Hitting the road this summer? When faced with a long trip in the car, many of us turn to caffeine and unhealthy snacking to pass the time. Try choosing foods filled with high quality carbohydrates, protein, fiber, and healthy fat rather than just empty calories to fuel your trip.

Healthy ideas you can pack in advance include unsalted nuts, whole fruits like an apple or banana, pre-cut vegetables, or whole grain pretzels or crackers. If you pack a cooler you can bring along low- fat yogurt, cheese sticks, hummus, guacamole, or deli sandwiches with low sodium meat. Be sure to keep any perishable foods in a cooler to avoid any food safety concerns. Make sure to stick to appropriate portion sizes of snacks by portioning them out ahead of time so you or your passengers aren’t tempted to eat the whole bag.

If you don’t pack ahead it can be a challenge to navigate healthy eating at some common food stops. Below are a few healthy ideas for common places that may come up along your trip.

  • Gas station – check the refrigerated section for low fat dairy options. If you are grabbing a snack bar, look for something with only 5-6 ingredients that you can pronounce.
  • Coffee chain – skip the sugary mocha and opt for a latte made with low fat or fat free milk. Avoid the pastries and grab a deli wrap or egg white breakfast sandwich.
  • Fast food – choose a salad with grilled chicken and low fat vinaigrette, or a grilled chicken sandwich. If you are craving a burger and fries, keep portions reasonable.
  • Sandwich stop – choose whole wheat bread or wrap, a lower fat deli meat or chicken, load the sandwich with vegetables and skip the fattening sauces and spreads.

Don’t forget about the importance of hydration to keep your energy up. Choose water or seltzer as soda, coffee, or higher sugar beverages may lead to a crash that could affect your sleep.

Make sure to get out and stretch or walk every few hours. Your back, neck, and hip flexors can get tight when you sit in a car for an extended period of time, leaving you feeling stiff and uncomfortable when you arrive at your final destination. Check out more tips below for a healthier road trip.

Road Trip Tips:

  • Freeze water bottles in advance and put them in your cooler, to keep healthy foods cool and to keep you hydrated as they thaw.
  • Make sure to keep your hands clean and keep hand sanitizer in the car.
  • Think ahead and schedule your stops. This gives you the opportunity to plan your meals, and ensures you get some movement between long hours in the car.

Sources: Eatright.org and CNN.com. The Health Tip of the Week is for educational purposes only. For additional information, consult your physician. Please feel free to copy and distribute this health resource.