The Best And Worst Foods To Eat While Driving

Choose your vehicle meal wisely. It's dangerous if you don't do it right.

I recently wrote an essay for the Los Angeles Times about why I bought a truck. I'll spare you the subscription, but basically I want my vehicle to be a mobile dining room. This truck should bring me joy, and for that to happen, I need to be eating on, in, and with the truck. If you follow any of my posts here on The Takeout, you've probably noticed I take a lot of pictures of food sitting on the back gate or on the truck's lip. Just this week, I've eaten octopus salad, spring rolls, and boat noodles while parked in my truck. Sometimes, though, you have to chow down on the go, while the car is actually in motion. And that's where things get tricky.


Here in L.A., I constantly notice people chomping on burritos while speeding, doughnuts being devoured at red lights, and fries being pulled out of glove boxes. The car as a dining room is a beautiful concept, especially here in Southern California, but there's got to be some method to this madness. Driving, after all, is serious business.

Some of you will disagree, but I fully subscribe to the idea that there's a responsible way to eat and drive your car. There's a process here—foods that work and foods that don't. So here are the best and worst foods to eat while driving.

French Fries

Maybe you don't want greasy hands all over your steering wheel, but the fact remains that fast food fries have a very short shelf life. You need to eat those things posthaste, especially if they come from McDonald's. Pulling out a couple fries from your cupholder or center console while driving is one of the simplest joys in life, and it just makes sense. Read: Fries will taste better if you eat them quickly. Handheld foods in a car remain optimal, and even better if they're a time-sensitive, relatively mess-free meal.


This applies mostly to plain, undipped fries. I draw the line on opening packages of condiments while driving my car, but it can be done if the container is right. Just make sure you aren't squirting ketchup packets while trying to keep your eyes on the road.

Soft Serve in a Cup

Ice cream cones don't work while driving, but soft serve in a cup like a Fosters Freeze Twister or a DQ Blizzard is perfect driving material. I recently got a Butterfinger Blizzard from Fosters, and it was wonderful to take a spoonful of delicious, sugary soft serve studded with peanut butter candy at every stoplight. I actually looked forward to traffic on the way home. Utensils might seem improper or hazardous, but soft serve fits snugly in a cup holder, so you can keep the spoon far from your face while the car is in motion.


Smash Burgers and Only Smash Burgers

Smash burgers are flattened and much more cohesive than their thick burger counterparts. Each ingredient of a crispy smash burger melds seamlessly into the other, creating a grilled-cheese-with-meat vibe that rarely leaves a huge mess. No lettuce and tomato slipping out. In this scenario, I am also spreading a napkin on my lap to catch any burger drippings. Yes, several of my pants are stained. How did you know?


A Sandwich Not Loaded With Condiments

I'm a fan of simple sandwiches. When sandwich filling starts oozing out the sides with every bite, you've lost me. A sloppy Italian hoagie is delicious, but it's far from driving material. Know your sandwich before you attempt to eat it in the car. Too much lettuce and condiment is going cause a wreck. In short, don't get "the works" and expect to be able to safely merge lanes.


Good Pizza

Yes, pizza. I picked up a pizza from Secret Pizza recently with the intention of bringing it to a party, and on my way there I ate a few slices in the car. This pizza is perfectly foldable, with a sturdy undercarriage, and no sauce or cheese slipping off the side. Good pizza is perfectly fine to navigate while driving. Oozy, greasy pizza is a goddamn nightmare.


Ice Cream Cones

I saw a man eating an ice cream cone behind the wheel of his truck the other day and it made me worried for everybody. An ice cream cone is a ticking time bomb, with a necessary amount of 360-degree licking required to make sure the slop doesn't drip onto your hands or, worse, your lap. An ice cream cone is too time-sensitive. It requires too much attention that you don't (or shouldn't) have while navigating a 6,500-lb. vehicle, and thus cannot be fully enjoyed while driving. Go the soft-serve-in-a-cup route.



Tacos are best eaten sitting or standing. Good ones come loaded with cilantro, onion, and salsa, and what's a taco plate if you aren't also filling up on the free cucumbers and radishes? Sit down and enjoy a taco. Can you imagine squeezing a lime while driving? Absolutely not.



I don't think I need to explain this, but if you're driving and eating a salad with a fork, tell somebody you love and let them be the ones to handle this.


Never chips. And I fucking love chips. Chips are way greasier than french fries, and your steering wheel should never feel slick with oil. That's hazardous. Beyond their grease, all the worthwhile chips come with their own additional residue: Doritos, Cheetos, Takis. No, a road trip snack shouldn't require you to fully wash your hands afterward. Chips are best enjoyed while sitting on someone's couch.



Throughout the course of the photoshoot for the Los Angeles Times feature, I ate parts of six different doughnuts. Most of this happened in the driver's seat of my car, and I wish it hadn't. My hands were disgracefully sticky and gross. A little bit of cream from a filled doughnut spilled onto my jeans. I had jelly in my mustache. Thinking about it, I'm ashamed. This is not driving food. If you're eating doughnuts in your car, at least have some wet naps on hand. Even then, this is one of those foods best eaten over a trash can.