How do you eat healthy food, get exercise and avoid weight gain when you're on the road? We've got some tips to keep you light on your feet, and hold off on stomach bloat so you can really enjoy your vacation!
For those of us who are hitting the road this summer, one big question looms: How is it possible to eat healthy and exercise when you're going to be spending most of your travel time sitting in the car? Between rest stops, fast food joints along the highway, and cramped quarters in the car, ditching healthy habits is just a pit stop away. But who wants to start their holiday on the wrong foot?
Staying healthy while on vacation is already hard enough. What would summer be without trying out new restaurants and cuisines, leisurely dinners with friends, outdoor barbeques, ice cream, chips and ice-cold cocktails? Still, between convenience foods, boredom eating and little exercise while you're on the road, it's easy to wind up feeling gross, lethargic and out of sorts.
But hang on -- isn't vacation about relaxing and having fun? Absolutely! With that in mind, here are our eleven tips to feeling great, even if you're clocking miles cross country in a minivan!
Eating healthy requires organization whether you're at home or on vacation, so prepare everything in advance. Before you get the family in the car, make sure you pack a ton of healthy finger foods: carrot and celery sticks, apple slices, grapes, bananas, nuts, raisins, air-popped popcorn. If you have kids, pack the foods in individual baggies and just dole them out in the car as necessary.
In order to prepare healthy lunches along the way if you are on an extended road trip, keep some Tupperware, silverware, napkins, salad tongs, and other prep/eating/cleaning utensils along the way. You could even prepare a healthy salad dressing that doesn't require refrigeration and keep it in a glass jar with lid (Try France's favorite salad dressing: Mix extra virgin olive oil with Dijon moustard until it is creamy, add balsamic or other vinegar, salt, and pepper and mix).
Fast Food Hell
Need to stop for lunch or dinner en route and you can't find anything but fast food at every corner of the highway exit? Although they are not a mecca of healthy options, even fast food stops will usually have salads (vegetarian or with grilled chicken for instance) and a cup of fruit on the menu. Stay clear of the creamy sauces and if you can, have a vinaigrette salad dressing, and use sparingly. Stay away from crispy chicken and croutons - they add unnecessary calories!
Markets on the way
Most of us have internet access along the way, so why not time one of your stops where you can easily find a farmers market on the way. Check out www.localharvest.org for a local option or just google it. If you find one, you will usually have your choice of ready-made food for a meal, or at least you can stock up on fresh fruits that are easy to eat without peeling or cutting.
And if farmer markets aren't an option, then try stopping at a supermarket for your next meal, or at least to prepare your meal. Supermarkets often have prepared salads, chopped up veggies, and a larger variety of healthy food than your highway fast food options. If you have kids, let them choose some healthy treats themselves, and if they really want a sugary treat (sometimes car bribery is necessary, we understand!), buy them one treat each, not a bag that you will have hovering in the car! If it's not around, you won't eat it (see boredom eating below!).
Bathroom Rest/Non-Rest Stop
Adults and children need to move around a bit when they've been sitting in the car too long. Every bathroom rest, make sure you take the time for a 10 to 15-minute power walk. If you stop three times in a day, you can clock up to 45 minutes of walking time. If you've got kids, make sure you have a ball or Frisbee with you, and get some family exercise time together. It may add time to your road trip, but it's healthy time that will leave you all feeling refreshed (and make it easier to keep driving!).
For coffee drinkers, coffee is a road trip staple - providing a mental "break" and also jolting us to attention at the wheel! Instead of loading up on lattes, cappuccinos and other milky/frothy drinks, why not try a bit of coffee with nothing added to it? Over long road trips, you will save an enormous amount of calories. Chuck all the cupcakes, pound cake slices and biscotti at coffee stops and you will find yourself much lighter at your destination~
We get it! Driving for hours (or days!) can be totally boring! And eating is a way of breaking it up a bit. Kids love eating for distraction, and if they're watching a movie on the way, it's just fun. In order to curtail useless calories in case of boredom, try having only really healthy snacks along the way. It's hard to overdo it on celery sticks (about 1 calorie!), carrot sticks or grape tomatoes (3 calories each!).
Keep it 3 meals and one snack
And speaking of boredom eating, structure your driving time and your day into three meals and one snack. That way you will have a stop to look forward to, and you will avoid just stopping for munchies whenever you need gas or a bathroom stop. Brief your kids on when you will be eating and try to keep some structure to an otherwise unstructured day!
No need to mention how unhealthy sodas and other sugary drinks are! Don't go sugar drink crazy just because you are on vacation and there is soda everywhere you look! Keep water bottles for everyone in the car and fill them up when you stop somewhere!
Stop over workout
If you find yourself at a hotel for a quick nightly stopover and you haven't worked out all day and need to move try this: Find some stairs to climb up and down (then you can run them or skip two steps at a time for deeper muscular work), do some walking lunges outside or regular lunges inside, pack a jump rope and do a 15 or 20 minute workout outdoors.