It’s summer once again and for some that usually means long drives to the lake, cabin or the beach. It’s a time most people use to get away from the city for some much needed rest and relaxation. It is also the time that most people use to reconnect with nature by camping outdoors or hiking the hills.
Unfortunately, it is also during these long road trips when most people fail to plan for healthy eating. Have you ever noticed that during road trips you or someone you know almost always eats junk food like chips, licorice, chocolates and soda? That is because people often associate junk foods with having a “good time”.
This is en-grained in our brains through television and billboard ads. Think back and try to remember if you’ve ever seen a commercial about veggies that gave you the feeling that they were fun and exciting. Now, is it really then any surprise that a lot of children do not want to eat their veggies?
Additionally, the problem with eating too much junk food is that it throws your body’s mechanism out of order by altering your blood sugar, therefore fluctuating your energy levels. This imbalance in the end leaves you more tired than when you first strolled out for your trip. Since you’re working hard throughout the week, making sure you eat well and exercise regularly, why would you want to sabotage your routine by eating too much junk?
As a heath conscious society we should know by now that just because we go on road trips or camping trips doesn’t mean we should not or cannot eat healthy. Remember that good nutrition and healthy eating are basic components of human health and well-being for every age and stage of life. Good nutrition is required for optimal growth and development and to prevent and treat illness and disease.
So instead of buying chips and other junk food, or stopping by at the drive-through of a fast food joint, head to the produce section of the grocery store where all the veggies and fruits are located. One way to make sure that you don’t fall prey to the junk food mania of road trips is to be prepared and be ahead of the game. What this means is give yourself a good day or two to prepare your healthy road munchies by pre-cutting vegetables like celery, tomatoes, red or green peppers, carrots, peas and broccoli.
For added variety also pre-cut some fruits like apples, bananas, oranges, watermelons, strawberries and store them in the fridge or freezer. For easy handling try precutting veggies or fruit and placing them on a barbeque skewer. This makes healthy snacking easy while driving or handing them to the backseat for the kids. In addition there many varieties of dip available to add more spice and taste to your chosen produce.
Try some of the following combinations: strawberries and vanilla yogurt, carrots or cherry tomatoes and low fat creamy salad dressing, sliced cucumbers and black bean dip. Experiment with different combinations and by recording your findings in a notebook, and storing it in your kitchen, you’ll automatically have a quick reference guide for future travel.
Easy grab and go healthy snacks include, cherries, trail mix (some assortment of dried fruit and nuts you can either grab straight from the bulk food section of your grocer or combine yourself), bananas (no washing necessary), and grapes (try washing them and placing them in the freezer for a sweet and satisfying treat).
Boxed drinks are a great source of vitamins, but buyer-beware! Most juice boxes marketed to children are packed full of sugar and have little to no fruit content. Be sure to make label reading a priority at the grocery store. Just because a drink box is labeled as “containing real fruit juices” does not mean that the content of “real fruit” is at all nutritionally significant.
Another variation on the boxed drink theme is boxed vegetable juices. Different varieties of tomato juices (from plain to spicy) taste great and may be equivalent to one to two servings of your daily vegetable intake. Why not freeze those individual boxed drinks and use them as ice packs in your travel cooler? Then take them our ahead of time, let them thaw, and you’ll have a delicious icy cold treat.
Speaking of beverages, skip the pop that may contain up to 12 tablespoons of sugar per can, never mind the 500 ml or 17 oz bottles. Not only will they give you a temporary sugar or caffeine high, remember each high comes with an equivalent sugar low, you’ll feel just as thirsty, if not more so, later and may be setting yourself up for a headache. Instead, opt for pure and simple water. Traveling by car can dehydrate you faster than you think.
The constant fluctuation of air pressure and temperature may wreak havoc on your system, and by the time you feel thirsty you’re already dehydrated. Keep a large bottle of water beside you at all times and sip at it regularly.
There is also the option of “camel backs,” the innovative hiking backpack/water bottle that has a straw fixed from the front to back for easy hydration. If you are traveling with small children or animals, don’t forget they need water too! As you re-hydrate your body, expect to make more frequent bathroom breaks, take this chance to stretch out your legs and back as well.
Other simple options for road trip snacks and meals are cheese and crackers, sandwiches, pretzels, and sugar free jell-o or fat-free pudding cups. Eating on the road can be fun and healthy, another option to fueling up your body can be to stop at mealtime and get out of the car. Stop at a rest stop, get out of the car, empty your garbage, refill your water bottles and let the kids and dog run around for a while.
By taking some time to plan ahead and preparing healthy snacks and meals, you’ll not only feel great about passing the long lines of cars in the drive through of the fast food chains, you’ll feel great about pocketing all the money you’ll be saving. Your energy will be heightened and you mood will be elevated as well. Chances are you’ll arrive at your destination feeling physically good instead of physically wrecked. So pack up and hit the road!