This article is from the Spring/Summer 2011 issue of The Wellness Advisor® magazine.
Subscribe to get the print edition here.
Long road trips can play havoc with your body, disrupting everything from your sleep patterns to your digestive system. This happens in part because you change what you are eating. Low-fiber fast food can leave you feeling bloated, while the kids might get super hyped up from eating foods filled with hidden sugars.
It is possible to eat healthfully, even when you have miles to go before reaching your destination … and yes, even if that destination happens to be an amusement park or some other place not known for having great nutritional options.
Be prepared. Spend time on the Internet researching restaurants in cities and towns along the way, so that you know your options. You might find someplace with a great salad bar, for example, hidden a block off the interstate. Many restaurants now have menus on their websites.
Make just about any restaurant more kid-friendly. You don’t want your kids to fall into the habit of eating chicken fingers or pizza at every meal, even though that’s what appears on most kids’ menus. Order a second side dish of veggies for your kids, or consider having them split an adult meal.
Travel with snacks. One of the worst things you can do is allow yourself to get so hungry that you’ll overeat at the next opportunity and/or choose the first fast-food place you find.
Limit junk food on the road and once you’ve arrived. Especially if your destination is a tourist attraction, there will probably be candy and other junk food everywhere. But hey, you’re on vacation right? It’s okay to splurge a little bit! Do as I tell my children: you get one sweet per day. Have a soda with your meal or dessert. Not both. Even kids can understand that concept.
There are many healthy snack options suitable for long car trips or that slide easily into your airport carry-on bag. My favorites include:
- Chips, crackers, pretzels or popcorn. If you don’t have the willpower not to eat the whole bag, prepare smaller portions in sandwich bags.
- Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on whole grain bread. Slice in quarters for easy handling.
- Fresh fruit. Apples and bananas travel well.
- Dried fruit
- Shelf-stable fruit cups or apple sauce
- Homemade granola. Store-bought versions are generally very high in calories. Make your own using mini bittersweet or dark chocolate morsels (I’ve found that dark chocolate doesn’t seem to melt as fast), nuts and mini-pretzels. This allows you to control both calories and the nutritional profile.
- Dry cereal
- Veggies: Carrots, celery and hummus are my staples.
- Tuna or salmon in foil packets: Add them to a green salad purchased from a fast food restaurant.
- Nuts and seeds
- Dehydrated edamame or chick peas: Great, crunchy snacks!
- Bars: Make sure they have some nutritional value. Look for those with plenty of fiber. Fat is okay if it is from a healthy source, such as nuts.
- Oatmeal packets: You can usually get hot water somewhere.
Be cautious about caffeine and alcohol
You may be tempted to have a cup of coffee to keep you awake while driving, but remember that caffeine is a diuretic. So you may need to make more rest stops, which may not be very convenient. Also caffeine can leave you too wound up to sleep once you reach your destination.
Likewise, you may want to have a cocktail during a flight, or once you get to your hotel, to help you relax or sleep. The problem is that alcohol can disrupt your body’s natural rhythms so you may not get a good night’s sleep. Plus, alcohol is dehydrating.
Traveling doesn’t mean you have to throw your pledge to eat well out the window. Plenty of foods travel well, taste great and are good for you!