Tips for Healthy Eating While Traveling

Posted on Jul 20 2012 - 9:00pm by Demelza Young

 Is it just me, or is it entirely too easy to idly munch your way through a bag of chips or a sleeve of cookies on a car ride?  It doesn’t seem to matter if it’s a long or a short trip.  I’m pretty sure that every time I drive to the grocery store I end up breaking into my haul and devouring two or three apples at the very least before I even get home (I can’t help it, fresh fruit is my weakness—if I had a melon scoop or a knife I’d probably break into the watermelon or the pineapple, too…okay, maybe not).

 As I was growing up, my family often took road trips to see relatives that lived out of town, be it St. Louis or Florida.  Considering the distance between their homes and ours in Kentucky, we spent a lot of time in the car.  While we could have stopped and eaten fast food for every meal, my parents saw the value in being prepared.  Before leaving, we made a group effort to pack a cooler filled with sandwich fillings, fruit, and drinks as well as a bag of “emergency” snacks and additional foods.  This sort of preparation is a good way to keep yourself on track (and your food expenses in check) when you’re traveling.  Not only will you cut down your time on the road (how fast is fast food, really, when you’re waiting in a line for half an hour?), you’ll also be able to forego the temptation of sizing up your order or adding a dessert to your meal.

When you pack meals for yourself, you control what is available and the portion sizes you have.  Some of the snacks my family often brought along on our trips included jerky, snack bars, apples, string cheese, nuts (although it’s easy to eat multiple servings of these, so you may want to portion them out beforehand; you can even make your own “100 calorie packs” by placing the appropriate amount into plastic baggies), and peanut butter and crackers.  If you suffer from the same problem that I sometimes have, where I’m not really hungry but will start eating something anyway (no, I don’t really need that second or third apple while I’m driving), it also pays to have some sugar free gum, mints, or hard candies to occupy your mouth with.  Whatever you pack, try to make sure that it has plenty of fiber and protein to satisfy your hunger.  It pays to plan ahead so that you aren’t stuck buying a greasy sandwich from a gas station or a couple of candy bars to try and tide you over until your next meal. 

 This also applies to air travel.  Similar to establishments in the restaurant industry, some airlines have started setting the bar higher with calorie-conscious food options but many others have not (luckily, there are people out there who have done the detective work for you so you don’t have to).  Most airlines insist that you arrive early before your flight anyway, so take the time to shop around the terminal for some health-conscious options to take on board with you.  There are often plenty of salad and sandwich options available, and places like McDonald’s or Starbucks usually have fruit and yogurt parfaits, fruit cups, and protein platters.  Check out some of these healthy foods to eat while eating out.

 Once you’ve arrived at your destination, though, what then?  Believe it or not, you still don’t have to eat out for every meal and you don’t need to break into the hotel minibar, either (seriously, have you seen that price list?).  You can visit the local grocery store and fill your cart with ready-to-eat fruits and vegetables (like pre-cut melon or pineapple, sugar snap peas, and baby carrots), yogurt, and low sodium soups.  Packets of oatmeal can also make for a great breakfast. 

Carrying water bottles (reusable, if possible) is also helpful because it’s so easy to become dehydrated (whether from air travel or just sitting in a hot car with the sun shining on you).  If plain water is too boring for you, trying adding some lemon juice or sugar-free powdered drink mixes (think Crystal Light).  There are also a wide variety of prepackaged flavored waters available for quenching your thirst.  Try to avoid sugary drinks like juice or soda, which are not only full of empty calories but also make a mess if they spill.



Demelza Young is a recent graduate of Northern Kentucky University. Her current plans are to attend graduate school and to study clinical psychology in the hopes of one day working with eating disordered patients.

9 Comments so far. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. gridlockmanifesto August 1, 2012 at 2:12 pm - Reply

    My wife and I pack healthy snacks for the ride to our destination in a cooler, but when we come back, the healthy effort goes out the window.  The first Cracker Barrel we see and that is exactly where it begins.  At least we get half our trip healthy.  The other challenging aspect of travel is keeping the kids busy.  My Dish coworker suggested the kids use the tablet PC’s for watching TV.  We use our Sling Adapter so we can watch live and recorded TV from our DVR back home, along with the Dish Remote Access app on our iPad and Galaxy 10.1.  It was nice that we didn’t have to listen to the fighting in the back seat this time, and I kept my peace of mind.

  2. Alaina Bullock August 17, 2012 at 10:50 am - Reply

    Thank you for this!  It's very informative, and I know when I travel I tend to want to grab the quick and easy food, which is the worst for you!  This had some great pointers!

  3. Casandra August 17, 2012 at 3:22 pm - Reply

    Wow that is so true. I never thought of packing an ice chest full of sandwiches and waters. Thanks for  the pointers! 

  4. MamaBreak August 17, 2012 at 10:14 pm - Reply

    Love this article! I eat garbage while traveling. I need to bring more snacks and sandwiches FOR SURE!

  5. Melinda Dunne August 31, 2012 at 1:17 pm - Reply

    Traveling and eating right is so tricky! That you for the great information. 

  6. Crystle Monahan September 3, 2012 at 11:43 am - Reply

    Nice article! I have trouble eating healthier in most cases (I know, shame on me) but this looks like a good step towards healthiness. Thanks for the advice!

  7. Angela Harris September 3, 2012 at 1:59 pm - Reply

    Great post thank you for sharing these tips.

  8. Sue Invegas September 21, 2012 at 10:57 am - Reply

    it always just seems so much easier to bring snacks and bagged items when traveling. This is a nice article. Its good to think healthy even when traveling.

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