Pack your bags, gas up the rig and hit the road this summer but don't leave your health habits behind!
When going on vacation or a road trip, your health and wellness goals often are the last thing on your mind. And for good reason, we work hard to have the break we so deserve!
"Best Road Trip Ever! And my blood sugars and weight are still exactly where I need them to be."
–You, after your next road trip with these tips
Once you hit the road, you might feel like throwing your cares away, decompressing, indulging and not thinking about any of your usual responsibilities! But we also want to feel our best on a trip and enjoy it to the fullest, right? Tossing away all your health habits you've worked so hard to build up can leave you feeling tired, bloated, achy and disappointed in yourself after a few days of overindulgence.
The greasy high-calorie foods often found on the road, the sugary snacks and excessive alcohol, while fun in the moment, can put a strain on the remainder of a trip and leave you feeling even less rested and rejuvenated when you get back home. It can be especially tricky ona road trip to maintain good eating habits when dining options are limited on the road and your body is stuck in a car seat for hours at a time. So it is worth planning ahead and incorporating strategies to eat well on your next road trip so you can come home feeling great in your skin with a boatload of amazing new memories.
How to Incorporate Healthy Road Trip Food Ideas
Plan, Prep and Pack
The key to maintaining good habits while on the road is being prepared before you even leave the house. Hit up the grocery store the week before you're leaving and buy a mix of cold and shelf stable foods. Pack up your cooler properly with all of the cold items and plan to eat them up in the first day or two. As you use up cold foods you can transition over to your shelf stable foods.
Load the cooler with plenty of proteins like chicken salad, egg salad, cooked egg muffins, 3-bean salads, cheese sticks, boiled eggs, yogurts, salsa, pickles or low sodium deli meats. Pack your choice of sliced veggies, raw pea pods, green beans, cherry tomatoes, berries and hummus for easy finger foods. If you are able to bake up a healthy casserole dish like this zucchini lasagna and freeze it a night or two before you hit the road it makes for a fabulous home-cooked meal once it defrosts and helps to keep the cooler extra cold!
Load up a snack bag with apples, pears, cherries, nut mixes, cheese crisps, lightly salted popcorn, dried chickpeas, turkey jerky, whole grain tortilla chips, a jar of natural peanut butter and dark chocolate for something sweet. Bring a pack of your favorite 6-inch whole grain tortillas to wrap up the proteins like chicken salad or packs of tuna or salmon, and make a quick sandwich that can be eaten without even pulling off the road. You can also carry a pack of your favorite protein drinks or bars which can get you through a breakfast or light lunch if there just aren't any food options you feel good about. By being prepared with at least some basics for lunch and snacks you can avoid spending extra money on the road and eat foods you know fit in your plan!
Hit the Grocery, not the Drive Thru
Once you've been on the road and used up the food in your cooler you'll be thinking about stopping somewhere to eat. Pulling into a sit down restaurant which has a wide variety of options is a great bet. Pick a balanced meal with a good serving of vegetables, a lean protein and your choice of carbohydrate. If you want to have an alcoholic drink go for low calorie or sugar free to avoid extra calories and a sugar crash throughout the evening.
If you are looking for a faster meal or maybe you don't have time to sit down in a restaurant, try to find the closest grocery store instead of going to a fast food restaurant. Most grocery chains have many pre-made meals near the deli or you can piece together a filling meal with a variety of foods for about the same price as a restaurant meal! Options can be as simple as a container of tuna salad, a box of whole grain crackers, a bag of baby carrots, and a yogurt! You can also restock the cooler at this point with fresh ice and whatever healthy pre-made options the grocery store has in stock!
If your only option is to pull through the drive thru, consider options on the menu you haven't ordered that could fit into your health goals. For example, is there a side salad on the menu? Can you get a grilled sandwich instead of a fried one? Can the fries be substituted for another side? And of course go for water or low calorie drinks. Sometimes the most indulgent option is tempting in the moment but after eating it we can be left feeling groggy, uncomfortable or gassy and that's definitely not a good situation when you're on the road or in a hotel room!
Bonus Road Trip Tips
Finally, don't forget other key essentials like packing enough water for everyone to stay hydrated. Keep in mind adults needs 8 cups (minimum!) but most adults actually need more than that amount, especially in the summer months. Stock up on seltzers and sugar-free water flavorings to keep your hydration interesting over the course of your road trip.
Throw a first-aid bag in the backseat with additional supplies like ibuprofen, a good quality probiotic to prevent travelers diarrhea, your supplements and medications (making sure you have more than enough to make it through the trip), extra test strips if you monitor your sugars, sunscreen and safety items like blankets, and flashlights. If you are prone to hypoglycemia be sure to bring glucose tablets or boxes of raisins. The last thing you want is to be stuck miles away from the nearest gas station and start feeling your sugar drop.
Also toss a comfortable pair of walking shoes in your bag for rest stops and gas breaks to get your body moving. Because road trips often involve long stretches of time sitting, make sure to pull over every few hours, get out of the car to stretch and incorporate any physical activity you can. Remember that with less movement your sugars are more likely to trend higher even when eating the same diet. It could be a lap or two around the rest area (be sure to stay safe in your surroundings) or do a few jumping jacks by the car. Bring some activities to get you moving once you arrive to your destination such as a jump rope, hula hoop, frisbee or a football. Some people plan recreational stops along their road trip to sneak in additional physical activity, for example incorporate a day at an amusement park, beach or a trail hike to break up the monotony of sitting. Whatever your method is, you'll most likely feel energized and in better spirits throughout your trip by ensuring you have some way to move your body.
Lastly, grab a new book or put on a podcast about an inspiring topic to keep you moving towards your goals. It doesn't have to be related to health, but hearing positive reminders about how capable you are when you put your mind to something, hearing success stories from others, and learning new things is a tremendous way to pass the time and beat the boredom on a long road trip!
What's your next road trip you have planned? I'd love to hear your suggestions on where you are headed or where you've already been! Let me know below if you enjoyed these road trip food ideas and tips!
Keep reading my other blogs on nutrition and prediabetes here, and check out my Prediabetes Snack Plate Ideas that Won't Spike your Blood Sugars. If you are looking for more personalized guidance with your diet, are ready to start changing up your lifestyle and lower rising blood sugars check out my Better Blood Sugar Program!