How do you get healthier road trip food? The gas station burrito settled it, I do not care how inexpensive road stop fare may be, it is just no longer an option. I must deliberately menu plan for all future road trips.
Our family travels a lot. We have written about eating from the road before, and you will find an extremely extensive list for packing out food for both car or plane that I had written for holisticsquid (so check that out). But along with that list, I wanted to send out just a few reminders when choosing road trip food:
Water. Agua. Eau. However you say it, drink water!
I once gorged myself on soda during a road trip, breaking my own rules in favor of the “it is a vacation” mentality. My blood sugar (and mood) was more unpredictable. I felt sloshy, and I felt dirtier/greasier when we got to the destination. Since I always drink water on trips, and soda was the big difference that time, I’m convinced it was the factor to ruin the way I felt. Now we stick with water as a beverage, regardless of the particular area code we are in at the moment. Okay, and coffee. Water and coffee.
If you use the excuse that I do about needing something to keep you perked up as you drive, consider a great radio drama or book on cd. Consider popping grapes or cherries, or even mints or lemon candies.
Avoiding bottled water: I try really, really hard to bring my own water. See why in an article I wrote for Food Renegade.
It’s really a good idea to have a portable water purification system anyway. Water in a waxy cup isn’t awesome, even before you factor in the water quality. No matter where you are traveling, the water on the other side of the trip may be gross. Consider a Berkey Water Bottle, and get it from an authorized dealer (such as Pantry Paratus). For a lot of trips we take along our Travel Berkey. We have used it numerous times instead of drinking bad hotel water–not just on camping trips.
Pack Your Creativity
I was impressed with the variety of suggestions our facebook friends have made for travel food that did not rely heavily upon that smooshy, pre-made pb&j. One person mentioned, “cheese-sticks” and my immediate thought was “I’m too cheap to buy those”…but her very next statement was, “You can easily make these yourself!” So yes, I cut the cheese into strips for our own cheese-sticks for picnic food.
Remember that meals do not have to be traditional to be well-balanced. Raw veggies with cheese and crackers, maybe some olives or even canned pineapple on the side work just fine. Cottage cheese smeared on naan bread with a boiled egg, or homemade meat jerky and some trail mix will provide all you need to keep going! Does it look like the typical “meat & potato” meal? Of course not, but why should it?
Treat Yourself to an Indulgence
Let’s face it; car trips get long, especially if there is any griping from a backseat. Plan on a special treat your family does not get often, like this caprese salad that packs very well in a cooler and just screams “SUMMERTIME!” It gives you something to look forward to at the next stop. One of my favorite traveling-only indulgences is making cream cheese-salami rolls.
Budget an Hour to Food Prep
Using a food slicer, I can whip out a bunch of fresh veggies (cucumber slices, carrot slices, radishes, and more), I can make those cheese sticks, slice cheese for sandwiches, and slice lunch meat too. Doing all of this once means that one tool can save you time and only require one rinse at the end.
Budget Time for Stops
Stops for gas and food take longer when you are serving lunch off of the tail gate, but the food is nutritionally sound and delicious. What good is “saving ten minutes” if you get heartburn, or feel so sluggish when you get there you want a nap? Besides, it’s really mentally healthier for you to stop anyway. Get up and stretch. Sit in the sunshine, let the kids run a bit. We use our GPS to find parks right off of the interstate; we get to explore a bit and enjoy the meal.
If you do not have to unwrap it to eat it, you really will like it better because the food is closer to its natural state. The body knows what it can digest. Sometimes we lie to ourselves that the occasional diversion off the healthy road (okay, bad pun) won’t hurt us. Maybe it won’t. But there really is a better, healthier, and dare I say yummier way to travel.
Leave a comment and let us know about your travel food experiences with kids!