6 tips for making healthy choices on the road

6 tips for making healthy choices on the road

Taking it easy is one of the best parts about a vacation. But while the rest and scenery may do you some good, the same can’t always be said of the food—especially when you’re driving to your destination. Think empty-calorie, gas station munchies.

That could spell trouble when you’re watching your waistline or trying to eat a healthy diet. Also, research shows the risk of food poisoning—a would-be vacation spoiler—rises in summertime.

Before you hit the road, American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends taking these tips in tow:

  1. Pack healthy snacks. Nutritious, portable foods include whole-grain crackers, fresh fruit (washed ahead of time), peanut butter sandwiches, pre-cut veggies, wasabi peas, dried mixed fruit(in ¼ cup servings), unsalted nuts(in ¼ cup servings), popcorn, low-fat cheese sticks and even canned or packaged tuna.“Throwing in a protein bar is a great on-the-go breakfast idea,” says Annette Payne, registers dietitian at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center in Normal, Ill.  “Add a piece of fruit and breakfast is complete.”
  2. Cool it. If you bring a cooler, pack plenty of ice or a frozen pack. Try to keep the cooler out of the hot trunk. Put a refrigerator thermometer in the cooler to make sure the temperature inside stays below 40 degrees—the safe zone for foods.
  3. Choose wisely. If you do stop for a bite, eye the menu for healthier options. Good choices include grilled chicken breast sandwiches and salads, baked potatoes, and veggie-based dishes.“Don’t forget to have condiments on the side so you can control the amount,” says Angela Malinowski, registered dietitian at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center. “Choose healthier sides such as a steamed vegetable or side salad over the fries and onion rings.  Limit desserts to 1 to 2 times during the trip. Choose smaller portions or share with another person.”
  4. Wash up. Remember to scrub your hands with soap and water before preparing and eating food. Don’t forget to pack some sanitizer for when you can’t get to a sink.
  5. Know when to toss it. You might picnic at parks, grill at campgrounds or take restaurant food to-go. If you do, don’t eat anything that’s been sitting out for more than two hours—or one hour on a 90-degree or hotter day. Keep food out of direct sunlight and keep cold food on ice as often as possible.
  6. Stretch it out.  “Take advantage of rest areas to throw the ball around or run around with the kids,” Malinowski says. “Also when at your destination take advantage of site seeing by walking rather than driving everywhere. This will help to burn a few of those extra calories consumed throughout the trip.”

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  1. Great tips! I will definitely keep these in mind for my next road trip!

  2. Great suggestions–should be added to the travel packing list.

  3. Ernst Lamothe Jr July 25, 2014 at 12:33 pm · Reply

    I got on a lot of road trips and I make sure to do most of these options.

  4. It wouldn’t be a road trip without a stop at Cracker Barrel — but there are healthier options on their menu, too!

    • You can say that again. To a point.

      Why cannot we live a little? Healthy snacks at work, at play, here, there, everywhere. Here’s something. . . . how about we embrace traveling to our destination by enjoying food and culture we encounter? BBQ, Fried Chicken. . . whatever. Who on Earth wants to pack trailmix when on a road trip? Save that for the office or TV time at home.

  5. Katie Renz

    I love making my own trail mix for road trips! This way I can pick the ingredients that go in it plus its easy to pack.

  6. Great tips! I always eat unhealthy when I’m on vacation

  7. Great tips! Just got back from vacation and my family’s motto was to always try something new. It helped us stay away from the cheeseburgers and nachos!

About the Author

Lynn Hutley
Lynn Hutley

Lynn Hutley, health enews contributor, is coordinator of public affairs and marketing at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center and Advocate Eureka Hospital in central Illinois. Having grown up in a family-owned drug store, it is no surprise that Lynn has spent almost 18 years working in the health care industry. She has a degree in human resources management from Illinois State University and is always ready to tackle Trivia Night.