10 Tips: Eating Healthy on Road Trips
Road trips can be a great annual tradition or a new adventure. They can be economical ways of seeing the state or country on your own or with your family & friends. And now, during the COVID-19 pandemic, road trips are even more desirable if you want to avoid airports, airplanes, and the possibility of being exposed to the virus in those areas.
But can road trips be good for your diet? How can you eat healthy on road trips? Here are 10 tips for eating healthy on road trips.
Sure, you probably always look at a map before you get going, but there’s more to look at than which highways you’ll be traveling! It’s also a good idea to look at what food options and restaurants will be on your route. You can check which restaurants are at which rest stops, and what options are in the towns you’ll visit. That way, you can adjust your route if necessary to be sure you can access healthy foods throughout your journey.
Fast food is an economical choice and an easy one if you’re in the car. There are fast food restaurants at rest stops and pretty much on every corner. They have high-calorie, high-carb choices, but most fast food restaurants have some choices that can fit into your weight loss surgery diet.
Here are some examples of better choices at fast food restaurants.
- Veggie burger or hamburger without a bun. Ask for lettuce, tomatoes, and onions, and skip mayo, special sauces, and bacon.
- 6-inch sub on whole-grain bread with cheese and extra vegetables, as well as mustard and parmesan cheese. Grilled chicken breast is another good choice for a protein filling.
- Stir fry with chicken and vegetables, with a small serving of brown rice. Shrimp or tofu are also good choices for protein. Be sure you opt for non-fried, non-breaded protein, and steer clear of sweet and sour sauce, which is high in sugar.
- Chicken taco. It may not be the healthiest, but it has some protein, it’s portion-controlled, and it is almost sure to be available at any Mexican-style fast food restaurant.
- Grilled chicken on a green salad. Get as many extra vegetables as you can, such as tomatoes, cucumber, and sprouts, and skip options such as croutons, crispy noodles, and dried fruit. Light vinaigrette on the side is the best choice for dressings.
If you don’t see exactly what you want on the menu, you can usually special order what you want. For example, you can order a burger patty without the bun.
You don’t have to eat out for every meal and snack. You can go to supermarkets to purchase ingredients for picnics. A loaf of whole-grain bread, some cooked refrigerated shredded chicken or soy-based deli meat, a bag of baby carrots, and some fresh nectarines, plums, or pears can be a healthy and delicious meal.
If you’re taking a road trip in the summer, you can probably also find local farmer’s markets and visit them as part of your tourism. See what’s in season, ask for a few samples of the most tempting fruits, and purchase them to eat with your picnic.
Chances are, you’ll be eating out regularly on your road trip. If you’re going to restaurants that have nutritional information available, take advantage of that information before going inside. Choose a meal that includes lean protein, some vegetables, and not too much starch or sugar.
If you’re going to a restaurant that doesn’t have nutritional information available, such as smaller, locally-owned restaurants, you can use common sense. Look for protein, such as skinless chicken and fish, and a side of a green salad or steamed vegetables. Avoid caloric beverages, including alcohol, and ask for fresh fruit if you want to have dessert after your main meal.
It’s best to be on the lookout for cheesy, creamy, and buttery sauces and dressings. They’re high in calories and fatty. Also avoid bread baskets and starchy sides such as fried potatoes, rice, and pasta. If you don’t see what you want on the menu, you can always ask the server to help you find something you can eat. And remember that portion sizes are critical—restaurants often serve far more than you need at one sitting. If you’re not sure how much is included in a serving, ask. If it’s more than you need and you don’t have a good way to travel with leftovers, ask for a smaller portion or share with a fellow traveler.
Let’s face it: the convenience of gas station fare normally comes at the cost of being terrible for your diet. Sugary, fatty, or starchy options are compiled with hot dogs, hamburgers, oversized sugary fountain drinks, muffins, and doughnuts. Candy also beckons from every nook & cranny!
But convenience stores and gas stations can also bail you out if you’re caught without healthy food and you’re hungry. Non-perishable choices that are common include beef jerky and protein bars, though it’s best to check that they don’t have too much sugar. You might also be able to find fresh fruit, especially apples, bananas, or oranges. Some convenience stores and gas stations even have prepared salads that aren’t too bad for a weight loss surgery diet. String cheese sticks are also commonly available. If you discover a particular chain that has options that work for you, plan your gas refuels around their locations if possible.
It’s actually not that hard to have a healthy breakfast on the road. Many hotel breakfast rooms have healthy options. A whole-grain cereal or some whole-grain toast can be a good start. Look for eggs or peanut butter for some protein, and maybe a piece of fruit.
If you’re happier making your own breakfast, it’s easy to bring some good choices. Protein Oatmeal is super easy to make. Just heat water in your hotel room using the coffee maker, and make your oatmeal that way. Or have a protein bar with a piece of fruit to start the day off with protein and fiber. Protein Muffins with Probiotics are also easy to make in their own cup. Just add water and heat them if you have a microwave in your room.
When you think of road trips, do you think of snacks? Of course you do! Road trips always seem to include snacks. But what should you bring?
Traditional road trip snacks can be disastrous after weight loss surgery. Potato and corn chips, pretzels, cookies, trail mix, and candy bars can be high in starch, high in calories, and way too easy to overeat. Stash those in your car, and you may find yourself gaining weight.
The BariatricPal Store has choices that can be far better. There are choices that are high in protein, so they’re more satisfying. Many of them come in single-serving packages, so you can eat the whole thing without worrying about eating too much. They are low in carbs and sugar. These are a few examples.
- Protein Chips and Puffs
- Protein Pretzels
- Protein Peanut Butter
- Protein Cereal and Granola
- Cheese and Bean Snacks
- Protein Bars
- Meat Snacks
You can also take some snacks from home.
- Freeze-dried fruit and vegetable snacks
- Tuna pouches
Don’t worry about the taste of these better-for-you choices. They taste great! You will love them even as you get the peace of mind of eating healthier snacks.
You’re best off having a spare case of water in your car at all times. As soon as you start it, purchase another one so that you always have water available to you. It’s calorie-free and keeps you hydrated.
Coffee and tea are also good choices, and you can get them at convenience stores and gas stations. You can usually make them yourself in your hotel room. If you’re not sure if you’ll like the options, bring your own coffee or tea bags. Don’t forget to pack your own Sugar Substitutes as well, such as sweetener packets or drops. That way, you won’t get stuck using real sugar, with its high carb count, to sweeten your drink.
You might want to take a few pieces of supplies on your road trip. A Smart Fork can help you eat more slowly wherever you are, so you end up eating less and supporting weight loss better. In the car, a Protein Shaker Bottle can be useful so you can easily mix up your protein shake whenever you need a boost of protein to tide you over.
Portion Control Plates and Containers are helpful whenever you are planning to transport food. It might be taking some healthy dressing into a restaurant, or packing a healthy snack or meal to take hiking. Either way, select a leak-proof set that’s easy to carry and comes in the sizes you need.
An important part of eating healthy on road trips is balancing your healthy food intake with some activity. On driving days, it’s important to take frequent breaks. Every time you stop the car, get out and walk around for several minutes. It’ll help you stay mentally sharp, which is good for lowering the risk of having an accident. It’ll also help keep blood sugar at healthier levels.
Road trips can be a wonderful opportunity to spend time with your family and see other cities and towns, but can it be healthy to spend all that time in a car and eat out for so long? It’s actually possible to eat healthy on road trips, even after weight loss surgery. The tricks are to plan ahead so you have the right foods on hand, know where to shop and what you’ll purchase, and are able to make good choices no matter where you are.