Snacks and On-the-Go Meals

By Carol Phillips

Welcome to spring sports season and gearing up for summer day trips! Does the thought of packing the cooler contribute to your stress or is it part of the excitement of getting out of the house? Either way, here are some tips to make it easier to eat healthy on the go and keep everyone’s tummy happy!

Find out what everyone likes.

Why spend time and money only to learn that family members are tired of the same old thing? Invite everyone to make a list of the healthy foods they like to ensure you won’t have to deal with hangry kids and food going to waste.

Use tools that work for you.

Is it better to have one large cooler for a particular trip or should each person have an insulated lunchbox? When it’s time to eat, will you all be together or will you branch out during the day? Pausing to picture what the day will bring makes it easier to decide the best way to pack food. Don’t forget the utensils, napkins, and freezer packs. Instead of packing a whole bag of oranges, peel them at home and put them in reusable containers.


Most people are not well-hydrated on a daily basis, making it impossible for our bodies to work optimally. Be sure everyone has drinks that offer nutrition and are not high in caffeine and sugar.

Tip: If you don’t like the taste of plain water, fill your water bottle mostly with water and then add a quality sports drink or an all-natural juice. Change up the flavors regularly for fun and to take advantage of the different vitamins, carbs, protein, fiber, and electrolytes they offer. Also, an extra gallon of water in the back of your vehicle can be used for drinking and for cleaning up.

What to eat?

It’s easier to eat healthy when a variety of sliced fruits and vegetables are available. Dipping sauces add to the fun. Shop for sauces and dressings that are made from healthy ingredients with low or no salt or sugar.

Also, hummus, yogurt, nuts, cheese, popcorn, protein bars, leftovers, turkey, chicken, healthy beef jerky, and dark chocolate are popular choices. Quarter sandwiches and slice subs to make it easier to grab and eat. Use lettuce leaves instead of bread or try pita pockets.

Put out all the fixings and let everyone prepare and pack their own lunches. Bonus: Less work for you and they can take pride in their efforts!

Everything in moderation.

Enjoying a favorite unhealthy snack during vacation or while celebrating a sports playoff win is better than eating that food as a regular part of your diet. Take pride in ensuring that most, if not all, packed foods are healthy. Perfection and guilt can set us up for future unhealthy bingeing.

Pack hand sanitizer or anti-bacterial hand wipes.

Since a sink with soap may not be close by, be sure everyone has an opportunity to destroy those nasty germs before eating. Avoid the chance of your fun outing being followed by time spent sick in bed.

Pack a garbage bag.

Many public parks require visitors to remove all personal trash. Throw a bag right in your cooler and you’ll be good to go. Also, when heading back home, if the cooler is empty, put the garbage bag in the cooler, so you won’t have to deal with bad smells or leaks in your vehicle.

Parenting tip: Ask children: “What are we forgetting?” Teach them to pause and think about what is needed to reduce the stress of forgotten items. When they think of something, give them positive feedback and thank them for their help.

Ready for fun?

Make shopping and food prep a family affair. Invite everyone to help. Turn on some music and excitedly discuss the upcoming game or outing while packing the cooler and vehicle. When returning home, invite everyone to help unpack and put items away while reflecting on your quality time together. Enjoy!


Carol Phillips (“Coach Carol”) is an author, speaker, health coach, and consultant. She is the award-winning author of 52 Simple Ways to Health and Coach Carol’s Do-It-Yourself Health Coaching Guidebook. Based in Manchester, NH, she can be reached through her website at

Carol Phillips is a national health and wellness expert, the award-winning author of 52 Simple Ways to Health, and the radio host of Ask Coach Carol. Her company, Health Design, helps businesses significantly reduce costs and increase productivity by prioritizing health, wellness, and safety practices. Health Design is a SHRM Recertification Provider. Based in Manchester, NH, she can be reached through her website at