Photo by Ryan Johnson on Unsplash
If you’ve been on the healthy lifestyle train for any length of time, you’re likely familiar with the tiny little wrench that travel throws into your best-laid plans. Perhaps the most notorious among them is the quintessential and all-American road trip. And hey, there are some foods and events that are the very reason for the word balance, but it can be so easy to get totally derailed and spend an entire vacation on an endless sugar crash.
Mr Never Cooks and I will be driving from Oregon all the way to Colorado for his best friend’s wedding this Wednesday, a trip that Google Maps tells me will be 18 hours and 9 minutes long at a minimum. Before I cleaned up my diet, we would have started our day with (awful) grocery store donuts and stopped for at least two (mediocre) slices of pie in one day. No wonder I could barely stay awake while driving for longer than an hour! And to be totally real here, it definitely led to some extra restroom stops along the way, not to mention adding up to make for one expensive trip at the end.
Here are my top tips for keeping my body and wallet happy while traveling, especially for those extended road trips.
1. Fat & Protein >>> Carbs
I’m not out to demonize carbs here, carbs are beautiful and wonderful and will indeed be making an appearance many times on our trip. It’s just that when picking up car snacks at the store I realized all my old favorites were just carbs with little else in the mix. Without protein and fat to help you feel full, you too might turn into a snack monster who’s mindlessly reaching for food every 30 seconds.
What I’m bringing: Homemade beef jerky & single packets of peanut butter.
Photo by Ewan Robertson on Unsplash
You almost certainly saw me beating this dead horse from a mile away (hello mixed metaphors). You know it, I know it, the whole world is aware that this little molecule we call water is going to help you out here. Don’t just take one water bottle and hope that you’ll find a spot to get more along the way. You’ll either A) forget or B) find that the truck stops in rural Utah aren’t exactly the place you feel like refilling. Grab one of those gallon jugs or a few additional bottles (I prefer the latter since I have reusable ones for backpacking).
What I’m bringing: 3 water bottles per person
3. Pick a Good Place to Eat Out
Don’t get stuck in the middle of nowhere Utah (why am I picking on Utah? I have no idea) trying to find not-McDonald’s anywhere in the next 100 miles. Know what bigger towns you’ll be passing through and have an idea of healthier places you might want to try. It’s infinitely harder for me to convince myself to find non-fried food that’s an hour away than it is to plan around the healthy but tasty sounding option I googled before I left. Because once my heart says Wendy’s it’s hard to convince it otherwise, even if I know it’ll have me nearly nodding off at the wheel an hour later.
What I’m bringing: A list of inexpensive restaurants or fast-casual places to get a healthier meal on our route.
4. Variety is the Spice of Life
Know thy cravings and plan appropriately for them. My three biggest ones are salt, crunchiness & warm foods. I went through a period of time where I forgot to eat almost any salt (which isn’t ideal) since I was making everything from scratch and once I realized that, I’ve made sure to add it into my diet when I really crave it. Texture is another big one, and foods with a good crunch to them are fun to eat. As for warmth, that’s probably going to be easiest with the aforementioned restaurant stop.
What I’m bringing: Baby carrots & peppery whole wheat crackers.
5. Make Frequent Non-Food Stops
If the only time you stop driving is to pick up fast food, then you’re just giving even more persuasive power to the beckoning Burger Kings of the world. Let yourself stop and stretch your legs for a few minutes regularly so you don’t pick up fries when all you wanted was a restroom and the full extension of your knees. Pull over (safely) at some viewpoints, don’t be afraid of using rest stops, and if you have the time go see a local attraction.
What I’m bringing: Good walking shoes & a spirit of adventure.
I also created a free downloadable cheatsheet for how I stay healthy at 3 types of restaurants when I’m on the road. It’s convenient to keep on hand for your next adventure. 🙂
Remember, I’m not a doctor, registered dietitian, or professional nutritionist. I’m just a gal who’s spent a ton of time figuring out how to keep myself happy and healthy, and I’m hoping to share the knowledge that I’ve picked up along the way.