One of the questions that came through on the Health Coaching Survey that was in my newsletter last month was about how to eat healthy while on the road. We all know what happens during those long summer road trips. Snacking, snacking and more snacking! While we start with every intention of avoiding those sweet sugary foods, salty treats and carb loaded snacks, during that quick trip to the grocery store, just before our trip, those convenient looking snack packs grab us and our wallets before we know what happened. Carrying out the gummy treats, sugary drinks and 100 calories packs of cookies we think, “We need to keep our energy up while driving, right?” Well, not really. Unless, of course, you are driving a Fred Flintstone type car and your feet are being used to move your vehicle!
There is no reason to sabotage your clean eating lifestyle just because you might be driving for a few hours or sitting on a plane. Do you really need gatorade while driving? Have you ever been able to eat just one 100 calorie pack of mini chocolate chip cookies? And who eats just one gummy bear? Are those “healthy” energy bars really healthy, or are they just a different version of a candy bar?
At this time of year I am on the road almost every weekend making a 3 hour drive to the coast. That's 6 hours every weekend in the car. So I know the challenges that accompany road trips. When we first started making these weekly treks 7 years ago, I packed the comfort snack food: pretzels, chips and cookies and maybe a little fruit. We munched and drove. Sometimes we started munching before we were even on the highway just like eating the popcorn before the movie starts! Over time that proved not to be good at all for the waistline. I had to change our habits and mindset. That change started with planning ahead.
Planning ahead will be one of those things that you just have to do. The more you practice, the easier it gets. So look at your travel plans and think about what you might really need — small meals? snacks? picnics? How active will you be while traveling — sitting for hours? stopping for hikes? sightseeing along the way?
If you’re sitting for hours, chances are you don’t really need all of those snacks. And let’s face it, getting out of the car feeling bloated is just not going to mesh well with putting on that new bathing suit when you reach your destination.
Here are a few strategies to help guide you as you plan for your next trip:
Need hydration? Drinks really add calories that we often don’t think about — even those premade “healthy” drinks like smoothies and bottled juices or that summertime favorite of sweet tea. And besides those bottled drinks can be pretty pricey. So while traveling, it is best to stick with water. Going on a long road trip? Pack frozen bottles of water to keep things cool. Buy a few BPA free bottles to refill and freeze. Keep that water up front with you in the driver’s seat! Needing some flavor? Infuse your water with lemon or lime. And if you are flying, remember that those tasty little alcoholic drinks pack even more calories which, when added to being sedentary for hours, means added weight before you even reach your destination. Is airline wine really worth it?
Looking to satisfy hunger? Veggies and fruit really are your friends and cover all of the bases: sweet, crunchy, filling and good for your body. Carrots, sugar snap peas, grapes, berries and cherries are just a few that come to mind Add some humus or salsa for dipping those veggies and you have healthy treats to munch on ready at your fingertips. And although fruit has sugar, it is natural sugar and is processed by your body in a whole different way than added sugars. Eating cubes of melon is much better than eating candy.
Need some energy? Make your own trail mix with nuts, dried fruit (be sure to buy ones that are unsulphured and unsweetened) and seeds. Put those together and you have a mix of some protein, some sweet, some salt and some fiber. Remember to munch on those nuts in moderation though because calories will add up.
Hankering for something crunchy or salty? Pack some organic wild rice cakes and top with a little organic peanut butter or pack some roasted sea weed to enjoy with apple slices.
Desperate for more of a meal? A rule I like to follow comes from Michael Pollen’s Food Rules: "Rule 57: Don’t get your fuel from the same place your car does.” If you are needing more of a meal, and you only have some fast food places along the way to choose from, then choose one that has a salad option. Believe it or not, when we are driving to the coast and need lunch, we stop at Wendy’s and get the salads. They are fresh, taste good and are healthy options. Keep in mind that just because they give you two packets of dressing, you should not use two packets of dressing!
Pack snacks in small plastic containers and/or small ziplock bags and keep a tote bag of nonperishables and a cooler of perishables. Water should always be kept upfront, and snacks should always be kept in the backseat or trunk so it takes effort to get them.
Most importantly, before reaching for something to snack on, stop and ask yourself if you really are hungry. Chances are you are more bored than hungry. So plan for that too: bring along some of your favorite books, your knitting, have a good podcast ready and don’t forget those audio books. Better yet, engage in real conversation with the people near and dear to you in the car or on the plane. Even a bit of quiet or maybe even a nap is good too. Make stops along the way to stretch your legs, explore a small town, pop into a yard sale, stop at a farmer's market, and yes find that restroom.
Don’t let yourself slip into the mindset that processed foods on the road are somehow healthier than processed foods at home. Those clean eating habits are portable! Take them with you and enjoy feeling great on your trip from beginning to end. If you follow the 80 - 20 rule you will get to enjoy those special treats on your trip while avoiding the road trip weight gain pitfall.
Do you have special tips for how to eat healthy on the road? Share your tips and ideas below.
And remember to sign up for a Free Health History Consultation. Let’s get the conversation started today!
Yours in Health and Balance,