On the road doesn't just mean fast food
A road trip doesn’t necessarily mean you have to take an unhealthy detour with your family’s diet.
I love family road trips, but I do not particularly love the dining choices on the Interstate. Fast-food, drive-thrus, and gas station vending machines don’t always offer the most healthy choices, but with a little planning you don’t have to let good eating habits go on vacation, too.
1. The cooler is your best friend. I love a well-stocked cooler on a road trip -- it is my number one weapon against the siren call of the squawk box of a drive-thru. We keep healthy snacks -- pre-approved by kids taste buds -- and lots of cold water packed inside. Keep it in the car rather than the trunk for easy reaching.
2. Picnic lunch at a nice roadside rest area or scenic site as opposed to the black top of a fast-food restaurant. Sandwiches packed earlier are the perfect fare and sit a lot better in road-weary tummies than a greasy burger. The kids can stretch out and play after eating, and everyone gets a side of fresh air with their hoagie.
3. I’m a big fan of whole foods, at home and especially on the road. I try to buy whole, unprocessed foods as often as possible, and this is certainly a challenge when traveling. I love homemade granola bars, but other good snacks to pack -- or buy at a nearby grocery store -- are fruits, cheese cubes and sticks or nuts. We like to make our own trail mix by having each person add something fun (and inconspicuously healthy) to the mix like cereal, pretzels and dried fruits. You can sneak a handful of M&M’s in there, too -- after all it is a vacation.
4. Breakfast: the most important (and cheapest) meal of the day. When stopping for the night, I seek out hotel chains that offer free breakfasts. By-pass the pre-packaged sausage bombs, and go for the fresh fruit, yogurts, whole-grain cereals and oatmeal that are offered. It’s a perfect way to start the day.
5. Save the menu sampling for the destination, not the journey. That dirty cafe 10 seconds from the Tennessee state line may not be the best place for your kids to experiment with nouveau cuisine. Stick to the safe staples, and sample the local delicacies at good restaurants when you get there.
6. If you have to stop, stop wisely. If you can make it to a Subway or a deli, choose that over fried foods on the menu. CNN.com lists what to eat when options are limited.
And while it may not be directly related to healthy eating, I pack a little surprise bag of inexpensive toys ahead of time and unveil it at the moment when they start itching for some kids' meal prizes. Some kid cravings can be quenched with a bag of goodies from the dollar store.
Happy and healthy trails!
~ Tracey Henry, the Suburban Diva
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