With a little bit of effort and willpower, you can navigate your way around the junk food and maintain your healthy diet while on a long road trip. You'll feel healthier, more alert, and have more fun.
Start with breakfast. You may be eating breakfast at a restaurant, a hotel continental breakfast bar, or even the food aisle of a gas station. Avoid excess sugar. High carbohydrate meals may improve your mood for a short time, but lots of sugar can also make you sleepy. That's not good if you are the driver.
Healthy eating at a restaurant:
- Choose an omelet filled with vegetables and order a side of whole wheat toast instead of a stack of pancakes and syrup.
- A bowl of oatmeal with fresh fruit is filling and good for you.
- If you want something sweet, choose a bran muffin, which is a good source of fiber. Or opt for whole grain toast with just a little jam or jelly.
- Check out my tips for finding healthful foods on a restaurant menu.
- Choose a whole grain cereal with low-fat milk.
- Fresh fruit gives you vitamins and fiber.
- Yogurt or hard-boiled eggs are good sources of protein.
- Avoid sugary muffins, sweet-rolls, and pre-sweetened cereal.
- Look for single-serving whole grain breakfast cereals and low-fat milk.
- Protein bars can make a good breakfast food substitute, but watch out for extra sugar and calories--read the labels.
- As a last resort, choose a hot breakfast sandwich or small breakfast burrito over donuts and sweet-rolls.
- Most breakfast choices have lots of calories and saturated fats, but breakfast burritos may have less than other selections.
- Fruit and yogurt parfaits will give you some calcium and protein without too much saturated fat.
- Drink low-fat milk or 100-percent juice instead of sodas and orange-flavored soft drinks.
When you stop for gas and restroom breaks, find a local grocery store which will have a better selection than the gas station.
Eat healthy snacks in the car:
- Load up on fresh-cut vegetables and fruit. Bring along a small cooler with ice packs to keep your snacks fresh.
- Bring plenty of water. It will keep you hydrated and, if you spill it, won't stain the upholstery like sodas.
- Individually wrapped portions of string cheese or vegetarian cheese alternatives can be kept in the cooler with the fruit and vegetables. They are a great source of calcium and protein.
- Bring baked whole grain crackers along on your trip. This is good for added fiber and nutrients.
- Don't overindulge in greasy chips. There are baked varieties that have a lot less unhealthy fats. You need to watch how much you eat of those too, however, since they don't offer much in the way of nutrition.
- Make your own homemade protein bars at home and bring them with you on your trip.
- You can also pack sandwiches made with whole grain bread and peanut butter or lean meats. Keep these in the cooler, too.
- Nuts such as almonds, cashews, and walnuts contain polyunsaturated fats and are easy to take on a trip in either individual bags or larger containers.
Healthy eating in restaurants:
- Order a soup or a salad to eat with your main course. Soups and salads are generally healthy and start to fill you up so that you eat less of the more calorie-dense main meal.
- Skip the entree altogether. Soup and salad might be enough for a healthy meal.
- Split a meal with your dining partner. Most restaurants serve huge portions, so there is usually enough food to share. This saves calories and money. Besides, sharing eliminates the temptation to take leftovers back on the road, where they can't be properly stored.
- Select foods that are prepared with healthier, low-fat methods. Baked chicken is healthy, but fried chicken has too much fat.
- Eat the vegetables. Most entrees come with at least one vegetable. If not, be sure to order a vegetable side dish.
- Skip dessert, or choose some fruit. A full meal that ends with a sugary dessert may make you feel sleepy. That might be fine if you are passenger, but a bad idea if you are the driver.
- Find sandwich shops like Subway or Quiznos that let you select your sandwich ingredients. Choose whole grain breads, lean meats, and lots of vegetables.
- Many fast food restaurants offer salads, but you need to be careful when you select one. Some of those salads are very high in fat, especially taco salads or those topped with fried chicken strips.
- Don't super-size your meal. It sounds like a great deal, but you will eat way too much calories, fat, and sodium.
- Order sandwiches made with grilled chicken rather than fried chicken.
At the HotelIf your trip requires a hotel stay, you might get a bit hungry after a long day of travel. If going to a restaurant is not an option, you should still find healthy foods.
Eating at the hotel:
- Find a local grocery store and buy healthy snack items such as fruit, nuts, or healthy choices from a salad bar or deli section. If your hotel has a microwave, you can find healthier frozen dinners or soup.
- If your only choice for a snack is the hotel vending machine, skip the candy and chips and look for nuts or microwave popcorn.
- Some restaurants will deliver food to your hotel room and may have some healthy menu items available. If you go for a pizza delivery, don't order extra cheese or meats high in saturated fat. Choose lots of vegetable and mushrooms. Order a side salad too.