A Healthy Alternative to Fast Food

Here’s an inconvenient truth: those travel-sized snacks available at the supermarkets and gas stations are not only bad for your waistline. They can also wreak havoc on your health and mess up your car in a heartbeat.

And they can ruin your road trip.

But what should you do on an extended family road trip? You know the kids will get antsy without food in the car – and the adults, too, if we’re honest. It is a comfort to know that snacks that we like is nearby, especially when we’re far from home.

Since you’re reading this article, I have good news. You’re already one step ahead. My first bit of advice is to plan your meals and avoid packing the following food types that would mess up of your car, cause you to gain weight, feel uncomfortable or potentially make you sick. I bet you can name a few yourself.

The heart attack. You know that fast food isn’t a good choice, but let’s add convenience foods and processed foods to this category as well. This is both the easiest and hardest category to avoid. It takes planning and discipline to turn into the grocery store instead of the drive-through, but even then, you’re still not out of trouble.

We’re concerned with fats and sodium levels that affect your blood-pressure and heart health. So when you’re at the deli in the grocers, choose foods naturally low-fat and low-sodium. And avoid over-sized rolls that will add carbohydrates to the mix. Carbs mixed with high-fat and sodium counts will just lay like a brick in your stomach, making sitting and driving uncomfortable. And they’ll add a few pounds to your stature.

False energy. Soda and caffeinated drinks are dangerous for the driver and the mental health of the occupants, if not the waistline. I include energy elixirs in this category. Beverages high in sugar and caffeine will cause bloating, dehydration, and bursts of energy that are difficult to contain. Kids especially have a hard time with energy burst which may lead to in backseat arguments, kicking of the seats or loud sing-alongs. As the sugar and caffeine wear off, sleepiness may set in. Also, watch out for fake sugar sweetened drinks or “sugar alcohol” that can negatively affect your metabolism causing you to pack on the pounds.

The irritant. Don’t pack the juice boxes. If you have ever had to insert the straw into a Capri Sun or Juicy Juice you know the straw acts as a projector making 4 to 6 ounces of drink into a potential sticky juice shooter. Beyond the mess factor you will see effects similar to those mentioned in the false energy category. But what many forget is juices are high in acid that can irritate the bladder and cause painful potty stops.

A Healthy Mix of Foods The clot. It’s so convenient to grab a pack of muffins or mini donuts as a breakfast substitute. I mean, they’re individually wrapped already. Here’s the bad news: cakes, cookies, pies, crackers, pastries and all sorts of sugary products are low in fiber yet high in fat and sugar. I don’t want to downplay this part. They are really high in fat and sugar. As a result, the body processes them in such a way that increases the risk of chronic constipation. Plus the sticky icings, powdered sugar and sugar granules will end up a permanent part of the upholstery.

The mess. But the biggest mess comes from foods we think are the best for travel. Raise your hand if you pack trail mix, zip-up baggies of cereal or chocolate-covered power bars. I have been a big supporter of these foods for road trips because they actually are good for you and will keep you feeling full longer because they are high in fiber and sometimes protein as well.

But pack them at your own peril.  It only takes a handful of Kix or Cheerios to land on the floor of the rental car and you’ll be stopping by the vacuum at the next gas station. Kids aren’t so careful with granola or trail mix either. And if there is chocolate or caramel involved, I don’t care what the weather — it’s going to melt to goo.

Of course you can avoid the mess by choosing not to eat in the car. This might require more frequent stops, which I also suggest for keeping the trip healthy and fun.

So what should you pack? We travel with two coolers, a larger one to carry the meals you’ll eat at picnic tables and rest stops along the way and a smaller second one for the back seat.

I’ll share what we fill them with next week.