By Molly Koch, Keene State College Dietetic Intern
Road trips and summer go together like campfires and s’mores. There’s something special about packing up the car and heading out on the open road … regardless of whether you are traveling to do sightseeing, visit relatives, or simply to create some good old-fashioned family bonding.
With traveling comes the meal planning. With some helpful guidance, you’ll be able to plan your own healthy, affordable meals, leaving more time for fun rather than worrying about time and money (or indigestion or weight gain).
Road trips often lead to a higher intake of highly processed, convenience foods that do keep well while you travel but lack nutrition. While this may seem like an easy way to keep costs down, it may also leave you hungrier, and you may spend more than what you bargained for. Road trips are also a way to get a taste of delicious, local flavors and a chance to explore new, quirky places.
Here are some tips on ways to include delicious, healthy alternatives to the greasy, guilty pleasures you may be more accustomed to on the road:
Plan your highlights.
Before you set out on the road, plan out your stops. If you’re going through small town, find one or two local restaurants that you want to explore. Ask friends, browse the internet, and find those highlights that will make it a great local stop. When you plan out your stops, not only will you be able to get to know the local area better, but you will be able to avoid making that impulse decision of stopping at those easily recognizable fast food joints.
Bring a cooler.
Coolers open up a lot of possibilities for snacks and meals on the road. Pack your cooler with some sandwich fixings, pack a blanket, and find a spot with a great view for a scenic picnic. Fill your plastic containers with easy-to-assemble, healthy meals, such as whole wheat bread, lunch meats, chopped up vegetables, tomato slices, low-fat cheese, guacamole spread, hummus spread, etc.
Visit the farmers’ markets.
One of the most delicious things about summer is the amount of produce that hits its peak in growing season, making roadside stands with local fruits and vegetables more accessible and affordable. Utilize these opportunities to get to know the hard-working, local farmers, while stocking up on fresh produce as you travel. The USDA Farmers Market Directory can help you locate some locally-grown products.
Make trail mix.
Trail mix is a staple food for road trips for many reasons — it’s portable, easy to assemble, and creates room for so many delicious, healthy combinations. Packing snacks is also much cheaper than buying food on the way. Instead of stopping at the gas station for snack foods that are high in refined carbohydrates, trail mix can provide high-quality proteins to satisfy your cravings. Be sure to choose trail mixes that don’t include large amounts of candy in them.
Lastly, make sure you’re having fun. Be creative, and don’t be afraid to mix it up! Safe travels!