Summer Road Trips: 3 Ways to Healthful Eating

Time to hit the road! I love a summer road trip, but with it comes lots of extra work. So much to plan and do: where to go, what to pack, what to do. Plus, I have to consider who will watch my dogs and water my garden. Can I meet all of my deadlines if I take time off? With all of this on my mind, it’s easy to forget – or rationalize away – healthy eating goals. Don’t. Instead, add wholesome eating to your road trip plan. You’ll be so glad to return home with memories and souvenirs and without the regret of an unhealthful diet or extra pounds.

Try this 3-prong approach.

Pack wholesome food.

Souvenir shops, gas stations and rest stops could taunt you with unhealthful fare if you don’t come prepared. Start with a cooler and ice or freezer packs. Be sure to pack something that makes each vacationer happy.

  • Water and other zero-calorie drinks, sweetened with sucralose or other non-nutritive sweeteners
  • Milk boxes
  • 100% fruit or vegetable juice
  • Individual servings of low-fat yogurt or cottage cheese
  • Reduced-fat cheese sticks or slices
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Peanut butter or almond butter sandwiches
  • Vacuum-packed tuna (perfect to toss on top of a fast-food salad)
  • Applesauce and other types of packaged fruit
  • Carrots, cucumbers, other easy-to-eat veggies. Go for fun and variety. Think baby bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, sugar snap peas and more
  • Whole-grain crackers
  • Nuts pre-measured in 1-ounce or ¼-cup servings
  • Fresh fruit. Sturdy travelers are oranges, apples and pears. Clementines are especially nice because they’re easy to peel and make little mess. Blueberries and grapes are easy snacking fruit too.

Being bored is not a good reason to snack. Be prepared with suitable activities such as road games, audio books and music.

Choose food stops carefully.

Use your smartphone to pick restaurants and menu options. Many restaurants now include nutrition information on their websites. Use your browser to search for the name of the restaurant and the word nutrition such as Panera Bread nutrition or McDonald’s nutrition. If you know where you’ll likely stop, it’s smart to make your game plan before you even pull out of your driveway. Instead of being overwhelmed or tempted by a long menu, choose three to five wholesome options from each restaurant you might visit, and write down your choices When you get there, skip the full menu and select your meal from the personalized menu you created at home.

Consider combining packed and purchased food. Top a fast food salad with your packed tuna or hard-boiled eggs, for example. Or skip the chips that come with a sandwich, and round out your meal with fruit or veggies from your cooler.

Enjoy the middle ground.

Vacations mean fun, so don’t deprive yourself of your favorite foods. But don’t take the “anything and everything attitude” either. You can treat yourself without going overboard. Balance your treat – a glass of wine or a slice of pie – by cutting back on something else.

Don’t forget to be active, build in some down time and reap other health rewards of summer vacations. Take a look at what my colleague Amber Pankonin has to say about Tips to Stay Healthy During Summer Vacation. Enjoy!


Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDE, FAND has worked as both a nutrition counselor and a diabetes educator in the hospital and research settings, and now in private practice in Newport News, VA. Jill is the author of Diabetes Weight Loss – Week by Week and two upcoming books, The Overworked Person’s Guide to Better Nutrition and 21 Things You Need to Know about Diabetes and Your Heart. She is a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the American Association of Diabetes Educators and the American Diabetes Association. Jill is a paid contributor to Follow Jill on Twitter @NutritionJill and find more at

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July 27, 2016 Lifestyle Advice