If you’re about to spend countless hours in the car, it’s normal to be concerned about food. It’s easy to slip into unhealthy habits on the road, given that gas stations and fast food restaurants are sometimes your only food options. However, there are ways to stay healthy and eat foods that keep you alert while driving.
Bring healthy snacks with you for the trip so you don’t have to eat out as much. If you do have to stop for food, opt for healthy items. Make sure to snack frequently and eat when you’re hungry to stay alert on the drive. With some extra care, you can stay healthy on a long tri
Packing Healthy Food
Bring along a cooler.
If you don’t have a cooler, pick one up at a department store before your trip, or borrow one from a friend. Coolers can keep healthy options, like fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins, fresh for the long trip. They can also help snacks like celery or carrots remain crisp and appetizing!
Pack bite-sized fruits and veggies.
If you have to grab a quick snacks while driving, bite-sized options are best. Pre-cut fruits and veggies, and store them in easy-to-access resealable bags. For an on-the-go option, you can also purchase pre-cut fruits and vegetable at the supermarket! Some great options include:
- Apple slices
- Carrot sticks
- Orange slices
- Celery sticks
- Snap peas
- Cauliflower or broccoli florets
Include healthy sources of protein.
Protein is vital for a road trip as it helps keep you feeling full. Stock your cooler with healthy sources of protein that won’t weigh you down while traveling and are easy to eat in a few minutes while pulled over at a rest stop. Bring some of the following:
- Organic jerky without additives
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Cheese slices
Pack your own lunches.
Most people pull over to have a proper meal at some point on the road. If you pack your own lunch, you won’t be left choosing from potentially unhealthy fast food options. Use a lunch box or paper bag and some Ziploc bags or Tupperware to pack a light, healthy lunch for yourself.
Pack a lunch that’s light and healthy so you won’t get sleepy. Instead of white bread for a sandwich, for example, use whole wheat bread and eat your sandwich with some fruit and a side salad.
If you add protein like fish, nuts, or chicken, a salad can be a meal on its own. It can help you recharge and get back on the road.
Drink water rather than sugary beverages.
It’s important to stay hydrated while driving. Improper hydration can cause drowsiness and irritability, which can affect your ability to focus. Avoid sugary beverages like soda, juice, or overly-sweetened coffee. Choose unsweetened, calorie-free drinks like flat water, sparkling water, or unsweetened tea.
Keep your plastic bottles in your cooler so they stay cold!
For a more eco-friendly option, bring an insulated water bottle and re-fill it when you stop for rest breaks.
Making Healthy Decisions at Rest Stops
Stop at a grocery store instead of a fast food place.
You can actually get a meal at a local grocery store instead of stopping for fast food. You can pick up something healthy like a prepackaged salad or ready-made sandwich. You can also grab some healthy fruits and veggies to have on the side. You can then enjoy your meal in your car before hitting the road again.
Some grocery stores, like Whole Foods, have hot bars or salad bars you can use to design your own healthy meal.
Look for healthier fast food options.
Choose a fast food restaurant that offers fresh fruits and vegetables. Do research in advance to find the healthiest options before you take your trip. In general, opt for fast food restaurants where you can design your meal and get plenty of produce and healthy protein.
Restaurants like Subway and even McDonald’s have online tools to help you plan healthy meals.
Ask for healthy substitutions or alterations.
If your only options are fast food places, don’t hesitate to request healthy substitutions. Ask for a side salad or fruit instead of a side of fries. Request that they hold the mayonnaise or swap it out for a lower calorie option like mustard.
Some places may actually have a separate menu for health-conscious consumers. At Taco Bell, for example, order fresco meals which are lower in calories and minimize unhealthy ingredients.
Opt for grilled items.
When it comes to things like chicken, grilled is always better than fried. As protein is an important component for every meal, it’s not a bad idea to order a meat dish. However, go for something like the grilled chicken sandwich over the fried chicken sandwich.
Watch portion size.
Portion sizes at fast food places tend to be massive. Check the calorie content of the items you order on your phone to stay informed about how much you’re consuming. You can always order a meal and only eat half of it. Save the rest for later in the day.
Always order the smallest sizes possible.
Eating Safely in the Car
Avoid eating while driving, if possible.
In general, eating while driving is not advised. This is especially true with heavy traffic. If you’re feeling hungry, pull over for a snack. If you do need to eat while driving, stick to bite-sized portions that are easy to quickly pop in your mouth.
Eat small amounts frequently. Large meals can weigh you down, leaving you feeling drowsy. It’s not safe to drive while sleepy. Instead of having 1 or 2 big meals on your trip, have light snacks throughout the day with small meals in-between. This will help you stay alert on the road and.
Keep at least 1 hand on the wheel at all times.
If you are eating or drinking in the car, make sure you keep a hand on the wheel and your eyes on the road. Do not eat anything that requires both hands unless you are able to pull over for your meal.
Place napkins within easy reach.
In the event of a spill, the first thing you’ll be looking for is a napkin to mop up as much of the damage as possible. However, looking for napkins can be a distracting process that keeps you from driving safety. Store napkins in the glovebox or the console for easy-access.
You may also want to keep wet wipes in the car to clean your hands in case any of the food items are sticky or messy