Are you traveling this summer? You might find these ideas useful if you’re trying to eat healthy while on the road.
Your thoughts will probably be set on the destination ahead—not on the food you’ll eat along the way. Unfortunately, when hunger strikes, it’s often easiest to make a pit stop at the first drive-through you see. On the road, it’s tempting to make the wrong choices, like grabbing chips, candy or French fries, which are convenient, but high in calories, sugar and fat.
It is possible to eat on the road without sabotaging your or your family’s well-balanced diet, but it takes a bit of planning. Before you leave think about packing healthy snacks, scoping out the establishments along the route you will travel and being conscious about menu choices.
Pack – healthy, road-trip-friendly choices
Packing healthy food is a good way to avoid reaching for unhealthy options, but what’s best to pack? Staying hydrated is important to keeping your energy levels up, so bring a water bottle when you travel. A refillable water bottle helps cut down money spent and waste—just be sure to empty it before heading through airport security if you’re flying.
Think of snacks that travel well, like string cheese, nut butters, homemade trail mix, fruits and veggie sticks. Balancing your carbohydrates with a protein while you're traveling will keep you satisfied longer. Pair an apple with a part skim string cheese, a graham cracker with a tablespoon of peanut butter, or a cup of carrots and celery with two tablespoons of hummus for a tasty balance of carbs and protein.
Plan – make healthy choices
It’s almost impossible to avoid a stop at a fast food joint, gas station or airport newsstand (especially when you are traveling with children). That’s fine! You just need to know what to choose. Convenience stores and newsstands often carry options for health-conscious travelers, like pre-packaged hummus with veggies, cheese and crackers and dried fruit and nuts. Be sure to check the nutrition label—snacks should contain 100 to 200 calories, less than 230 milligrams of sodium and less than 35 percent of calories from fat. Beware of added sugars, too. Avoid snacks that list sugars as one of the first few ingredients.
It is possible to eat well at the drive-through as well. Fried burgers with more than one patty can have 800 calories, or about two meals’ worth of calories and fat – so steer clear of combination meals listed on the menu and create your own! Opt for small, grilled sandwich options, (like grilled chicken breast) and pile on extra veggies. Ask for extra lettuce at the burger joint and create your own lettuce wrap. Many of these establishments offer salads, fruit cups, sliced apples and even yogurt. Assemble a meal using these elements, without high-fat dressings, cheese or mayonnaise. Before placing your order, check the nutritional value of foods – most chain restaurants now include calorie counts on their menu, and if you don’t see them you can check online.
Complete your meal with water or low-fat milk, instead of a 12-ounce soda which typically has about 135 calories and 35 grams of sugar.
Play – move around when you stop
Another easy way to stay healthy while traveling this summer is exercise. Walking is the simplest way to get moving. A simple 10-minute walk while stopped at the gas station could curb your appetite and it’s a great way to burn a few extra calories you might add to your diet while traveling. You could also pack a jump rope and strength resistance band. These items are easy to use and compact enough to travel anywhere with. And as an added bonus, these quick bursts of exercise can help cranky kids release some pent-up energy from riding in the car on long trips.
Finally, if you are frequently grabbing a candy bar when you stop for a tank of gas, we've got a nifty way to shore up your willpower: Start paying with cash.
Before your trip, plan out your stops and budget out cash for each stop. Turns out you make unhealthier impulse buys (look, MoonPies!) at the gas station when you pay with plastic. Pay with cash and you are likely to end up with 30 percent fewer unhealthful foods.
See, charging food on your credit card — the old "buy now, pay later" mentality — is just one step away from crazy overspending at the mall. Researchers suspect there's a parallel between Americans paying for at least 40 percent of their purchases with plastic and 34 percent of Americans being extremely overweight.
Good luck and healthy travels!
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.