Summer’s in full swing now and we’ll all be out on the road at some point soon. You may be used to it if you travel for your job but, for most people, living in and out of hotels and eating away from home for every meal can kick you right out of your normal routine.
Gas station food is horrible and fast food chains are little better. Given this enormous opportunity to eat bad, how can you still be healthy when you’re traveling? Should you just confine yourself to a kitchen bubble and only eat the foods your prepare there? Of course not!
Eating food on the road doesn’t have to be a descent into trans fat fast foods. You really can eat well with these easy techniques that help you make the right choices.
I often wonder when people from other countries are served our distorted portions, if think they’ve mistakenly asked for the “family style option”.
The real problem on the road is that you have no home to go back to, and so you can feel like you need to eat it all to make it worth the money.
A great strategy to deal with the road-food portion control issue is to bring a travel cooler with you.
When your entrée is served estimate the amount you would normally have for a lunch portion, set that into your cooler, and then go on with your meal.
Then you place the container in your car until you are able transfer it to the refrigerator at the hotel you are staying. Your next meal is ready — and already paid for!
But some people know they’ll graze it away between meals because it’s in their room or car. If this is you, ask the waiters to serve the lunch portion for dinner. I’ve known people who order the child’s plate for themselves because that’s all they really wanted.
And always make it a habit to leave what you could not finish on the plate.
Here’s the rule: Waste it or waist it.
When you do pull in somewhere to eat, choose restaurants that use primarily whole foods and prepare their food onsite. Shoot for options that you think will have PATH-friendly foods.
It can be so tempting, but limit the fast food you eat (limit them to zero if possible).
If you do need a quick lunch, grocery stores are wonderful for this.
For example, I might go into a store and buy an avocado, some freshly baked bread, some cheese and a tomato. Then I can find a nice spot, preferably outside, to sit and make a sandwich.
Along with the sandwich you can get any of their summer fruits. Grapes are a perfect to-go food for the car, as are apples.
Don’t forget to pack a basic utensils (if you’re flying make sure to check-in your pocketknife so you’re not mugged at the metal detector). That way, every time I grab something at the grocery store I’m ready to eat.
You could even bring a spice mixture with you from home so you’re ready to jazz up anything!
Here’s a perfect lunch idea. First scope out a picnic table for your lunch, go into the store and buy a can of tuna in water, mix it up with your spices, top it with tomato and cheese, and you are so ready to eat.
Finish your meal with a good chocolate or a nice coffee. And again all these foods can be purchased right at the grocery store.
You can also find salad bars, nuts, and dried fruit in most grocery stores.
Don’t forget to bring baggies with you to store leftovers This definitely helps control portion sizes.
If you’re staying in an area for a long period of time, book a room with a kitchenette. This allows you to you prepare at least some your meals in-house. At the very least, it allows you to eat a decent breakfast, and bring back restaurant leftovers for easy quick lunches when you need them.
If you’re traveling with the family on an extended road trip, you’re going to be in the car for quite some time. In this case, make sure to plan your meals so you’re not tempted to stop for the quickie meal deal along the way.
Your alternative, if you do need to eat on the road, is a restaurant like Cracker Barrel. They have PATH-friendly, normal foods like beans, fish, corn, potatoes, and the like. (Their portions are still large, so split the plate whenever you can, or get appetizers for the table to share.)
Bagel shops and bakeries like Panera that make their products fresh each day are also good. Just make sure the bagels are not enormous. If they are just split them among the kids.
Another great idea is to have a cooler packed and picnics planned. This gets you out of the car and into the open summer air. Rest stops have them, and you can stretch your legs or play Frisbee with the kids, and then enjoy a nice picnic lunch.
If you will be stopping at a hotel, try to get one with a pool.
The Good Side
You always hear how horrid it is to eat on the road (and it really is!), but don’t forget that there’s a good side too.
For example, if you’re traveling to Louisiana, sample the real jambalaya or crawfish etouffee. Do it! Try the Texas barbeque, Maine lobster, or San Francisco sour dough.
When you eat in control, of course, you can have the most delicious regional foods we have to offer, and it won’t harm your weight or health.
Yes, eat out. But also focus on quality over quantity. Don’t think “I’m on vacation so I’m going to blow it out and eat a cow”. Rather, your vacation splurge should be “I’m on vacation so I’m going to blow it out and order the most incredible dish I can find and make the moaning last as long as possible!”
The key is to think of your meal as “serial tasting”, not as a free-for-all eating frenzy. Focus on the flavor, not the pounds per dollar plopped on your plate.
When you’re on vacation, more than any other time, you finally have the chance to sit and relax at your meal. Don’t waist this chance to enjoy it.
Remember you signed up for some rest and relaxation!!