By Ali Wilkinson on December 7, 2020 in travel
You’ve been driving for miles. Your gas tank is nearly empty – and so is your stomach!
We all know the feeling. Roadside fast food options may be delicious, but they don’t help you feel your best. Want to avoid the eat-all-the-fries-and-milkshakes-in-sight phase of road tripping? Stock up on must-have items to help you prepare healthy snacks and meals on the go.
Grab the Right Accessories
To avoid the lure of the milkshake, you need to be able to keep your food cool, fresh, and meal-worthy so you actually want to eat the healthy food you pack. These accessories will help.
You can cut and chop all the cucumber slices and cheese cubes you want. But if you don’t have a way to keep them cool, they won’t be appetizing a few hours into your trip. A wide range of coolers can do the job, from an inexpensive cooler made of polystyrene foam (often referred to by the trademarked term Styrofoam) to a plug-in “iceless” car cooler that runs off your car’s battery. (Genius!) Pro tip: If you get a cooler with a release valve to let out melted water, make sure it stays closed in the car!
- Gel ice packs
You can fill your cooler with ice cubes to keep it cold, but refreezable gel packs are easier. You won’t accidentally spill the water pooling at the bottom of your cooler, and you won’t need to stop for more ice. Gel packs stay frozen for 12 to 36 hours in a cooler, so they’re perfect for shorter road trips.
- Reusable containers
Packing your snacks and meals in reusable containers is good for your health and the environment. Airtight stainless-steel containers are a great option for food storage. Unlike glass containers, you don’t need to worry about them breaking. They keep food fresh and contained, and they come in all shapes and sizes, perfect for everything from a handful of almonds to turkey sandwiches. Plus, they’re durable and can last for years.
Reusable stainless-steel water bottles are another must-have for road-tripping. Not only do reusable water bottles help the environment, but they also save money on bottled water. When you run low, fill up at a rest-stop water fountain.
- Reusable dishes
If you plan to stop for picnics, pack plates and utensils, and throw in cloth napkins. These options are eco-friendly, and they can make home-prepped snacks feel like a real meal, which means you may be more eager to eat the food you packed.
- Chopping tools
Save time on prep work (and avoid brown, air-kissed apples) by bringing along a cutting board and small, sharp knife. Get super-thin, flexible cutting boards that hardly take up any space, or go for a sturdier board that can double as a plate. (Bonus: You’ll have fewer dishes to wash.)
- Washing tools
Speaking of dishes, you’ll need something to wash dirty plates and utensils in. Pack a camping wash basin (they fold and take hardly any room in your car), along with a sponge and biodegradable dish soap.
Eat Healthy on the Go
Now that you have your gear, you need to figure out your food. Here are some tips for DIY dining on the road.
- Prep food ahead of time
If you’re serious about staying healthy on the road, take time to plan and prep your meals and snacks. This step could keep a fast food hamburger out of your mind and your mouth.
Go for healthy snack options that require little prep. These may include:
- Hummus and chopped veggies such as carrots, peppers, and celery
- Homemade energy bars
- Cheese slices
- Homemade trail mix with cereal, nuts, dried fruit, and chocolate
For longer trips, consider bringing along the fixings to assemble a sandwich. If you opt to prep a sandwich ahead of time, use sturdier bread such as a baguette to prevent the dreaded soggy sandwich.
- Bring along pre-made healthy snacks
You don’t have to prep all your own food. Stock up on healthy treats such as energy bars, string cheese, single-serve yogurt, roasted nuts, trail mix packs, popcorn, jerky, and single-serve nut-butter packs. And if you want to indulge, spring for some dark chocolate or chocolate-covered fruit or nuts.
- Avoid fast food
Even with your cooler packed and the best intentions, it’s hard to resist the smell of French fries. Avoid fast-food plazas and pull over at rest stops or parks instead. Bonus: While you’re there, you can stretch your legs and walk around.
- Make healthy purchases
Bathroom breaks happen, and you may walk through a convenience store. If you decide to shop, pick up protein-packed snacks such as yogurt, cheese, nuts, or hard-boiled eggs. If you can’t find those, look for healthy cereals or low-sugar protein bars.
Staying healthy on the road takes some planning and work. But these tips can help you feel better, save money, and do your part for the environment.