Spring Break is in our rear view mirror, but Summer Break is now in our sights. Many of us take road trips to visit friends or explore new places on a summer vacation. While you can prepare and eat balanced healthy meals at home, maintaining that healthy diet while on the road can present a huge challenge. After all, you have to eat what’s available or what you brought, and you can’t cook. So how can eat relatively healthy foods while traveling?
Here are a few tips I’ve found to be useful to maintain healthy eating when we’re on a road trip:
Tip 1: A cooler is a must
Road trips are a great way to spend time with family; however, kids (okay, and some adults) can get grumpy when they’re hungry. On road trips, everyone seems to get hungry at completely different times. One solution is to stock up a cooler and food box with healthy snacks and drinks for everyone to grab while driving. This keeps us from being at the mercy of the drive-through restaurant or convenience store—often the only places to easily get food when you’re traveling on main highways.
Tip 2: Pack foods that pass the mush test
While you initially packed the cooler or food box and everything fit perfectly, the moment people start retrieving items nothing ever fits back quite the same. Thus the mushing of food as we try to stuff it back in and close a lid. Think about this when you pack, and avoid packing soft fruits, bananas, and other easily crushed food, or pack them in protective plastic containers.
Make more space in your cooler by freezing your water bottles or other liquids and using them to keep foods cool. Make sure your bottles aren’t filled to the top and that you leave the lid off when freezing them to avoid destroying your containers and potentially having a mess in your freezer.
Tip 3: Pack fiber-rich foods
Something about sitting still for long periods of time seems to make your digestive tract react somewhat poorly—or not react at all, as the case may be. By packing easy-to-grab, but fiber-filled foods like celery sticks and baby carrots you can avoid this issue. Seeds, nuts, and popcorn are also a great way to get fiber, but go easy on the salt! Here’s an article that offers insights into fiber content of a variety of snack foods.
You could also make a fiber-rich smoothie (read about their benefits from my recent blog post) and freeze them in individual drink containers. Bring straws for easy, spill-free access to these drinks.
Tip 4: Less Salt, More Water, Frequent Breaks
In the U.S., we already consume far too much salt (see this Huffington Post article). But when sitting still in a car, this can be more problematic. Kids, younger adults, and generally healthy people seem to experience fewer side effects of sitting still—most commonly swelling in the lower legs. You can pretty easily avoid any of these issues by drinking more water, reducing your sodium intake, and taking frequent breaks to stretch your legs. This USA Today article talks about how to avoid some of the side effects of sitting still while traveling.
Tip 5: Include protein for staying power
While it’s great to eat fruits and vegetables, don’t forget to include protein in the mix to keep hunger at bay. One of the easiest, mess-free road trip foods I’ve found is cheese sticks. They pack well and a single cheese stick of skim milk mozzarella gives a dose of 7 to 8 grams of protein and meets 20 percent of your daily calcium requirements.
For those of you who want something a little more special though, I have to recommend making and packing my Raw Vegetable Rolls. You probably won’t have to worry about how well these will travel, as they will be the first to go from the cooler!
So tell me your tips for eating healthy when you take a road trip or recipes that you have discovered travel well. I’d love some new ideas!