Reviewed by Eleese Cunningham, RDN
Ah, road trips: You stare at the road all day, eating candy out of boredom and downing coffee to stay alert. Upon reaching your destination, you feel jittery and bloated. This is no way to start your vacation! It's easy to grab candy and soda at a gas station, but with a little planning, you can snack the smart way on a road trip and arrive at your destination feeling energized.
Pack Sensible Snacks
Don't rely on empty calories to power your road trip. Instead, pack snacks that will fuel you with protein, fiber and healthy carbohydrates. Here are some good grab-and-go options:
- Unsalted nuts
- Pre-washed fruit like apples, pears, bananas and grapes
- Dried fruit
- Pre-cut raw veggies
- Whole-grain crackers or pretzels
- Plain popcorn
- Peanut butter
Pre-portion snacks into single-serving bags before you leave home. Never bring a big bag of chips, crackers or other snack food on the road—it's too easy to snack by the handful.
A cooler is another great option—just be sure to keep the cooler temperature under 40°F. "Use ice packs to keep the cooler cool," says Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Spokesperson Judy Caplan, MS, RDN. "Start with everything already refrigerated or frozen so it stays cool longer." Pack the following items:
- Reduced-fat cheese sticks or slices
- Reduced-sodium deli turkey sandwiches or wraps
- Individual containers of low-fat or fat-free yogurt
- Low-fat dip, hummus or guacamole to eat with veggies or whole-grain chips
Steer Clear of Sweet and Salty Eats
Keep your energy up with healthy snacks. "If you want something sweet, try a piece of dark chocolate with fruit or a small handful of almonds," says Caplan.
Also avoid high-fat and high-sodium food on road trips. High-fat food may make you feel sluggish, while high-sodium food can make you thirsty (leading to frequent bathroom breaks). "Usually if you're going to be eating meals out while traveling, they'll be high in sodium," says Caplan. "You'll want to balance that out with low-sodium snacks."
When on the road, try drinking fizzy seltzer water, or water with a little flavor added that's still low in calories. Another option? Add a slice or two of a lemon or lime to regular water and drink up!
"If you drink a lot of coffee, cola or other drinks with caffeine on the road, you'll arrive at your destination buzzed and might have trouble sleeping," warns Caplan. "Instead, pack a thermos of ice water or tea with sprigs of mint, slices of lemon or cucumber. It's really refreshing when you've been sitting in a car for a long time."
Keep Tabs on Portion Size
Portion sizes still count when you're traveling. Learn how to read a nutrition facts label to defend yourself against road trip weight gain.
Finally, put your smart phone to work. Many diet and nutrition apps supply portion and nutrition information when you're on the move.