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Your Eating Guide for Summer Road Trips

Road trips are an amazing way to see the country. There’s nothing like that carefree feeling: freedom from work and home responsibilities, and the excitement of the open road and possibility of adventure. Unfortunately, highways are often surrounded by more fast food options than healthy eats. If you’re planning your next trip and you want to stick with your low-sugar lifestyle while on the road, we’ve got a few ideas for you. Here’s what you need to know about getting ready, making smart choices, and eating healthy on the go

What to Pack

Every set of golden arches or billboard for a mom-and-pop diner might feel like an invitation to stop for a treat. One of the simplest ways to avoid indulging in heavy, sugary foods is to bring your favorite healthy eats along for the drive. Pack a cooler with refreezable ice packs and focus on foods that meet these three standards:
  • Variety. Don’t let yourself get bored with your options. Instead, bring small amounts of several different foods so you can switch it up throughout the trip.
  • Filling. Letting yourself get too hungry is a great way to set yourself up for failure. Keep hunger at bay with filling snacks that are high and protein and fiber like nuts and hummus.
  • Sugar Free. Your favorite road trip snack could contain hidden sugars. Check the ingredients and nutrition label. Cross it off your list if a sweetener is in its first three ingredients or it contains more sugar than fiber. Remember that just the taste of sugar can ramp up cravings, making it harder to resist an impulse stop for soda or candy.
You’ll want to stock up on foods that aren’t easily perishable, like roasted almonds, nut butters (I like the individual squeeze packs like Justin’s), whole-grain crackers, freeze-dried veggies, and avocados (wrap slices of avocado and cucumber in sheets of seaweed for an easy faux sushi). In your cooler, you can store raw veggies like carrots and sliced bell peppers, individual servings of hummus, plain Greek yogurt, string cheese, and hard-boiled eggs. Don’t forget to replace the ice packs in your cooler regularly so the food doesn’t spoil (you can put things in the hotel mini-fridge and refreeze the ice packs overnight). Only keep enough perishables on hand for the day—you can stop at a grocery store periodically to replenish the stock. And finally, keep plates, a small knife, and trash bags in the car so you can keep things neat.

Map Your Drive

As you plan out your trip, look for what towns you will likely be near during mealtimes. You can see what some restaurant options might be and check out the menus in advance. That way, you can pick out a few options that fit your healthy eating criteria. Diners have large menus that often include grilled chicken sandwiches, broth-based soups, and salads. If your only choice is fast food, look for a Chipotle, which has 2,400 locations around the country. The company publishes its nutritional information, and there are many low-sugar options (choose almost any of the meats and a tomatillo-based salsa; skip the sofritas and vinaigrette dressing). If your only option is the gas station convenience store, steer clear of the donut case and search for foods with simple ingredients. Even packaged foods can be healthy if you check the labels and know what you’re looking for ahead of time. You can find often find foods that are on the list of items to pack in a cooler: hard-boiled eggs, plain yogurt, string cheese, and hummus. Don’t be tempted by foods that market themselves as healthy but actually contain a ton of sugar. For instance, many protein bars, granola bars, and smoothies have a high sugar content. Even if the sugar comes from a natural source, like honey or maple syrup, these sweet foods can still ramp up your sugar cravings.

Avoid Boredom Eating

Sometimes we reach for a snack or pull into a drive-thru because we’re bored, not hungry. No matter how much you like driving, it will take some creativity to keep from getting bored without jeopardizing your safety. Create a playlist specifically customized for different locations you’ll be driving through along the way. Seek out new and interesting podcasts, building a playlist that will queue up the next episode right away so you don’t need to fumble with your phone while you drive. Download an audiobook before you hit the road in case your cell reception is spotty. Lastly, plan interesting stops along the way. The final destination might be your ultimate goal, but sightseeing along the way is a great way to avoid boredom and keep active on long drives.