Whether it’s a short trip to the Carolina coast or a cross-country excursion, road trips can be a challenging obstacle to navigate when trying to maintain healthy habits. While summer traveling and vacation is a time for rest and relaxation, it would be a shame to toss your healthy habits to the wind. Follow the tips below to stay on track while you travel and come back from vacation feeling rested and invigorated about the choices you made for your body.
1.) Pack A Cooler and Snack Bag
A stocked “car pantry” is the best way to avoid tempting fast food restaurants, gas station treats, and rest-stop vending machines. Keep easy to eat, mess-free items on hand in a snack bag and cooler. Pack sandwiches for lunch if you have a daytrip ahead of you. Also be sure to pack napkins, zip lock bags, utensils, trash bags, hand sanitizer, and baby wipes for cleanup.
Items for Cooler:
- Yogurt pouches or cups
- String cheese
- Hummus or guacamole cups
- Easy to eat veggies: carrot sticks, celery sticks, sugar snap peas, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, and zucchini slices
- Easy to eat fruit: apples, grapes, pears, and clementines
- Boiled eggs
Items for Snack Bag
- Easy to eat fruit: dried fruit, squeeze fruit/veggie pouches, and bananas
- Trail mix
- Whole grain crackers
- Nut butter packets
- Roasted chick peas
- Energy bars (with less than 10g sugar)
- Dark chocolate covered or dusted almonds
- Granola clusters
2.) Choose Beverages Wisely
While caffeine containing beverages may seem like the best choice to stay alert for long road trips, too much can leave you feeling jittery and stressed. Not to mention caffeine is a mild diuretic, meaning more restroom stops. Make water your beverage of choice for most of your trip. Water is energizing, can aid in digestion, relieve constipation (something that often occurs while traveling), and prevent headaches caused by dehydration (another common occurrence while on the road). Store bottles of water in your cooler or use a refillable container to keep it
cold and refreshing. Sodas and other sugar-sweetened beverages may give a brief burst of energy and taste good, but they tend to leave you fatigued and sluggish shortly after.
3.) Don’t Skip Meals
Make time for regular meals and snacks. Hunger and low blood sugar can lead to headaches, anxiety, confusion, difficulty concentrating, and irritability (or hangry… as I like to call it). Low blood sugar can be dangerous… in fact, illegal, when driving. Experiencing any of these symptoms while traveling can ruin a good road trip for you and your traveling counterparts. Not to mention, going a long period without food can increase cravings and lead to overeating at mealtimes.
4.) Plan for Meals and Snacks
Having a plan doesn’t have to be complicated. It could simply be packing lunch and snacks for a drive. Or it could be having a discussion with fellow travelers about where the best places to stop and eat might be – choosing places with healthy options like grilled sandwiches, salads, wraps, and fruit. Doing this ahead of time can help manage expectations. Planning could be more extensive, especially when you arrive at your destination. You might consider researching and choosing restaurants ahead of time by looking at ratings and menus online rather than choosing restaurants based on impulse or cravings.
5.) Cook In
While on the topic of dining out, consider preparing the majority of your meals, when possible. If you only have a minifridge and/or microwave, breakfast can be one of the easiest meals to eat in. Whole grain cereal, oatmeal, fruit, and nut butters are all nutritious and relatively shelf-stable breakfast staples while yogurt and milk can go in a mini-fridge. Eggs can even be scrambled in the microwave! If you are staying somewhere with a full kitchen, take full advantage! Go to the grocery store on the day you arrive at your destination and stock up on items that you normally eat for breakfast, lunch and snacks. Make a game plan for dinners. If you are vacationing for a week, consider eating in a majority of the nights and plan for a few nights of eating out. Plan those dinners and purchase ingredients as needed on that initial grocery trip. Not only will you save money by eating in, but cooking can be a great way to bond, relax, and enjoy others company.
Summer road trips are usually vacation-oriented, so plan for a few treats throughout your vacation. Whether its pancakes in morning for breakfast, a special dessert, a mimosa or two – whatever you consider your special treat – enjoy and savor it, knowing that you’ve made great choices during your vacation.
Liz is the registered dietitian for the Garner Avance Care location. She enjoys experimenting in the kitchen and trying out new recipes for her husband and one-year-old son. Her philosophy is that delicious food is just as important as nutritious food and they can be one and the same. In her free time, she enjoys gardening, attending workout classes at the YMCA, and trying many of Raleigh’s amazing restaurants.