With summer in full swing I thought I would take this opportunity to discuss road trips, an experience many of us get to enjoy each year. In fact, growing my family and I would drive down to Florida every summer (a two day road trip), it was a vacation that has left me with many great memories. Now typically road trips are accompanied with few pits stops followed by fast food runs and junk food, but it doesn’t have to be that way. I know you’re probably thinking: But that’s all part of the experience! So ask yourself, do you really want to spend your travel time feeling bloated and heavy? If you answer no (and I really hope you did) keep on reading for some healthy road trip tips.
The first and most important thing is to make sure that the night before you leave you get a good night’s sleep. When I was younger we would always leave at 3am, so like any silly teenager would do, I would stay up all night so that I would sleep in the car for the full 2 day trip. This is a very bad thing; if your sleep schedule changes even just for one night, it can seriously affect your ability to get a good night’s rest in the days and even weeks that follow. So above all else, make sure to you get the right amount of shut eye before you head out.
Next, consider how often you ought to pull over and take breaks. Most of us want to make the best time possible, so you end up only pulling over when your gas tank is near empty. Ideally, try to schedule stops every 2 hours and be sure to step outside for at least 15 minutes to stand up, do some dynamic stretching and maybe go for a short walk. I know that this will slow down your time and maybe make your road trip longer than expected, but it’s very important to get your body moving whenever possible. Another good idea if you are the passenger, is to gently stretch yourself out a bit every 30 minutes or so while you are in the car so that you allow your body to move even more, even if you are stuck sitting down.
Now let’s talk about food. My past road trip experiences usually included a significant amount of greasy fast food and although it was super yummy and I loved every last bite, I can honestly say that now when I look back, it was a really terrible idea. I strongly suggest that you pack a cooler full of food along with ice packs. Snack-wise consider packing unsweetened yogurt, lots of raw veggies with hummus, bottled water, fruit, overnight oats, protein powder or bars (lookout for the sugar content though), unsalted/sweetened nuts, natural nut butters, and rice crackers. You can always pack hard boiled eggs, but they tend to get stinky. For lunch I suggest sandwiches with veggies, a lean protein, mustard (mayo is super fattening) on sprouted grain bread or pack a big salad with veggies, beans, maybe some quinoa or rice with a light vinaigrette. If you are stopping over in a hotel overnight, ask for a room with a fridge so that whatever was left in your cooler can be stored overnight and you can even make a quick stop at a grocery store for some extra food for the next day. When you are trying to decide what food to bring along, keep in mind that you will be sitting down for the bulk of your travel time so your body doesn’t need as many carbs as usual, so focus on lean proteins with healthy fats and some complex carbs and keep away from added sugar whenever possible.
If it’s just not possible to pack along food with you, then you will need to be mindful when stopping over at restaurants, fast food or otherwise. For breakfast, most places now have oatmeal which is really the best option as it contains slow digesting complex carbs that are known to keep you full for a while. Otherwise, there’s always whole grain bread with peanut butter (skip the jam altogether) or a breakfast sandwich on whole grain bread with egg, no butter/cream cheese. Lunch-wise Subway has lots of healthy options for sandwiches or other fast food places offer salads or sandwiches that are low in fat, just keep in mind that anything breaded in a creamy sauce is really no good. If you stop at a sit-down restaurant or order from a hotel menu, stick with lean protein (think grilled chicken, fish, or tofu) with steamed veggies. Most places are pretty accommodating, in fact any time I’ve asked if there was a vegan option or even just a lighter option, the chefs have always been great at creating something delicious, so don’t be afraid to ask for what you really want.
One more additional point that I would like to make it that it’s also very important to keep hydrated. I know this means you’ll probably have to make more pit stops, but being dehydrated is very unhealthy and it will mess with your metabolism so don’t put your body through the ringer by reducing your fluid intake. And when I say fluid, I mean actual water, not energy drinks, not juice, not soda or fancy coffee drinks, just plain water. Bring a bottle with a built in filter along with you so that you can fill it up anywhere you go.
This may all seem like a lot of extra work, but your health needs to be a priority no matter what you do, no matter what the situation, so don’t just let yourself go because you’re doing something out of the ordinary. Enjoy your trip, enjoy the experience of travel and the company that you’re with. Take in the scenery as you drive along and take the opportunity to maybe try out some fun car games or just catch up on good conversation with your travel partners. Whatever vacation you may choose to take this summer, be mindful of how you can continue to be healthy while having a good time and finally getting to relax once you reach your destination.
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