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Eating Healthy While On the Road

By: Ron Lagerquist

“The most practical step toward taking control of my eating while traveling was so simple, I could kick myself for not thinking of it years ago.”

My kitchen is a safe sanctuary for a compulsive eater, and I have worked hard over the years to make it that way. There is an abundance of washed fruit piled on my butcher block, which I use as an extended counter. The fridge is full of veggies (for juicing and eating), almond milk, and raw trail mix. Then there is a variety of things I use to garnish my salads: goat’s blue cheese, black and green olives, and my homemade dressing made from flax or hemp oil. The crisper holds strawberries and blueberries for my smoothies, wild salmon, and skinless, boneless chicken breasts.  In my cupboards there are raisins, figs, and dates to satisfy my sweet-tooth. As far as treat foods, I limit them to frozen yogurt or soda crackers with natural peanut butter and honey (a favorite late-night snack). My juicer stays where my coffee maker used to be, and gets used almost daily. The tools of my culinary craft are J. H. Henckels knives, which are deftly sharpened weekly, and a large softwood cutting board that I have developed a particular attachment to.

It would be true to say that there can be trepidation when leaving my well-made eatery to travel into a wilderness of airport food courts and fast-food highway turnoffs—until I finally developed a way of traveling that allows almost as much control over what I am eating as when in my own kitchen. Over the last few years, it’s been tweaked into near perfection, and I’m going to share this invaluable information with you.

The thing I hated about traveling was feeling a loss of control over my diet. On 2,400 mile road trips, it would take only a few days before I would start to feel run down, experience heartburn, and feel toxic, a reminder of why I changed my diet in the first place. I put a high value on health, but I also love to travel. This system allows me to do both, which results in enjoying traveling even more. After all, everything is more fun when you feel good.  

The most practical step toward taking control of my eating while traveling was so simple, I could kick myself for not thinking of it years ago. Today, any time I travel, my small cutting board, self-sharpening knife (Wiltshire StaySharp is great), fork, spoon, and large bowl come with me. I could not believe how empowering these few tools changed travel. I got the idea from my wilderness canoe trips, where bedroom, kitchen, and a week’s worth of food are crammed into a single backpack. 

I remember that first road trip, carrying along my trusty cutting board, the one on which I had filleted many a fish for shore lunches while camping. As soon as I got through US customs from Canada, I looked for a grocery store. Within an hour, I would be camping out on one of those great US rest stations that can be found along the major highways, filleting up my fruit, adding some yogurt and granola, my mobile kitchen spread before me. I would have raw nuts for snacks. It was like home away from home. I was in control.

The following is my very own perfected Trip List, starting with great trip tips. Since using this system, I have avoided many pounds of extra body fat, and have had much better vacations.

Healthy Eating Road Tips

If you’re driving for hours a day, eating high-fiber foods will help you with constipation. In the past, I have lowered my water intake to reduce bathroom breaks. Don’t do that. It will result in heartburn, constipation, and an overall crummy feeling. It’s worth the few extra minutes of pee-stops to feel good on your trip.

Keep napkins, snack foods, and water close at hand while driving. My passenger seat is a proverbial kitchen table when I’m on the road. I even cover the seat with a dish towel so I do not have to worry about food spills reducing the resale value of my car.

After shopping, find a picnic table at a highway rest stop and cut up some fruit, then mix in yogurt using your sealing bowl. This will keep at room temperature all day.

You can also create your own veggie salads. Never use nutritionally useless iceberg lettuce. When on the road, the most convenient salads are made from pre-washed spring mix. A dressing made from good oils like flax or hemp can be found in the health section of better grocers.

In a large zip-lock bag, mix raw nuts, seeds, and raisins together with a pinch of salt. Raw nuts and seeds rich in Omega 3 are walnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds. Now you have the healthiest and most filling snack food on the planet.

Most large supermarket chains now carry superfood smoothies, with ingredients like spirulina or wheatgrass juice. These foods are completely packed with nutrients, taste great, they're kid-friendly and quite filling. Read the ingredients carefully and make sure any juice you buy is 100% juice with no food coloring or sugar added.

When I’m back at the motel/hotel, I love to load up crackers with goat’s cream cheese and bruschetta, which is mostly seasoned, diced tomatoes and very low in calories. You can find premade bruschetta in better grocers. 

Two fast foods I can recommend are Wendy’s chili and Subway’s veggies and cheese on whole grain. As a teenager, I worked at Wendy’s and prepared their chili. All the fat is boiled out of the meat, it’s full of fiber and sustaining protein, and a large chili has a mere 220 calories. Subs have a split personality; they can either be very unhealthy and fattening (nitrate-high meat on white bread), or highly nutritious. The subs I order are loaded with veggies. You can even omit the cheese, making this a salad in a bun.

Treating yourself or your kids to snacks while stopping for gas is a fun part of traveling. A great trick to reducing all those extra empty calories is to stock up ahead of time on healthy treats. There are some pretty good cereal bars on the market. I’m a big fan of Clif bars. They have all-natural ingredients, the right balance of protein, fat and carbs, and come in lots of tasty flavors; my favorite is peanut butter chocolate. Grapes, bananas, apples, carrot sticks, juice, and cheese are all great choices. Lay an old blanket over the back seat to keep from worrying about how messy your kids are being.

Related Article: Road Trip List

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