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Healthy Eating on Travel


Typical freeway fare includes fast food, microwave-ready service station options, bags of chips, and lots of sodas. These foods are almost always full of bad fats, lots of calories, and not much valuable nutrition. Plus, eating junk food for a couple of days can leave you feeling fatigued and crabby, and give you a stomach ache.

With a little bit of effort and willpower, you can navigate your way around the junk food and maintain your healthy diet while on a long road trip. You’ll feel healthier, more alert, and have more fun.


You may be eating breakfast at a restaurant, a hotel continental breakfast bar, or even the food aisle of a gas station. Avoid excess sugar. High carbohydratemeals may improve your mood for a short time, but lots of sugar can also make you sleepy. That’s not good if you are the driver.

Healthy eating at a restaurant:

  • Choose an omelet filled with vegetables and order a side of whole-wheat toast instead of a stack of pancakes and syrup.
  • A bowl of oatmeal with fresh fruit is very filling and good for you.
  • If you want something sweet, choose a bran muffin, which is a good source of fiber. Or opt for whole-grain toast with just a little jam or jelly.

At the hotel continental breakfast bar:

  • Choose a whole grain cereal with low-fat milk.
  • Fresh fruit gives you vitamins and fiber.
  • Yogurt or hard-boiled eggs are good sources of protein.
  • Avoid sugary muffins, sweet-rolls, and pre-sweetened cereal.

At the service station:

  • Look for single-serving whole grain breakfast cereals and low-fat milk.
  • Protein bars can make a good breakfast food substitute, but watch out for extra sugar and calories–read the labels.
  • As a last resort, choose a hot breakfast sandwich or small breakfast burrito over donuts and sweet-rolls.

Fast food restaurants:

  • Most breakfast choices have lots of calories and saturated fats, but breakfast burritos may have less than other selections.
  • Fruit and yogurt parfaits will give you some calciumand protein without too much saturated fat.
  • Drink low-fat milk or 100 percent juice instead of sodas and orange-flavored soft drinks.

Snacks in the Car

If you are the driver, you probably should not be snacking since eating can be a big distraction. Snacks to keep your passengers happy should be low in saturated fats, low in sugar and nutritious. Take a cooler with ice packs to keep your snacks and beverages cold.

When you stop for gas and restroom breaks, find a local grocery store which will have a better selection than the gas station.

Eat healthy snacks in the car:

  • Load up on fresh-cut vegetables and fruit. Bring along a small cooler with ice packs to keep your snacks fresh.
  • Bring plenty of water. It will keep you hydrated and, if you spill it, won’t stain the upholstery like sodas.
  • Individually wrapped portions of string cheese or vegetarian cheese alternatives can be kept in the cooler with the fruit and vegetables. They are a great source of calcium and protein.
  • Bring baked whole grain crackers along on your trip. This is good for added fiber andnutrients.
  • Don’t overindulge in greasy chips. There are baked varieties that have a lot less unhealthy fats. You need to watch how much you eat of those too, however, since they don’t offer much in the way of nutrition.
  • You can also pack sandwiches made with whole grain bread and peanut butter or lean meats. Keep these in the cooler, too.
  • Nuts such as almonds, cashews, and walnuts contain polyunsaturated fats and are easy to take on a trip in either individual bags or larger containers.

Lunch and Dinner

Lunch and dinner on the road usually means going to a restaurant. Don’t spend too much time at fast food restaurants; instead opt for full-service restaurants that offer more choices.

Healthy eating in restaurants:

  • Order a soup or a salad to eat with your main course. Soups and salads are generally healthy and start to fill you up so that you eat less of the more calorie-dense main meal.
  • Skip the entrée altogether. Soup and salad might be enough for a healthy meal.
  • Split a meal with your dining partner. Most restaurants serve huge portions, so there is usually enough food to share. This saves calories and money. Besides, sharing eliminates the temptation to take leftovers back on the road, where they can’t be properly stored.
  • Select foods that are prepared with healthier, low-fat methods. Baked chicken is healthy, but fried chicken has too much fat.
  • Eat the vegetables. Most entrées come with at least one vegetable. If not, be sure to order a vegetable side dish.
  • Skip dessert, or choose some fruit. A full meal that ends with a sugary dessert may make you feel sleepy. That might be fine if you are passenger, but a bad idea if you are the driver.

At fast food restaurants:

  • Find sandwich shops like Subway or Quiznos that let you select your sandwich ingredients. Choose whole grain breads, lean meats, and lots of vegetables.
  • Many fast food restaurants offer salads, but you need to be careful when you select one. Some of those salads are very high in fat, especially taco salads or those topped with fried chicken strips.
  • Don’t super-size your meal. It sounds like a great deal, but you will eat way too much calories, fat, and sodium.
  • Order sandwiches made with grilled chicken rather than fried chicken.

At the Hotel

If your trip requires a hotel stay, you might get a bit hungry after a long day of travel. If going to a restaurant is not an option, you should still find healthy foods.

Eating at the hotel:

  • Find a local grocery store and buy healthy snack items such as fruit, nuts, or healthy choices from a salad bar or deli section. If your hotel has a microwave, you can find healthier frozen dinners or soup.
  • If your only choice for a snack is the hotel vending machine, skip the candy and chips and look for nuts or microwave popcorn.
  • Some restaurants will deliver food to your hotel room and may have some healthy menu items available. If you go for a pizza delivery, don’t order extra cheese or meats high in saturated fat. Choose lots of vegetable and mushrooms. Order a side salad too.

Follow these easy tips for better nutrition on the road, and have a safe and healthy road trip.

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