How Canned Foods Can Make Your Road Trip Healthier And Less Stressful

More than a third of American families are taking a road trip this summer, according to a recent AAA survey. And for many parents, prepping for a road trip feels like anything but “fun.”

Packing up the car with enough backseat kid-friendly activities and snacks ­— not to mention suitcases full of matching socks — can be stressful. Here are three ways canned goods can help.

Canned goods save you pre-vacation prep time

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, young children should eat three meals and at least two snacks per day. Older kids should eat three meals and at least one snack a day. Stopping at gas stations to feed these hungry mouths takes up valuable time, but so does cutting up fresh fruit and vegetables.

The solution: canned produce.

“The last thing I need to do before a road trip is waste time chopping up food for the car and finding Tupperware that matches,” says Julie Lamberti, a mother of three who works full time in Geneva, Illinois. “My kids love canned mandarin oranges, so I just toss a few of those in the back seat. I don’t need to pack a cooler with ice to keep the food cold either.”

Shannon Entin, the blogger behind 100 Routes Across America, agrees. “Almost any canned fruit can work for a road trip snack. Just remember to pack a fork and some wipes. Mandarin oranges, pineapple rings and cling peaches are great snacks kids love.”

If you choose cans with pull tabs, you don’t even need to remember to bring along a can opener. Another perk: You can leave unopened cans of food in the car overnight without worrying about spoilage.

Canned goods are a healthy alternative to gas station goodies

Potty breaks and gas tank refuels are inevitable during a road trip. Because no-frills highway rest areas are rapidly becoming relics of the past, chances are you’ll have to pull into one of the 150,000 gas stations across the country. And once your kids see the candy and chips aisles, they’re likely to start begging you for a snack.

Although gas stations are offering more healthy snack options, their aisles are still largely dominated by fatty foods with high calorie counts. For example, a six-pack of mini powdered donuts contains 13 grams of sugar and a whopping 6 grams of saturated fat.

If you don’t want to fuel backseat bickering with sugar, steer your kids towards to the canned goods aisle. According to Weight Watchers, canned fruit packed in juice or water is a good source of vitamins. To satisfy larger appetites, opt for a sandwich made with protein-rich canned tuna. One serving from a Starkist 5-ounce can of light tuna packed in water contains 10 grams of protein and only 45 calories and 0.5 gram of fat.

Canned goods are less expensive than fresh counterparts, so you can stretch your vacation dollars further

A road trip may spare you the expense of airfare but gas still costs money — $2.34 per gallon nationally as of early August. A long road trip easily could add up to hundreds of dollars in fuel expenses alone.

Buying canned foods can offset the financial burden. For example, a study from Michigan State University found that canned vegetables are 20 percent less expensive than fresh veggies. And as we often point out, canned food is just as good for you as fresh.

Keeping the kids entertained in the car with iPads, games and other gadgets can cost a bundle, too. But with a little ingenuity — and cans — you can keep them busy for hours at no additional cost.

“Rinse the cans, and then the kids can use them as musical instruments, like Anna Kendrick does in the movie ‘Pitch Perfect,’ ” says Entin. “If you’re crafty, bring along some glue, yarn and a cookie sheet. The kids can decorate the cans, using the cookie sheet to contain the mess.”

So if you’ve got a road trip coming up, start your preparation vacation early. Toss some canned goodies in the back seat and cross “pack snacks” off your to-do list.