Road Food for Fit Foodies
For the healthy conscious road food can instill fear (What am I going to eat while I travel?), and for the “fit foodies’ it can bring joy (Oh, the adventuresome good I’ll find along the way!). For me, road food is usually a combination of the two. You can find some amazing food almost anywhere, but sometimes healthy road food options fall short, which means you’re faced with drive-thru, highly processed, low-nutrient foods that leave you tired, hungry, edgy and unsatisfied. Boo to that!
On my recent month-long trip to Palm Springs with my mom, we decided to eat as healthy as possible + enjoy a nice dinner at nice, complete with a glass of wine or two. We drove down Interstate 5 from Washington to Northern Cal, turned left, hit the coast and wended our way through wine country and on to the desert. It all went well because we had a plan.
First, we knew exactly where we were going to stop every night, scoped out restaurant options in advance, even making reservations on at least one occasion. This not only gave us a daily ETA, but a specific dinner destination.
Second, we brought along a plug-in cooler/heater unit to store food. This not only saved us time but money because we always had lunch and snack foods ready at hand.
Third, because we enjoy a good cup of coffee, we scoped all the nearby Starbucks in the next-day’s destination area. We started our mornings out with a cup of joe and sometimes augmented our cooler lunch food supply with a Bistro Salad or other item (tip: Starbucks has some great, healthy made-daily salads and Bistro Box items. The nutrition info is listen on each salad or box container (or go here ahead of time to check out the nutrition info: http://www.starbucks.com/menu/catalog/nutrition?food=all#view_control=nutrition). If you count calories or keep track of protein and carb grams for your nutrition plan, it’s all there to see and pretty easily calculate. There are items for ‘snacking’ as well as a full-on meal. Almost every store has the same menu, so you can count on your faves being available from store to store. Just be careful to pass over the 25-fat gram scones and reach into the case for one of the healthier food options instead.
Fourth, while the hotel we belong to and stayed at along the way, offers breakfast (in which we could always get the healthier options of boiled eggs, toast and bottle water), we always knew that we could grab a sensibly-portioned, fairly clean ingredient breakfast sandwich while we were getting our Uncle Bucky’s coffee. Again, that was handy and didn’t derail our nutrition efforts the first thing every morning. Bonus!
Fifth, we made sure the food we DID pack was nutrition packed, mostly because that’s the way we eat (we work out daily and get HUNGRY!), but also because our trip lasted an entire month, the car was loaded up (including a prime spot for my Puggle Henry) so we had no space to waste.
Road Food: What to Pack
So, what DID we pack, you’re wondering? Here’s what made it into the cooler:
Raw almonds + walnuts (we bought a large bag of each back at our big-box store to save $ but you can find them at your grocery store, and along the way at convenience stores, for a pretty $).
Apples, bananas + grapes (any raw fruit is good, but the heartier exterior the better as you’re packing it in a cooler)
Organic lunch meat (if you can find lower sodium great because you don’t want to dehydrate yourself on the road and have to stop all the time to potty!)
Crackers. Find a nutrition-packed one with Omega-3 seeds, whole grains and nothing chemical-y added.
Protein bars. I like the brands that have nuts for protein and dates for sweetener, but there are many good ops. The rules of thumb: the shorter the list of ingredients the better; if you can’t pronounce an ingredient don’t eat it.
Veggie sticks/packs. Try to find organic ones if you can, but in any case get some veggies in your bod! Carrots, broc, celery and other hardy veggies will last in your cooler several days.
Hummus. Something yummy + healthy to dip those veggies in. Find as ‘clean’ of one as you can. Essentially the ingredients should include chick peas, olive oil, salt, pepper and tahini and not much else. The neat thing is hummus and chips packs are now available at convenience stores so you might be able to gas up + buy some at the same time in a pinch. Oh, this also makes a great cracker or sandwich spread.
Boiled eggs. Okay, this is ONLY if you have a cooler with ice or that is plugged in and cooling your box.
Cheese/sticks. I like a slice of cheddar or mozz on my sandwich and some of you may NOT like that. But if you do, find a naturally lower fat high-protein cheese).
Sprouted bread. I prefer the Trader Joe’s variety because it tends to be ‘softer’ than some, but the reality is, it’s great to have something to put your cheese and lunch meat on and if you’re driving a sandwich is not too hard to eat. Salad? Forget it. You gotta pull over, lol.
Mustard. Bag the other condiments because to me they are superfluous, but if you’re going to make any sort of a sandwich, come now, you need something moist.
Dried fruit. This go great alone or with your nuts; in fact you may just want to find a nice, raw ‘trail mix’ and call it good. Just make sure there are not too many M & Ms in there. Some people balk at the ‘sugar’ content in dried fruit but the thing is, on the road you need energy and the less minimally processed your snacks, the better.
Bottled water. This might sound obvious, but skip the caffeinated and sugary drinks. They don’t help you get there faster (too much peeing) and you really don’t high fructose corn syrup and chemicals in your drinks. Keep it clean and fresh, my friends.
There you go. Some simple, healthy road food tips from my recent trip to Palm Springs. I hope your next adventure is safe, fun and healthy, my friends!