Food on the Road

Archived Q&A and Reviews

How to eat healthy on the freeway?

Oct 2007

We just came back from a 3 day trip to Tahoe, and had a great time. We had some difficulty feeding our 5 and 3 year olds heathy food. Every where we went, it was the usuall burger, fries, chicken nuggets, fried, processed, un-healthy food. We did pack some snacks and healthy morning cereals. We are planning a trip to Yosemite coming up in a few weeks, and I know we will encounter the same issue. Does any body have tips, tricks, suggestions for how to eat healthy on family trips ?

My best suggestion is to use a few less drive-through fast-food restaurants, and a few more sit-down places. Most sit-down restaurants (even someplace like Baker's Square) will substitute plain steamed vegetables for fries, or provide a fruit bowl. You can also usually order a grilled chicken breast, grilled fish, sauteed shrimp, beef or chicken fajitas, pasta, anything that's been sauteed or grilled instead of deep- fried.

When we do this, we just bite the bullet and order an adult meal for our son (an only child). You might consider ordering an adult meal and an extra plate, and split one meal between your two kids.

Another trick we have is to do ''veggie-for-fries'' substitution on two of our three meals, and split the remaining order of fries between the three of us. Nice, because we all get a few, but nobody feasts on nothing but fries.

If you do need to go to a fast food place, most chains now offer fruit cups and milk in kids' meals in place of fries and soda -- or, if your kid eats salad, that's a possibility too. If you get such a meal with a plain hamburger or hot dog, it's not great food, but better than all fried stuff. Karen

I always try to do as much research as possible ahead of time about where we will eat so I can avoid too much junk. A little junk is ok, and sometimes the fun part of the trip, but after 2 meals of that it loses it's value and you start to feel gross. Get an idea of where you might want to stop and what there is to eat in the area. I also rarely order kids meals - they are so unhealthy. And your portion is almost always enough to share! So, order healthy and share with the kids. michelle

we pack a small cooler (?10 qt) and a cardboard box. the 2 fit one in front of the other in the unused backseat behind the driver (toddler/6yo in the other two seats). the box holds a serrated paring knife (a bit safer, and kept at the bottom of the box) bread, crackers, trailmix, apples, oranges, bananas, envelopes of instant oatmeal/grits (we use the coffee maker in the motel to make hot water, or use an immersion heater, and pack a coffee mug and bowl/spoons), ramen cups, etc. whatever's handy when i'm packing, or i remember to buy. the cooler might have cream cheese, yogurt, hard boiled eggs, hummus, leftovers that don't need heating (like pasta salad), cold cuts, avocado, baby carrots, fruit that needs cooling (nectarines, grapes, berries, plums, pears, cut up melon, persimmons... whatever's in season). we sometimes find a deli and get sandwiches if we didn't bring cold cuts, and get some potato salad or tabouli or whatever looks good. we also hit the prepared food ''buffet'' of upscale grocery stores, and get soup, salad, roasted chicken, mac-n-cheese, etc. once for a late (9:30pm) meal we happened to be in a motel with a microwave, so i got several frozen dinners: curried chicken, chinese rice plate, mexican beans/rice, and we ate smorgasboard style.

on longer trips just hit the grocery store when necessary to restock. ~skip the restaurants.

Hi- One thing I do for car trips is bring a bunch of healthy food. When possible, we stop at parks for a break to eat and also run around. However, my kids (4, 7) and husband love fast food so there's always a pull to do that. I counter by feeding the kids and myself healthy food (in the car or at a park stop) first whenever I can, so that if we do go for fast food they usually don't eat much of it and it's more like a ''treat'' than anything.

Other than that, the routes we take frequently I've tried to scope out decent, healthy, fast, kid friendly places to eat and we make a point to stop at those. But going somewhere new that's harder. - Happy traveler

Road trip food for a Weight Watcher

June 2002

I've been successfully (!) on the Weight Watchers program for about 6 months now, and really don't want to compromise the diet during an upcoming car trip this summer. We'll be traveling for about 7 hours/day for four days in a car packed to the gills with gear, baby, and dogs (leaving not much room for a cooler full of celery and fat free refries). I doubt we'll have any access to a microwave for breakfasts, lunches or dinners. So what to do??

Does anyone have any Weight Watcher's strategies for the truckstop restaurant and/or finger food that we can take/buy along the road? Almost Slim

First of all, congratulations on your success. And congratulations on your dedication to staying on plan while on the road. I think there are many things you can do. First of all, if you stop at truck stops, eat salad, including fruit salad. For breakfast, have oatmeal or yogurt. Even bacon can work on the plan (3 pieces for 4 points, yum). Plain toast is also workable, although it wouldn't be low points bread unless you brought your own. Maybe you can also get some lightly prepared chicken too, or ask for hard boiled or soft boiled eggs, maybe they would make them for you. If you can take a cooler, take yogurt, cottage cheese, even low-fat deli meat. Apples and oranges are very portable fruit and don't need to be refrigerated if consumed within days. Bagged baby carrots travel well, although other vegetables might be hard to manage, hence those truck stop salads. If you like beans, Eden makes some nice low-points beans with a pop top lid. You can find them at the El Cerrito and Berkeley Natural Food Stores. Whole Foods might also have them. You can buy tuna in compact, vacuum bags. I don't think it tastes as good as canned tuna (it's not flakey like in the cans), but it's certainly portable. I have found the bags at Albertsons. I also like Louis Rich packaged chicken I find at Andronicos. Different flavors, like grilled, southwest, italian, and honey roasted. Would need to be kept in a cooler, but it's nicely packaged, although high in sodium. Also take along a box of low points cereal (Nature's Path, Optimum, also at Natural Foods Store) for a snack. Good luck. I look forward to seeing what others recommend as I too have travel plans coming up. Anonymous

Definitely if you are driving take a cooler so you can keep fruit, salad, and other good picnic food with you. Fill it up at supermarkets rather than roadside junk food stops. This will keep you away from the french fries and other greasy stuff. There's a whole new world of beautiful stopping places out there when you've got your own supplies, plus you don't have to listen to kids whining for food or drink, plus the cooler makes a good barrier between two older kids in the back seat. I learned this from thirteen years of annual three day driving pilgrimages. fiona

You may want to look for more responses at fellow weight watcher