Thursday, June 20, 2013

How to Eat Healthy on Road Trips

Summer always means road trips for me. Since I was a kid, it seems like every summer I ended up hitting the road and going somewhere and that always meant eating like total crap - rest stops, fast food, the Awful House, gas stations. You eat so much junk that by the time you arrive at your destination you feel like hell. Here's how not to do that on this summer's road trip.

I'm leaving next week for what's going to be two or three days on the road from Florida to Delaware (with a toddler oh my god) and I'm determined that we will be eating well and won't succumb to the allure of grease, sugar and Goo Goo Clusters in Georgia gas stations.

1. Rule of Road Trip Eating - Pack your own food. Get a cooler and fill it up. Take the following: nut butter, apples, grapes, bananas, small, individually wrapped cheeses, water bottles, unsweet tea if you can fit bottles or a thermos, crackers (I like Mary's Gone Crackers, gluten free and made with nuts and rice), any kind of healthy bars that you like (I am currently addicted to these weird chia things), hard boiled eggs, breakfast cookies, and yes, it's a road trip so throw in some whole grain chips of some sort. I like tortilla chips, but don't get crazy. If you have room you can throw in a decent jar of salsa too and that counts as veggies. Finish your cooler with a bag of carrot sticks, cucumber slices, radishes, cherry tomatoes, celery sticks, etc. and you are good to go. They even have individual ranch dressing cups that you can use if you want dip, but they can get messy in the car.

Do not forget to bring a paring knife, utensils, plates, a few plastic cups, napkins, a roll of paper towels, baby wipes and some trash bags.

You can't live off of the snacks in your cooler. You will have to eat meals, and you will have to stop on your trip, so here are the best places to eat on the road and the best choices you can make at those places (all tested out by my actual experience).

1. Subway - Normally I hate Subway, but on the road when you're in the middle of Pork Fat, South Carolina, Subway is a good choice. Start with a whole grain roll, skip the mayo and the meat, get a little cheese if you want and then pile on the veggies. End with a squeeze of avocado, oil, vinegar and seasonings and yum. You'll be filled up, it's good and you won't feel like shit after you eat it. Get a bottle of water, unsweet tea or no sugar juice and you're good to go. No, you don't need BBQ chips with it and No, you don't need to stop at the DQ afterwards.

2. Taco Hell. I'm not kidding. Their new Cantina menu is great in a pinch and order everything vegetarian. I like their black bean burrito but their classic bean and cheese burrito isn't bad either and will keep you from starving to death or eating a deep fried, tacoditalocomoco or whatever the hell they're calling things there these days. 

3. Panera - kind of the holy grail of road food. They are few and far between. If you see one stop and get a salad or a hummus sandwich and some soup and praise God that you aren't eating at the KFC an exit earlier.

4. Five Guys - They will make you a grilled cheese on a hamburger bun with whatever other toppings you want. Not the greatest choice, but better than greasy burgers. Control yourself and don't get fries and a shake with it and you're safe.

5. Chick-fil-a - Let's not get political about this. It's good for road food and they will make vegetarian versions of all salads, wraps etc. They also have grilled chicken and whole grain wraps and their new market salad has fresh fruits, nuts and all kinds of good stuff. You could do a lot worse.

6. Starbucks - Great breakfast choice. Get oatmeal. Most Starbucks have food. They have really yummy, healthy lunch boxes and sandwiches. Try them. 

7. Free Hotel Breakfasts! Yay. My favorite. I love free breakfast buffets. I get tea, plain eggs if available, whole grain bread, whole grain cereal or oatmeal and fruit. Exercise self control. You don't need a damned waffle.

8. Chipotle - Another holy grail. Grass fed meats, vegetarian options, real food, fresh vegetables. Stop and get a big, yummy salad bowl with lots of beans and salsa and guac. Heaven.

Those are my tips. Safe travels and healthy eats to all of you this summer. Please share your tips and favorite, healthy road meals in the comments.


Gina said...

I have a tendency to eat like an asshole when I am on vacation. I do pack a cooler & healthy snacks, though. I love beef (or turkey) jerky, because it's protein, low fat, & makes me feel full. Plus, it fulfills that craving for salt. It's pricey, though and can be high in sodium.

beatgrl said...

I go for salads at Subway. Depending on the location, they will let you get all spinach for the greens. I get all the veggies they have, plus tuna, vinegar and pepper. Yum!!

Erika Beebe said...

Love this reminder! Thank you.

kerry said...

My mom's suggestion was deli departments in grocery stores. As an option. Potato salad, fruit salad, pasta salad, and fried chicken (which I guess isn't terribly healthy). But she liked them when my brothers and I were little, because you could take it to a park and let us run around, make noise, that kind of thing, and eat a nice relaxed lunch.

Travel safe!

Anonymous said...

I discovered Panera when my friend gave me a gift certificate (I worked a shift for her when her grand daughter got sick)... LOVE their soups ... YUMMY! We eat there often now. Haven't been to Taco Hell in YEARS, but might try it again on your suggestion. I'm a Wendy's fan... if you haven't tried the Berry Almond Chicken salad ..OMG.. it's fabulous! I always get a half-order.

JoeinVegas said...

Sounds pretty good! We usually do Subway on the road, but not with kids any more so we tend to drive longer between stops, and no need for snacks in the car.

Laurel@Let's Go on a Picnic! said...

I love salad bowls from Chipotle!

On my last road trip, I packed some homemade granola and dried fruit. along with those squeezable apple sauces. I also stopped at Subway (in the gas station).

Peta said...

As long as you prepare ahead of time and pack appropriate snacks, you can definitely eat healthy on the road.

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