Jul 22, 2012

Summer Road Trip: How to Eat Healthy

These days, my eating choices have been pretty good and I'm proud of how much whole and fresh foods I've been working into my everyday meals. Almost every single meal I've had in the past couple of weeks have been homemade (I made an acceptable exception for a veggie burger and fries the other night before the midnight premier of The Dark Knight Rises). But with the big road trip coming up, I'm going to have to be even more diligent to keep up my healthy eating habits.
The trip will be 15 hours in a bus with 45 teens (our whole group is something like 120 teens and several adult chaperones), a day visit to Disneyland, 3 days of a conference (in which meals are provided), and another 15 hours coming home. In all that time us chaperones and the teens will be responsible for 5 of our meals and whatever snackies we need during the drive. The organizers have already worked in a couple of fast food stops on both legs of the trip, and in all the youth group meetings and trips I've been on, I've never noticed a balanced ratio between whole foods to processed foods (so many potato chips and cheese puffs!) These are all opportunities to possibly fall back into indulging on junk food, something that doesn't even sound appealing to me right now. So I'm arming myself with a plan to keep up my healthy food decisions. Please remember that I am not a trained dietician. This blog post is not intended to suggest a method of dieting or lifestyle change. Always consult a physician before making any changes to your lifestyle.

Tips for eating well on a road trip:

  • Pack food to snack on in the car/ on the bus with the same thoughtfulness you pack things like clothes and entertainment. In the Packing Smart & Light post, I looked at ways to conserve space by really thinking about why I would bring certain items. The same should go for any food I'm taking. Between a bag of Doritos and a bag of dried fruits and nuts, both are convenient for accessibility. The Doritos are yummy (I cannot resist eating a whole bag of Doritos when I have them) but they certainly won't keep me satisfied for very long, which means that if I take the Doritos, I would also have to take another snack along to compensate for what I'll be missing later. The fruit and nuts are also delicious, and will likely keep me satisfied for much longer.
  • Bring real food for meals. Don't expect yourself to live off of raw almonds and berries for 5 days or 5 hours, especially if that's not how you're used to eating. Pack foods you know you like and you've had before for regular meals. Our bus will make a couple of pit stops at fast food restaurants along the way down and back up. I don't need to eat any fast food during this trip. I'll pack a lunch just like the ones I bring with me to work on any other day because I know those meals are tasty and can keep my satisfied. Sometimes I get the feeling like if I'm doing something special like a road trip, I should be allowed to eat special foods, too. I let myself do that, but I don't want to go too overboard and let loose on the Kit Kat bars as my main staple. I'll make the foods I don't usually get to have, but I'll make sure I control the fat and sugar content at home, so I can still indulge and not break my food choices cycle.
  • Pack dry foods and non-perishables in your luggage. For long trips, like mine, it will be handy to have some snacks in my luggage for later in the trip, so I can keep up my food choice standards without having to detour to the grocery store every day.
  • Select a variety of foods with different flavors. Eating the same Luna bars for 15 hours will get old fast and I'll be more likely to start eating less healthy foods purely out of a craving for food varieties. I'll make sure to eat different things when I snack, so I don't get so weary of the healthy food choices and end up giving in to the family size pack of oreos someone brings to share.
  • Pack things you can mix together on the go. Especially handy for water bottles. I drink a lot of water all the time anyway, but sometimes I want something sweet instead. To avoid ending up with a Pepsi in my hand, I'll pack some Crystal Light drink mixers and add those in to my water bottle every so often. I'll also pack a travel container of yogurt to mix with my dried fruit. I know I will be on the bus a long time, so this would probably be a snack I want to enjoy early on in the trip.
  • Bring a dessert you like. When I do give in to something like 2 whole Kit Kat bars, it's because I convince myself that I've earned it because I've eaten well for so long already. But this is just a slippery slope into making my healthy eating habits seem like punishments and candy seem like rewards. With a bus full of teenagers, there's bound to be more candy available than I should ever be around. So to pre-empt that impulse to "reward" myself, I'll pack some small cups of chocolate pudding. Usually the Jell-o or Snack Pack kind don't need to be refrigerated until after they are opened, and they are surprisingly low in fat and calories, high in calcium.
  • Continue making good choices at restaurants. The conference will provide several of our meals while we're down there, which is quite generous and very nice. However, I will maintain a standard of meaningful food choices: what I eat should be balanced, especially between foods that are high in fiber, protein, and vitamins, as well as low in saturated fat, cholesterol, and sugars. I am a vegetarian, and whenever the option is available, I go for the most vegetables and whole grains that are offered. I try to not get too comfortable with vegetarian foods and thinking they are automatically healthier.
  • Be active. Every healthy food regimen should be accompanied with a healthy activities regimen. Being active means using the food you consumed as energy and moving it through your body well. Activity makes food meaningful after you've satisfied your hunger: your whole body is one machine that processes and continues to work long after you've forgotten about your healthy breakfast. Feed yourself based on your activities - if you want to run every morning on your trip, remember to get lots of protein to support the aerobics.
  • Of course, drink lots of water. You may be thinking that drinking a lot of water means taking a lot of potty breaks on your trip, and you're right, it does. But you are not at odds with your body, your trip that you take to relax or to enjoy yourself should not be about competing with your own body. What I'm saying it, it's ok to stop for breaks... pee when you have to pee!

Pack it up food list:

This isn't a list that's meant to be my only food for 5 days, but it is a healthy amount for me to have on hand when it's time to snack and my other options are less ideal. It's also stuff I want to be able to share with the kids, so they have lots of options, too. Also, it's good to keep in mind what kind of packaging I'll be using to keep my food fresh, but also to not be overly wasteful. I'm bringing a lot of things packed up in my metal lunch box, as well as non-disposable utensils, a handkerchief for napkins, and tin foil to wrap up messy items. I also really like to use reusable sandwich and snack bags instead of plastic baggies. I got a few from Bed Bath and Beyond, but they are also available through Reusit. In my luggage, I keep my food and my clothes separate by wrapping the food up in a reusable shopping bag, and I stick a chill pack to keep things cool (I also keep a small chill pack in my backpack to wrap around the cheese). You can make your own chill pack with just dish soap! In the backpack
  • 1 small sandwich wraps made with whole grain tortillas:
    • Veggie turkey with lettuce and tomato
  • Fresh fruit and veggies: apples, bananas, carrots, broccoli florets
  • 2 oatmeal bars (homemade)
  • 3 sticks of string cheese (low moisture, reduced fat)
  • Small nuts and berries mix: raw almonds, dried cranberries, raisins
  • One chocolate pudding cup
  • 5 powdered drink packs
  • Baggie of crackers (saltines or goldfish)
In the luggage
  • 2 small sandwich wraps made with whole grain tortillas:
    • Spinach patty with tofu cheese
    • Soyrizo with brown rice and baby spinach
  • 6 oatmeal bars (homemade)
  • Saltines crackers
  • 2 oz. container of natural peanut butter
  • Fresh fruit and veggies: apples, broccoli florets
  • 2 chocolate pudding cups
  • Nuts and berries mix: almonds, dried cranberries, raisins
  • 10 powdered drink packs
  • V8 spicy tomato juice
Those are my strategies for road trip heathy eating. What are some of yours?

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