Sarah and I recently took a road trip out to Ohio for a family wedding. New Jersey to Dayton, Ohio is about a 10 hour drive, so it required travel time as well as a few days in Ohio itself. We knew from previous experiences that if we failed to eat well on the road, we would regret it with low energy and cranky behavior, so we set out to plan healthy meals and snacks along the way. Not only did we eat well, we saved money and felt better! How did we do it? It was remarkably easy!
First, I made a list of healthy foods that would travel well:
- Hard boiled eggs
- Deli turkey
- Homemade beef jerky
- Romaine lettuce
- Almond milk (shelf stable single serve)
From there, it was just a matter of prepping and packing. A quick run to the farmer’s market covered us for veggies and fruit, and I made the beef jerky a few days before we left. While I know hard boiled eggs can last a week or two, I still erred on the side of caution and boiled them the night before we left, just to give them maximum lifespan. I also made the granola from scratch tossing almonds, pecans, macadamia nuts, and raisins in a food processor, then toasting them in the oven.
Then we had to work out how to transport all this goodness. First up, a nice big sturdy cooler filled with ice. We found that a mix of loose ice, bags of ice, and frozen water bottles worked best getting all our food out to Ohio. Once we made it to our hotel we had a fridge, and the hotel had an ice machine so replenishing for the return trip was a snap. We also brought a small knife and cutting board so we could slice veggies and fruit as needed, which extended their freshness and kept everything tastier.
This was all great in theory, but the important part was how it worked out in practice. We crashed at a hotel in Pennsylvania on our way out to Ohio, and let’s just say there’s a reason that hotel was so much cheaper than the others…and that Sarah has banned me from booking any more budget stays on Hotels.com. So right away we were grateful for our own supply of breakfast foods, since otherwise the options would have been scary breakfast from the “Quality” Inn or the local drive thru. Instead, we stopped at a rest stop on the PA Turnpike, and had an awesome outdoor breakfast picnic. We had fruit, hard boiled eggs, granola with almond milk, and our one purchased item was Starbucks coffee (hey, we had a long day of driving and needed the caffeine!) We lacked nearly perfectly for breakfast, as we had enough to repeat the meal throughout our stay in Ohio…and it was just as tasty every time!
Lunch was equally healthy and easy. We sliced up peppers and carrots, and piled turkey on the romaine lettuce with hummus and veggies to make wraps. Simple and tasty. Plus, since we again stopped to picnic outside, we were able to stretch our legs and lay in the sun. Sometimes it isn’t just what you eat, but how you eat it…lunch feels far more satisfying when it is outside in the sunlight instead of balanced on your knees while flying down the highway!
Snacks along the way were apples and beef jerky, and we kept fresh lemon slices in our water to give them a flavor boost. Honestly, with the amount of protein in breakfast and lunch, we didn’t get terribly hungry between meals or crave junk. This had the happy side effect of saving us some money, plus it reduced our stop times to just gas and quick leg stretches, as opposed to wandering rest stops or pulling off the highway hunting for a treat.
The best part, aside from saving money, is that we felt awesome (or as awesome as you can feel cooped up in a Prius for 10 hours). Road trips usually guarantee at least one fight over something silly, or one of us getting irrationally angry at traffic/road conditions/the weather. Basically, car+close quarters+a steady diet of salt and sugar=angrypants. This time was different. We weren’t snacking heavily, and when we did, it was nutritious, tasty, and didn’t send us into a sugar high and crash, or leave us feeling greasy, salty, and guilty. As a result, our moods were stable, and we made it both ways without anyone melting down. I really think diet was a huge part of this, and it makes me even more sure we will be staying away from processed foods and focusing on whole foods as much as possible, especially on car trips!
Do you have any tales of eating well on the road? Let us know your tips below!