What comes to mind when you think about finding a meal while on the road?
Limited options. Processed food. Fast food. That big, bright yellow M.
You’re not alone. Around the nation, and even the globe, fast food has changed the way we think about eating when we hit the road. And not in a healthy way. However, with a bit of creativity and planning, you can make the most of a challenging situation. “Fast Food” does not have to be independent of Healthy Eating When On the Road.
With some planning you can...
- eat well before the "hanger" button hits hard, or
- research menus ahead of time, or
- calculate carbohydrate consumption in advance
And why not prepare food for a road trip the same way you plan what clothes, toiletries, and gadgets to pack. There should be no reason to overlook food in your packing plan. Using the same preparation mind set you can create fast, healthy food options for the road.
Strategies for success
No matter the destination, having a well packed food sack will serve you well. Whether you’re running out to pick up the kids, on your daily commute or embarking on an epic road trip, the framework to build a food sack is quite similar for all.
- Pick your sack & find a dedicated spot for it
- Cooler bag with an ice pack for cold foods
- Air tight containers or bags for dry snacks
- Set aside time - a crucial step!
- Plan meals and snacks
- Daily trips - grab ‘n go snack + a meal
- Weekend trips - snacks for everyone + finger foods + easy to wrap meals
- Have a family or group meeting and plan a menu
- Grocery shop. Don’t forget to delegate so you are not left doing this alone!
- Pre prep whenever possible
- Study your route. Pin, Yelp, Google potential food options in advance.
- Review the menu. Choose 2 options at all stops, just in case your planned meal is unavailable.
- Commit to your usual eating schedule
- Plan meals and snacks
- Get to work - SNACKS
- Choose snacks with a longer shelf life based on the length of your trip
- Combine nutritionally - think high fiber carb + lean protein + healthy fats = well balanced meal
- Portion out snacks so you don’t overeat
Low carb snack options we love!
Individually packed nuts, seeds, olives
Justin’s single pack peanut butter or other nut butter packs
Fresh fruit - apples, pears, cuties, berries
Vegetables - celery, persian cucumbers, baby carrots, bell peppers
KIND bars with 5g or less added sugars
Portioned popcorn - Skinny Pop popcorn 100 kcal packs
4. Get to work - MEALS
- Use the plate method as a starting point. This ensures meals will have a maximum nutritional punch.
- Pick ‘n choose a carbohydrate, protein and veggies from your food sack
- High fiber crackers + cheese pack + baby carrots + a yogurt
- Mediterranean pack - olives, bell pepper, sunflower seeds, chickpeas, cheese pack and apple
- Prepped at home
- Wraps and sandwiches work great for the road
- Sliced turkey/chicken + spinach leaves w/hummus or Trader Joe’s Kale and Cucumber dip
- Quick and easy peanut butter + sliced apple sandwich
- Pre-packed meals
- Salad boxes - Trader Joe’s Nicoise salad, Quinoa salad, Super Green Salad Palette, Super Spinach are all great options. Word of caution with the salad dressings, it usually packs half of the salad’s calories and all of the added sugars. Use half or less and these can be good quick grabs.
- Pouched, resealable tuna, salmon or chicken like these are great too!
5. Quench that thirst
- Water is the way to go when traveling by car. Pack a gallon container or better yet fill up your favorite water bottles! For a twist, add a slice of fruit or some berries to your water.
- Avoid soda pit stops and carry sparkling waters instead. We love Spindrift and Trader Joe’s sparkling water.
6. Get creative - Avoid mindless eating when driving for hours
- Fill those long hours on the road with food-less activities to keep the mind off food
- Sip on a calorie free beverage
- Chew gum
7. The unavoidable Big, Bright, Yellow M
- No problem. Choose wisely by reviewing nutritional facts. All fast food restaurants have nutrition facts available. Here’s McDonald’s Nutrition Calculator
- Look for grilled, small portions and fill a side dish from your snack pack
- Size down instead of sizing up. Pick small fries, single patty burger, or individual burgers in place of combo meals
- Make sure to turn a deaf ear when you hear, “Can I get you anything else?” from that speaker!
In the end, it’s always about the journey...not the destination. The better one makes food choices on the road, the easier it can be to manage blood glucose when one reaches their destination. Happy Travels!