You wouldn’t jump in the car for a road trip without knowing your destination or the route you’d take to get there, right? If you’re committed to clean eating, mapping out what you’ll eat throughout a journey is just as important. Head out without an eating plan and you’re more likely to find yourself at the drive-thru.
Realistically, you won’t be able to control every meal and snack along the way—but with some advance planning and a few tips, you’ll be better able to stay on track until you return home.
Keep these five tips in mind as you prepare for your next trip:
1. Have a plan.
Start by figuring out how many meals or snacks you’ll plan on packing. This will give you a good idea about whether you’ll need to bring coolers and ice packs along, too. Pack slightly more than you think you’ll need in case you get waylaid by airport delays, flat tires, traffic, or wrong turns. No one likes to travel hungry!
If you plan to dine out along the way, spend some time searching for restaurants on your route. If they have a menu online, make your meal choices ahead of time (when you’re not hungry after being on the road).
2. Pack your own meals and snacks.
If you’re flying, pack just what you’ll need in your carry-on for the flight and for any layovers on the way. Pack extra snacks in your checked luggage to keep you from overeating out of boredom or stress during the journey.
If you’re going to be on the road for a long period of time, make a list of which meals and snacks you’ll be packing. Plan to eat perishables like fruits and vegetables first, and pack non-perishable snacks like jerky that won’t require a cooler.
A few snacks we love are: beef or turkey jerky, raw or dry-roasted nuts, baby carrots or mini bell peppers, an apple, and/or a protein bar. They’re all easy to pack in your bag and don’t require an ice pack. (If you need to stock up on snacks at the airport, most of these should be available! Always go for fruits and veggies when you can.)
A few travel-friendly meals we love are:
- Deli boxes: Pack easy-to-eat munchies like hard-boiled eggs, sliced cheese, uncured deli meat, crackers, olives, sliced apples, grapes or tangerines, and dry-roasted nuts. This is easy to pack in small containers or snack bags.
- Salad with grilled chicken: Pack individual portions of mixed greens and veggies, and a protein like grilled chicken breast. Pack a bottle of salad dressing and a baggie of nuts and seeds to top your salad with.
- Sandwich bar: Pack uncured deli meat, sliced cheese, tomato slices, and lettuce to make your own sandwiches. You can use bread, dinner rolls, tortillas, or lettuce leaves to hold your sandwich fillings. Don’t forget the mayo and mustard!
- Chicken or egg salad: Pack your favorite salad in a lidded container along with crackers, plantain chips, or fresh vegetables (like carrots, celery, bell peppers, or jicama slices) for scooping. We love this Curry Chicken Salad because it’s packed with flavor.
- Egg bake or frittata: If you don’t mind cold eggs, packing a few slices of frittata is a great (and portable) way to get protein you need on the road. Have it with a piece of fruit, a handful of veggies, or a small salad, and you’ve got a healthy meal.
3. Bring a cooler for road trips.
That said, having a cooler in the car can be a game-changer for healthy eating on the road. Pack the cooler with frozen water bottles to keep your food cold. (Bonus perk: ice-cold water along the trip!) Pack your snacks and sandwiches in zip-top bags to stash in the cooler. Some of our go-to foods for road trips are: plain Greek yogurt with low-sugar granola, cheese sticks, fresh fruit, uncured deli meat, and hummus and veggies.
4. Stash the cooler and other snacks in the trunk.
This one is simple but important. Keeping your food out of reach means you’ll be less likely to snack mindlessly throughout your drive—and less likely to run out of snacks before you reach your destination!
5. Plan to stop and restock.
Do your best to make good choices when faced with limited options throughout your trip. At convenience stores, you can usually find healthy snacks like raw or dry-roasted almonds, hard-boiled eggs, fresh fruit, string cheese, deli meat, low sugar granola bars (like KIND bars), fruit and nut bars (like Lara Bars), beef or turkey jerky, veggie trays (skip the dip!), or dried no-sugar-added fruit.
If you stop at any grocery stores, make a list of what you’ll need for upcoming meals and snacks so you’re not overbuying or giving into impulse-buys once you’re in there.