If I had to pick the one thing that I enjoy doing most in life, it would be taking road trips. Sitting behind the wheel for 12 straight hours creates no stress in my heart as I take in the beautiful sights this country has to offer. The one downfall of these adventures, however, is trying to eat right.
Being on the road and living out of hotels and campsites simply isn’t conducive to maintaining a balanced diet. After all, when hunger strikes, there are plenty more McDonald’s around than homecooked meals. Fortunately, I’ve learned several ways to eat healthy on road trips during my travels.
Invest in a Small Cooler
Most of us have a decent sized cooler that we take to the beach or cabin, but unless you’ve got a carload of family members, you won’t need that much storage space. Then again, packing the whole family in doesn’t leave much room for a big cooler either. To put things simply, a small cooler is a central aspect of any healthy road trip.
In fact, you’ll notice that some of the other tips on this list aren’t much good without an easily accessible cooler. You can snag these at just about any chain grocer or discount department store. An ice pack that fits inside will also save you from a mess and having to stop repeatedly for ice.
Plan Your Meals and Snacks in Advance
The reason most people eat unhealthy food on road trips is because they don’t plan ahead. After all, it feels good to drive as far as humanly possible while only stopping when you’re hungry. This is a bad idea—something we’ll go over more later—but it is possible to drive as far as possible without eating and still stay healthy.
This all comes down to planning your meals and snacks in advance. Make a healthy meal or two the night before your trip and toss them in the refrigerator. Anything that can fit in a sandwich bag and down in the cooler is ideal. Add a few pieces of fruit and you’ll have some healthy snacks within reach.
Eat Often Along the Road
No matter how hard you try, your meals on the road will likely vary from what you eat at home. This is why it’s important not to keep driving until you’re starving. Eating healthy snacks along the way will help you drive further without stopping and ensure you don’t eat too much due to an empty stomach.
Additionally, your energy level will stay high for the drive. The last thing you need is getting tired while on the road. Consistent healthy snacking will keep you going for the long haul without risking heavy eyes behind the wheel.
Hit Up Local Grocery Stores
A cooler can only hold so much, and if you’re on a multiday road trip, you won’t want to eat something you made two days ago anyway. Whether it’s right when you get to your home for the night or before you hit the road again in the morning, stop at a local grocer to restock.
Fortunately, most grocery stores offer at least some all-natural and organic choices. Non-perishables are great choices, but with that nifty cooler you brought along, you have countless other options at your disposal. Heck, pack a picnic lunch and pull into a rest stop some time during the day.
Local grocers are your best resource for maintaining a healthy diet when driving through the States or across international borders. Not everywhere you stop will be a health food paradise, but rest assured that there are plenty of healthy options in most places.
Don’t Splurge Just Because It’s Dinner
When I was a teenager, stopping for the night meant hitting up a restaurant and enjoying a burger and fries. The fact is, once you’re no longer putting miles behind you, it feels good to have a sit-down meal. Go for it, but never let this serve as an excuse to eat unhealthily.
What if there are only unhealthy options at your rest stop? After all, some small towns don’t have much more than a few fast food joints and maybe a country diner. Even at these establishments, you can make healthy choices. Opt for a grilled chicken sandwich rather than that huge burger. Substitute the mayo with mustard. Choose soup or fruit for a side item rather than fries or mashed potatoes.
If I had to eat fast food for a week to enjoy a road trip, rest assured that it’s an arrangement I’d gladly accept. Luckily, it doesn’t have to come to that. With just a bit of pre-planning and plenty of willpower, it’s possible to traverse the beauty of America without ever compromising your goals of staying healthy on this road we call life.