Hit the road with healthy eats

Lookin’ for adventure? Head out on the highway.  It’s a common theme of summer as families and friends  eagerly hit the road.  For some, the drive is only a couple of hours to the cottage. For others, the car ride is the major event  as the road trip is spent discovering new places or visiting old favourites.

While being spontaneous about many  aspects of the trip may make for a wonderful journey, when it comes to food choices, especially these days,  not doing any planning may yield disappointment. Giving a little thought to what’s on the menu  can play a role in both  how enjoyable the drive is — especially if you’re travelling with kids —  and make a difference in how you feel when you get out of the car.

Visiting roadside restaurants used to be an adventure in itself.  That quaint local eatery in the middle of nowhere used to be the stuff great trip memories were made of. But chances are nowadays, the choice of fare is  no different than what’s available at your neighbourhood fast food restaurant.

Instead, consider packing up a delectable picnic. The food will not only be more palate pleasing, but you’ll also get it a chance to stretch out and enjoy the outdoors. After all, isn’t that what summer’s supposed to be all about?  When planning your route, check out the location of parks near to the highway. As well, by eating  outside,  youngsters can use up all their extra energy by running and hitting a soccer ball or playing Frisbee before getting back in the car.  As a result, you may be rewarded with a much more peaceful drive afterwards.  And for adults, incorporating a few fitness activities during the drive makes holiday weight management an easier task.

For longer drives, don’t leave home without a cooler. Load it up with some fruit and vegetables as well as beverages like bottled water and iced tea. One of the problems that can arise from spending long hours sitting in the car, both for children and adults alike, is irregularity. Fibre-rich snacks and fluids are a perfect antidote.

Refill your cooler with ice before you hit the road again in the morning. At this time of year, local produce starts to make an appearance, so if you happen upon a local fruit stand, you’re prepared.  As well, bring along  some bottled water, resealable plastic bags and containers  and a sharp knife from home.  Washing and peeling fruit or storing leftovers is then easy to do – and more likely to happen.

Snacks can also be lifesavers when you’re on a long trip. For those who suffer from motion-sickness, eating small amounts regularly can help. And for those travelling with young children, bringing food along can be very important for your mental health. If you’ve ever travelled with a hungry child who becomes more irritable with each passing moment, you’ll know what I’m talking about. A few hungry children and you’ve got the makings for a war.

I learned this lesson well many years ago on a drive through to  Cape Cod from Lake Placid. The restaurants along the way never materialized but the traffic certainly did. Sitting in a long line of cars  on a bridge into  Boston, and listening to my two hungry young daughters bickering,   I thought that we might never again take another family vacation. Well, the mind heals quickly but  I never again  forgot to be prepared after that.

The time to plan what to take along is not the day before you leave.  Instead, enlist the support of  your children so that you don’t hear that familiar lament, “There’s nothing to eat!”.  By discussing the options ahead of time, you can also avoid last minute shopping. Whole grain cereal and crackers, packed  in bags, along with cut up veggies are super  to munch on  while in the car for both adults and youngsters. Both dried fruit and candy are not terrific when there’s no access to a toothbrush.

And don’t forget the return trip. Everyone is enthusiastic and has great ideas at the outset of the journey. On the way home, it’s often another story. Check out any local delis or food shops for some tasty fare.  Why not make the picnic just as appealing as some of those enjoyed in your favourite  eateries visited during the vacation? Consider packing some sandwiches into your leftover plastic bags and put them  in your ice-filled cooler.  The roadside fries that never taste as good as they look won’t even tempt you if you don’t go into the restaurant. The same goes for the mystery pie that you can never really quite identify.

With a little planning, not only will your trip be more relaxing, you’ll likely skip quite a few bumps on the road.

Do you have any tips for road trips? Please share in the comment section below.

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Categories: Tips and Tricks

Author:Rosie Schwartz

Rosie Schwartz is a Toronto-based consulting dietitian and writer.

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