Eating Healthy While Traveling

Hello and happiest new year to you!

I just returned from a trip to Kansas City, Missouri and can I just say: I really dig that place.  The trip was brief, but I was able to eat some good food, meet some kindhearted people, and see some lovely architecture and scenery.

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I, along with four friends, made the 12+ hour trip by car.  Some people might dread road trips, but I thoroughly enjoy them.

Anyways, I really don’t think that going on long road trips is for the faint of heart, especially when you desire to eat in a healthful manner.  I have to be honest: it requires planning.  If you’re not a planner, don’t worry.  I’m keeping it real simple.

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1) ALWAYS bring water.  Whether you bring an entire case, jugs, or a reusable bottle and refill it along the way, water is key.  It’s so easy to become dehydrated during road trips and you make it almost impossible to stay hydrated without packing some water with you.  Don’t set yourself up for failure.

2) Pack snacks!  Gas station stops accompanied by ravenous hunger are never a good combination.  Again, it’s about setting yourself up for success.  Depending on how many hours your trip might be, you will get hungry.  You might be sitting in car doing nothing but listening to music and gazing out the window, but your body still needs fuel.  When that hunger comes, I don’t want you sprinting for the gas station Cheetos and Mountain Dew and Slim Jims (wait… do people even eat those any more?).  The only thing I’d want you sprinting for at a gas station stop is the bathroom, because you’ve succeeded in keeping yourself well-hydrated and you need to pee.

I just mentioned pee on my blog.  Things are getting real.

I’m a huge fan of fruit/veggies, trail mix, and granola bars on road trips.  If you bring a cooler, you open up your options to more perishable items like string cheese or sandwiches.  What you want are things with staying power; things with protein and/or fiber to help keep you full so you’re not mindlessly chomping away on miscellaneous food you don’t need.

The next logical thing to think is about is what to do once you get to your destination.  There are a couple things to consider.

1) Try to find a local grocery store and stock up with your favorite healthy foods.  My friend and I roomed together in a hotel that had a refrigerator.  Our first day there, we walked about a mile to a grocery store and picked up a few items like Greek yogurt and apples to store in our room for the week.  We didn’t have complimentary breakfast at our hotel, so this was especially helpful for us penny-pinchers.  Eating out for breakfast every morning was just not an option for us.  Vending machine muffins and toaster pastries don’t cut it either.

// Side note: Finding a store within walking distance gives you the added bonus of some easy exercise!

2) I know eating out on trips is inevitable.  Eating out and trying local foods is one of my favorite parts about traveling!  In this sort of situation, you need to know how to navigate your options.  I attended a conference while I was in Kansas City, which ran basically all day with only brief windows for eating lunch and dinner.  I consistently has a couple snacks with me, but packing a legitimate lunch wasn’t very feasible, so I again had to find options for food within walking distance.  What ended being the go-to place for most of us was a local market called Cosentino’s.

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What was great about this place was their soup/salad bar.  This made it so easy for me because I could grab whatever I wanted in the amount that I wanted and be on my merry way.

A salad bar isn’t necessary, though.  The idea here is that if you can find a grocery store, you shouldn’t have an issue eating as you normally would.  This option usually ends up being less expensive than a dine-in restaurant, so it’s a win on all ends.

Maybe now you’re thinking, “Okay, that’s nice.  But what about if I go to a restaurant?”

Good question!  The USDA’s MyPlate website has excellent tips for eating out.  Instead of typing those out, I’ll let you follow the link.

At the end of the day, eating healthfully while traveling shouldn’t be too daunting as long as you do a little simple planning.

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I’m going to leave you with this picture.  I couldn’t go to Kansas City and NOT get barbecue.  This was from Jack Stack – white meat chicken with roasted carrots.  I am by no means a barbecue connoisseur, but this was pretty darn good.  Nicely done, KC.

Are you a fan of road trips?  Do you have any go-to strategies for eating well while traveling?