It's the time of year when we all decide to set out in our cars and drive for hours. Summer road trips to visit family, go on vacation or maybe visit a college or two have the potential for fun and great memories. Most of us do not recall our road trips by the great amount of exercise opportunities they provide or the plethora of healthy food choices that we happen by along the way. Getting in the car for a long ride can be a good way to escape the ordinary at home, but it can also mean a disruption to our daily nutrition and exercise habits. So what are we to do?
One of the most important tips that I give individuals and families as they get ready to head out on the road is to do just a little more planning ahead of time. We plan our destination and where to stop for gas, so what is a little more planning to decide what kind of meals and snacks to have along the way? A day full of rest stop vending and convenience store candies can sometimes leave us feeling bloated at best. So, have a general time frame for when you want to stop for meals along the road and plan to still eat from all of the food groups when you are packing snacks for the car.
Fruits such as tangerines, apples and dried fruit like raisins make convenient snacks that store easily. A small bag of carrots, sugar snap peas, cherry tomatoes or chopped vegetables are easy options to add vegetables in along the way. Whole grain snacks such as low sodium crackers, plain popcorn, granola bars or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on whole wheat bread are also good choices. Adding a little protein to your snacks in the form of nuts or nut butters, hummus or cheese sticks can also help you feel satisfied for longer.
Remember to pack a cooler or insulated bag with a few ice packs if you are taking along perishable items such as cheese sticks or hummus. Refrigerated perishables should not be allowed to sit out for more than two hours, and especially not in a hot car. No one likes warm cheese sticks or warm hummus anyway, and you will save yourself having to buy an air freshener for your car.
Next on the list are beverages. The 2015-20 Dietary Guidelines for Americans state beverages account for almost 20 percent of caloric intake, so choosing beverages that are nutrient dense such as 100 percent juice or milk (options in convenience stores) or opting for water can help you stay hydrated on the road without the added sugars of sodas, sweet teas or energy drinks. If you must drink a sugar-sweetened beverage, do so in moderation. Taking a refillable water bottle with you is a great way to save money and reduce trash, and most rest stops have water fountains available to refill along the way.
While we are on the subject of rest stops, make sure to stop regularly to stretch your legs, get some fresh air and use the restroom. Packing a frisbee or ball to toss around is an easy way to keep children entertained and give them a much needed break from screen time in the car.
Have a happy, healthy and safe road trip!
Katherine Burr, MS, RD, LD is an outpatient dietitian at Capital Region Medical Center where she enjoys teaching others about nutrition in disease management and the joy of food in everyday life. For more tips on nutritious living and healthy recipes, visit her website, at www.KatherineBurrRD.com.