Healthy Road Trip Snack Ideas
Healthy Eating Tips for Road Trips
When you've got the car packed and are heading out for a long road trip, fast-food eating may seem like the simplest option. But healthy eating can also be fast and convenient if you follow these tips for healthy travel.
By Diana Rodriguez
Medically Reviewed by Pat F. Bass III, MD, MPH
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When you’re heading out for a road trip, making good time is typically the goal. Long, leisurely stops to eat a healthy meal at an actual restaurant may be a rarity and, in some areas, an impossibility.
But healthy eating doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming. Arm yourself with tips on how to pick out a nutritious meal or snack from fast food menus and convenience store shelves loaded with high-fat goodies. Smart strategies will ensure healthy travel throughout your road trip adventure.
Healthy Eating on the Road
Start your road trip with healthy food choices of your own. “Pack a mini cooler or insulated lunch bag with healthy meal and snack options,” says Erin Palinski, RD, a registered dietitian in private practice in northern New Jersey.
Choices that travel well in a cooler include:
- Homemade sandwiches with lean lunch meat and vegetables on whole grain bread or a whole wheat wrap
- Fresh fruits and veggies
- Dry-roasted nuts or soy nuts
- Whole-grain crackers spread with peanut butter
- Cans of vegetable juice
Fast Food, Smart Choices
There are actually many healthy options at most fast-food restaurants. Look at menus online before you leave home; you can search for locations along your route and choose chains with healthier options, such as sandwich restaurants.
If you need to pull up to a fast food drive-through, keep in mind that you don’t have to order a burger and fries.
Good fast-food choices include:
- Grilled chicken sandwiches
- A salad topped with grilled chicken
- Sub sandwiches on whole grain bread with lean chicken or turkey
- One single hamburger topped with lots of veggies instead of sauces, cheese, or bacon
- A small cup of chili
- A plain baked potato — skip the sour cream and butter
To lower the fat and cholesterol content of fast food meals, Palinski suggests avoiding creamy condiments, cheeses, and fried foods; for better quality protein, choose white meat poultry when possible over red meat and burgers.
Don’t forget how quickly empty calories in beverages can add up. “Avoid sugary drinks such as soda or sweetened ice tea,” says Palinski. “Instead choose water, flavored water, or unsweetened tea. Low-fat milk is also a good choice for a drink.”
If you’re looking for a dessert, Palinski suggests opting for a yogurt parfait instead of a milkshake or pie slice.
Convenience Store Best Bets
Sometimes a gas station convenience store may be your only option for food, especially if you’re driving through rural, out-of-the-way locations on your road trip. But even when limited by convenience store choices, healthy eating isn’t impossible, says Palinski.
Look for these healthy eating choices when refueling your tummy tank and your gas tank:
- A container of low-fat yogurt or a fruit cup
- A package of nuts or sunflower seeds
- Low-fat string cheese
- Whole-grain pretzels
- Air-popped popcorn
- Soy crisps
- An individual box of whole-grain cereal
- A package of dried fruit
- Any fresh fruit
Don’t give in to temptation or convenience just because you’re on the road.
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