So you’re on the road, windows down and radio up, cruising from one destination to another. You saved for months and planned out this trip to see everything there is to see. If you’re like us, your passion for saturating the soul with new experiences comes along with a health-conscious awareness of your body and the foods you’re consuming. Good eating habits sometimes seem hard to maintain while traveling and on the go. It can be tempting to stop a grab a quick bite to eat at the next McDonald’s and get right back on the road. But, all this processed food will undoubtedly run you down by the end of your excursion.
Instead of relying on fast food when we are traveling, Laura and I plan quick and healthy meals to enjoy at rest stops while driving. We have also planned meals we could make in our hotels, motels, and other rental accommodations. Not only did we avoid consuming unhealthy food, we also managed to save a lot of extra money!
We have many pointers in keeping up your usual diet plan while on the road from our travel experiences:
Grocery Stores vs Restaurants
Probably the most important tip to keep in mind is to purchase from grocery stores instead of restaurants and convenience stores as much as possible. Everything is available for cheaper at a grocery store. When we are hungry for something, we simply swing by a local grocery store to stock up. To save money and choose healthier options, we prefer to purchase prepared food from a grocery store rather than a restaurant entree.
Cooler & DIY Ice Packs
We always pack a cooler for road trips. After receiving Omaha Steaks a couple times as gifts, our preferred cooler is a small styrofoam disposable one. It seems like the more food you have in the cooler and less open space, the longer everything stays cold. If you have a large cooler with extra room, you can buy a bag of ice and package all food in hot/cold bags or other water resistant containers to help keep it from getting soggy and water logged. If you don’t have as much space in the cooler, we like to put ice from our freezer into a few quart bags to make ice packs. When they melt, we refill them by buying a cup of ice.
We also set up a portable kitchen so that we can do some food prep and serving at rest stops. We throw a cutting board, knife, dish soap & sponge, cutlery, paper plates, ziploc bags, tupperware and paper towels into a reusable shopping bag. If we are planning on cooking at our hotel, it’s also good to have a electric kettle – that way you can make pour-over coffee, tea, oatmeal, couscous, rice and pasta, to name a few options.
Meal Ideas on the Road
We like to focus on protein and veggies at breakfast time, which makes options for eating on the road a little slim. We like:
- Pre-made fried or hard boiled eggs – we make a batch or two at home before we leave, but you can also buy hard boiled eggs at the grocery store that are sealed and last a bit longer.
- Bacon cooked at home – we make it then freeze for later
- Apples and peanut butter
- Veggie sides – pepper strips, avocado, grape tomatoes
- Bagels or croissants – not such a healthy choice, but they are cheap, delicious, and keep well. Can also make a couple breakfast sandwiches to enjoy the first few days.
- Salads are our favorite. Bagged lettuce with any other veggies, protein (prepared chicken, bacon, hard boiled eggs are great), and dressing. If you need salad ideas, checkout this post for a big list of them! When you’re storing lettuce in your cooler, put it at the top, away from ice. Unless you like frozen lettuce.
- Sandwiches are also great on the road, and if you’re in a really big hurry, can be eaten while driving. Usually for the first day I make up chicken salad. For later on in the trip, packaged lunchmeat is good. Not the deli stuff, but the sealed lunchmeat. Since its air tight, it keeps for longer.
Snacks & Sides
- Veggies & guacamole/hummus – carrots, celery or pepper strips with portion packaged guacamole or hummus are a sure favorite.
- Peanut butter & apples hit the spot if you want something sweet.
- Popcorn is non messy and doesn’t need to be refrigerated. We just got a box of Skinny Pop and were pleasantly surprised. Only 3 ingredients (popcorn, sunflower oil and salt) and it’s nice that they’re portioned into 100 calorie bags. Easy to over-snack on road trips!
We make it a point to go out for dinner in new cities. Trying the local cuisine has definitely expanded our awareness of new trends and new ways to prepare food in our own home. By supporting local restaurants you get more than just dinner, you get the experience of being immersed in a community’s culture. Additionally we’ve met lots of friendly locals that are always interested in helping direct us towards the next good time to be had.
However, sometimes you’re driving through the middle of nowhere and the only options are Burger King and some sketchy sounding pizza place that is a few too many miles off course. So it’s great to have some options for those times.
- Hearty salad – We absolutely love salads. For a dinner salad, we would just add more veggies, more meat, possibly grain and maybe even a heavier dressing.
- Sandwiches & sides
- Couscous – If you have access to hot water, you can make it. The boxes of Near East couscous are great for this sort of thing. Just pour the grains, flavor packet and hot water into a container, stir, cover for the allotted time, then enjoy with some veggies and/or protein.
- Grocery store – Even if there aren’t any good restaurants nearby, chances are there is a grocery store. Our go to is to see if they have a hot foods bar. If not, see if they have a microwave. If all else fails, there is always rotisserie chicken and veggies.
As you can see, there are lots of delicious and healthy meals you can enjoy while primarily living out of your car. Just takes a little bit of planning. This is the final post of our Epic & Affordable Road Trip three part series. Be sure to check it out for lots of tips on planning and packing for your upcoming road trip!
We are currently on our way to Asheville, NC! Not so much of a road trip, this time we are just hurrying there and back on a long weekend. But we are excited to stay in a new part of the town (West Asheville) and show our friend Kyle around our favorite spots. Hope everyone has a great weekend!!