By Melanie Jewkes
Many people have road trips on their agenda this summer. It’s not always easy to eat healthy foods while on the road, or on any vacation for that matter, but with a little planning and effort, it can be done. Consider these tips.
Pack a small cooler with easy-to-eat, healthy snacks such as apples (be aware of agriculture checkpoints that won’t allow fruit to pass through, including the border into California and other locations).
Buy fruit after passing through; string cheese and whole-grain crackers; pre-packaged yogurt tubes; trail mix and dried fruit; hummus and pre-cut veggies, such as carrots, radishes, snap peas and bell peppers; celery and small individual-sized containers of peanut butter (check the peanut butter aisle for the small 1-2 tablespoon packages); pretzels also can be dipped in peanut butter for an easy snack; whole-grain bread with peanut butter and jam, or cheese and lunchmeat; wet wipes and garbage bags for easy clean up.
Take refillable water bottles to save cooler space and to avoid spending money on sugary beverages. Refill the bottles each time you stop for gas and restroom breaks.
When eating out, seek healthier options such as fruit cups or slices, milk, wraps, salads, rice and veggie bowls and whole-grain options of breads, tortillas and rice.
Use a navigation app on your smartphone to look for restaurants near you beyond the ones connected to the gas station when stopping to refuel. Consider non-burger fast food restaurants for variety and possibly healthier options, such as sandwich restaurants where eaters could split a larger sandwich with a family member and load up on the veggie options; Chinese restaurants, which often have more vegetable options than other fast food restaurants; Mexican restaurants where you can look for beans, rice and veggies, but remember to eat less of the high-fat fried foods; pita and wrap restaurants, which also offer fresh veggie options, but beware of high-calorie sauces.
Make farmers markets a destination around meal times. This is a great way to literally taste some of the local foods and culture. Most markets have more than just produce, so enjoy many other vendors selling fresh breads, homemade tamales, side salads and more. Plus, you’ll get to move and stretch your legs after all that driving.
Visit grocery stores or local bakeries at your destination to buy meals or replenish your healthy snack cooler. Consider whole-grain muffins, fruit and small milk containers for breakfast, or instant oatmeal packets you can make with hot water from gas stations or hotel room coffee makers.
Plan moving time. Search for places along the way for walking, hiking, biking or swimming adventures to break up driving time and get your body moving. It might take a little extra time, but together with choosing varieties of fruits and veggies, moving your body will help you feel more energized, help you sleep better and help keep you “regular.”
Make gas and restroom breaks a physical activity break: walk, run, dance or do yoga or stretches. You could even have races with the family. Consider ordering your meals take-out and head to a picnic spot at a local park to enjoy fresh air and more opportunities to move your body.
Save treats for events and special destinations of your trip. This will save your car from sugary, sticky spills and melts, and also help reduce calories consumed.
Plan non-food activities in the car to pass time and to avoid the snacking-from-boredom syndrome. Listen to audiobooks everyone in the car can enjoy, make videos of the family rocking out to a favorite song, sketch Picasso-like portraits of each other without looking at the paper, play “I Spy,” bingo or read books and articles about the history of places you’re going to visit.
Jewkes is a member of the Utah State University Extension Family and Consumer Sciences faculty.