Quick stops at gas station convenience stores and fast food restaurant bathrooms while traveling can only mean one thing: Road trips can be dangerous for your diet. Our dietitians give us some handy tips for eating healthy on the road.
Summer road trips are not only a great way to take in the world around you while spending time with the ones you love — they’re also wonderful memory-makers.
Your children might not be able to remember to do their chores every week, but they certainly recall that road trip to Disneyland. And what about that time you got pulled over for speeding? Do you remember bonding over stories, singing and playing “I Spy?”
With so much planning going into making the trip fun and entertaining, that same mentality should be used on food – for the sake of your diet and nutrition.
Renown Health Registered Dietitians know how to plan a road trip with health and budgetary benefits.
Here are their top three tips:
Crunchy, Sweet, Refreshing: Best Road Trip Meals and Snacks to Pack
The common temptation is to settle on fast food or gas station food. The hot dog rollers are full of franks and taquitos, the nacho cheese dispenser is warmed up and those breakfast burritos have been waiting all morning for you.
But, despite your urge to splurge, be strong and look elsewhere. Those items can be costly and unhealthy.
By taking your healthy eating habits on the road with you, by the time you head out to dinner when you arrive at your destination you can reward yourself for not sacrificing your nutrition on the trip.
Nicole Laroche, Registered Dietitian at Renown Health, suggests planning ahead and bringing a small cooler with perishable snacks or meals.
A few easy ones you can pack include:
- Preparing sandwiches can be a pain before your trip, but the payoff is cheap eats and better nutrition. Make peanut butter and jelly or sliced turkey and Gouda on whole wheat bread or prepare a side of tuna salad in a travel-safe bowl or hummus and easily spread it on bread or crackers at your next rest stop for lunch.
- Pack sliced tomatoes, lettuce or onion and condiments in a separate container to add to your sandwich without making the bread soggy.
- The night before your trip make something for dinner that will create delicious leftovers. A couple of dishes that lend themselves easily to leftovers include spaghetti; sausages and veggies; and steaks and hamburger patties.
- Clean out the fruits and veggies in your fridge and make a salad (this will help prevent food spoilage, too!) You can also pre-cut apples for snacks and slice a variety of veggies sticks for salsa.
- Several you can easily prepare at home include granola bars, oatmeal cookies, muffins and kale chips.
Smart-Shopping Tips for Road Trip Stops
Eating at a gas station doesn’t have to include binging on flaming-hot pork rinds and a liter of cola (and its 100-plus grams of sugar). As Nicole points out, there are healthy options.
A good place to start is in the refrigerated section stocked with perishable goodies. A few nutritious items you could choose include yogurt, cut-up vegetables and cheese. And most gas stations have fruit like bananas, apples and oranges.
Outside of the perishables, some other good-for-you options include:
- Protein bars
- Low-Fat Popcorn
- Veggie crisps
- Nuts or seeds
- Wasabi peas
- Trail mix (avoid chocolate)
- Beef jerky (low sodium if they have it)
- Whole grain cereals and low-fat milk
- 100-percent fruit juice
Keep in mind some snacks are high in calories, so be sure to review the ingredients and choose nutrient-dense foods. And, don’t forget to think about portions, too!
Hydration, Station: Fill Up Frequently
Bringing your own water bottle on your road trip is the easiest way to save on money and empty calories. You can fill up several at home and leave in the fridge overnight so they are cold and then refill whenever you stop to fill up on gas.
You can also refuel water from that cooler you already packed.
Plus, if your road trip ends at the airport, you can easily take an empty bottle through security and fill it up in the terminal before your flight.
Not a huge water drinker? Try some of these other tasty hydration options in your cooler:
- Sparkling water
- 100-percent fruit juice
- Individually-package milk including soy
- Caffeine-free cold tea
- Fruit or veggie infused water
Remember: If you plan and prepare your snacks and meals ahead of your trip — or choose wisely at the gas station — you can have fun and maintain your healthy eating lifestyle on the go.