Last December, my family and I headed on a 25-hour road trip from Ottawa to South Florida. As you know, eating healthy is important to me and this includes during road trips and travel. The car was packed with plenty of water, sandwiches, protein, snacks, and treats the kids like. Fresh meals for the first part of the trip were planned, but fruit and vegetables were not packed because we were crossing the US-Canada border. It’s funny that fruit can’t cross borders, yet we import fruit from the US? Maybe our fruit needs an origin certificate to cross the border? Or a passport? On one trip, I was asked to peel my orange at the border and leave the peel before I could enter the US!
Day One: Dinner on the road
We were on a tight deadline, we were tired, and we didn’t want to linger, but our choices at exits were limited. We didn’t want to travel too far from the highway, and the kids were already sick of sandwiches and everything we had in the car. We decided to stop at McDonald’s. Despite having worked there, crediting the beginning of my nutrition and foodservice career to them, I have spent the 15 years of my motherhood telling my kids that it is “not real food.” My kids didn’t care, they were hungry, and they love McDonald’s chicken nuggets and French fries. As I watched them eat, I was horrified that I let them eat it, so I joined in and had one. See? Hunger makes you do things that you don’t want to do.
Is eating a chicken nugget better than nothing? In the hectic moment of four kids whining about being hungry and tired, I got to the point that I didn’t care what they ate! I just cared that they stopped whining, got fed, got back into the car and let us continue to drive to our destination and have a fun family vacation.
Yes, chicken nuggets are highly processed, and it is questionable how much real chicken is really in the nugget, but it still is usable fuel for our body. I trust the tight regulations that our government has in place to ensure that the food offered for sale is safe to consume but also agree that not all foods are created equally.
When you have four kids, the odds of all going smoothly on a long road trip is against you. One out of the four boys reluctantly ate a chicken nugget and then proceeded to complain for five-plus hours of nausea caused by McDonald’s. Was it the chicken nuggets? Was it the fact that he was playing on his iPad in a moving vehicle for 10 hours? Was he starving? Was it motion sickness? Who knows, but the crying and whining were unbearable after 12 hours on the road.
We stopped to get him Gravol, and I also bought bananas, realizing the kids had not eaten any fruit all day. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the service station had bananas at the cash register.
I vowed, as I always do after a stop to McDonald’s that we will never go there again.
Day 2: Lunch at a rest area.
We chose rest areas based on timing. Our day two stop had a Subway restaurant, and the kids were happy to pick their sub choice and toppings. Meanwhile, I could not look at another sandwich. While I am not gluten intolerant, my stomach does not feel great when I eat too much bread, and I was already feeling very uncomfortable.
So, here I am in a gas station at a travel area trying to choose something healthy, but everything that is sold has a long shelf life. I will give credit to the majority of rest areas, many sold fruit at the cash. This one, however, didn’t, so I ended up choosing a yogurt smoothie, hummus and pretzels. I checked the labels and added up the protein and calorie content to ensure that I got enough for a proper meal.
9 Lessons on how to eat well on a long road trip:
- Consciously plan ahead by taking a look at what food options will be available where.
- Stop at a grocery store right after crossing the border to get fresh foods (if you are crossing a border or flying).
- As tempting as it can be, stick to your plan
- Avoid temptations.
- Stick to simple foods that are closest to the raw ingredient as possible — for example, fruit, cheese, milk, and nuts.
- Drink lots of water!
- Expect and plan for consistent travel stops rather than avoid them at all costs to reach your destination ahead of schedule.
- Stretch and move at every rest area to let your blood flow.
- Cost is not just money, but also time. The time you spend at a rest area to eat healthily and move are instrumental to your health. Health = dollars + time.
As for that family road trip, we made it to our destination in the time planned, and with no vomiting or hospital visits, but we were exhausted and nauseous! I needed a full day to rehydrate and re-“nutritionate” – if that were a word! We all needed a day of fresh fruits, vegetables, unprocessed foods, and lots of movement to recuperate.
Do you choose the right foods when you’re on a road trip or while travelling? Schedule a free consultation with me to discuss your specific nutritional needs and determine if personalized nutrition is what you need to make the right choices and to be healthy. Working with me will empower you to make healthy eating choices every day – including on long road trips!