This Is Your Road Trip Nutrition Survival Guide
It’s almost road trip season! You’ve probably saved up your vacation days to load up the caravan (do people still say that?) and see this beautiful country of yours, up close and personal, rather than flying over it. It’s a wonderful way to travel! But you cannot plan meals on a road trip the way you can when you fly somewhere, know exactly where you’ll be staying each night and can map out your days. On a road trip, anything can happen from traffic to an unplanned site seeing stop to a flat tire. You wake up each morning typically having no idea where your tummy will take you that day. And since you want to keep that car moving, you probably won’t stop to borrow someone’s kitchen and make a healthy meal. That’s okay! We have you covered. Here is your road trip nutrition survival guide.
Pack these non-perishable snacks
Turkey jerky, dried fruit, wholesome bars (the fewer ingredients the better—look for ones that only have nuts, seeds, dried fruit and some natural sweetener like honey), a jar of almond butter, and a pack of whole grain crackers.
Find motels with kitchens
Remember that a lot of motels have little kitchens. Find these so you can make dinner and breakfast in the room. Make a little trip to the local grocery store and eat what you’d eat at home.
And snack regularly
Snack every few hours in the car so hunger doesn’t drive you to, well, a drive-thru. It’s hard to get a snack under 400 calories at a drive-thru, and once you’re there you’ll want the fatty stuff.
Get these snacks at the gas station
If your only option for food is a gas station, look for bags of nuts, string cheese, and fruits that don’t need to be refrigerated like apples, bananas, and oranges. Some places (if you’re lucky) have small cans of tuna.
Stop at rest stops, not restaurants
If you need to use the restroom, look for a rest stop instead of a restaurant or gas station. This minimizes the temptation to buy food when you aren’t hungry.
Bring a cooler
Bring a cooler in the car so you can pack things like salads, hard boiled eggs and cut-up fruit. You can also keep your beverages cold in here, so you aren’t tempted to stop at a gas station to buy a cold water, and end up buying ice cream.
Actually stop to eat
Find a nice park or lookout and have a picnic. If you eat while driving or even while riding in the car, you’re bound to inhale your food.
No matter how well you do at eating well on the road, you’re bound to eat some nutritionally-deficient foods. Pack your multi-vitamins and some fish oil. Oh, and for your immune system, bring Echinacea.
Order off the lite menu at diners
A lot of diners have lite menus; don’t ignore those. You may think they have odd diet meals but they actually have things you make at home, like grilled chicken and broccoli or salad with tuna.
Split a classic, and a healthy item
If you want a classic diner item like a pastrami sandwich, then split one with your driving partner, and then split a salad. Select just one high-calorie item and enjoy that.
Don’t make it a meal
Never make it a meal. Making it a meal always means adding fries or chips and a soda. You don’t need those things. If anything, food like that makes it less of a meal.
Eat this at the motel’s continental breakfast
Look for fruit, cottage cheese, and eggs. Do not load a bunch of those packaged pastries into your purse and stay away from the waffle maker.
Invest in powdered greens
There will be long stretches of time when it’s hard to find vegetables. Be prepared, and pack powdered greens that you can add to your juice, water, or any drinks you have in that cooler.
Try local places instead of fast food
There will usually be tons of fast food chains right off the freeway exits, but if you travel a mile or two into town, you can find local spots where you can eat real, wholesome food.
Nap; don’t buy an energy drink
If you get tired on the road, have your friend drive, or pull over and take a nap. Do not turn to high-calorie, high-sugar energy drinks that mess with your metabolism.
Hit up fruit stands
When you see farmers markets, apple-picking orchards and fruit stands, pull over! These are a little gift to road trippers.
Know there’s little produce at trucks
Food trucks aren’t usually equipped to have produce on hand. Food trucks will usually have lots of meat, cheese, and starch. These aren’t your best option when you’re on the road.
Research your lunch spot in the morning
Don’t wait until you’re desperately hungry to find a restaurant—then you’ll just go to the first fast food chain you see. When you’re still at your motel or hotel in the morning, get on the Internet and research some good restaurants in the towns you’ll be passing.
Pick a treat every day
While you’re online, find a place that is known for its cotton candy, ice cream, chocolate—whatever—and decide that that will be your treat for the day. Then you won’t feel inclined to buy generic candy at the gas station.
Look for anything grilled
Most drive-thrus will have grilled chicken sandwiches or grilled something. Go for that over the fried or charbroiled stuff.