For many of us, summer vacation is synonymous with summer road trips. Long days, vacation time, family to see and new corners of the country to visit. There are many reasons that we find ourselves packing up the trunk to spend a week or two on the road.
In unfamiliar territory, scoping out healthy meal or snack options can be difficult. Every freeway exit seems packed with fast-food chains and diners, and rest area vending machines are full of sugar-loaded treats and beverages. Even day trips with hours spent behind the wheel can be a nutritional challenge.
While it may be easier to choose the diner deal or bottle of soda, road-tripping doesn’t have to mean a day off the bandwagon entirely. That uncomfortable, foggy, stuffed-up feeling that might accompany you hours after your drive-thru meal can be avoided with a few simple strategies. Keep on feeling your best while you chart new territory or zip through familiar roads to a favorite destination.
Prepare for Your Trip
Map it Out
Before you head off on whatever adventure you desire, map it out. Make sure your route includes areas to pull off and rest if needed, and re-supply fluids and snacks. Budget a bit of time into your itinerary to stop for walking breaks. Bonus: You’ll get to see new sights!
Pack a Cooler
With a way to keep foods cold for hours, you’ll be able to pack lots of fresh foods like cucumbers, grapes, apples, melon or carrot sticks. Stale, air-conditioned air and long days behind the wheel make hydration essential, but no one wants to stop for excessive bathroom breaks. Eating hydrating foods packed with electrolytes and minerals, rather than drinking excessive amounts of water or other beverages, helps sustain hydration levels without leading to rest stops.
Protect Yourself from the Sun
Keep polarized sunglasses within arms’ reach and lather up with SPF. Long days behind the wheel means submitting your eyes and skin to the clouds and sun, and car windows and shades usually aren’t able to protect you from the serious UV rays hours on end. Avoid eye strain and protect your peepers with a comfortable pair of polarized lenses that allow you to see even when it’s shady outside. Layer a lightweight sunscreen on exposed areas of skin before hitting the road to make sure you don’t end up with a sunburn before reaching your destination.
Energize On the Road
Once you’re driving, stay tuned in to your alertness level and switch drivers every few hours. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, extended periods of driving may result in drowsiness, which is associated with 21% of fatal car crashes. Nothing puts a damper on summer adventures more than an accident or a trip to the ER, so rotate drivers to stay safe.
While you’re pulled over to swap drivers, take advantage of the break and get in a quick dose of movement to wake up sleepy muscles, loosen tight hip flexors, and kick up your heart rate with a few jumps and steps. Roll out a travel yoga mat or set of dumbbells for a quick bodyweight workout. Try one round of downward facing dog, sun salutations, and planks (with weights, if you have them), followed by a few jumping jacks and knee kicks and your otherwise-sedentary body will thank you.
Refuel at a Rest Stop
Gas stations, convenience stores, and vending machines are all popular (and convenient) places to stop - not only for car fuel but also for food to fuel you. Smart meals and snacks on the road can help tide hungry tummies, keep drivers aware and alert, and travel plans on-schedule. Aim for snacks that offer a balance of carbohydrates for energy with protein and fat for satiety (a lasting, full feeling). Fiber-rich options will help keep bowel movements regular, a common complaint among travelers, especially if your travel plans include lots of special treats like ice cream and pizza that don’t offer a lot in the way of fiber.
Some of my favorite vending machine options include trail mix, granola bars made with whole grains and fruit-based bars. If you are at a convenience store that offers refrigerated options, look for yogurt, cut veggies or fruit, hard boiled eggs or cheese sticks. Mix and match the protein options (yogurt, cheese, and eggs) with fiber-full carbs like oatmeal, whole grain cereal, seeds or nuts and fruit and veggies.
Or, avoid the extra expense of convenience store food by packing your own snacks. An 88 Acres Seed Bar offers a tasty dose of fiber from seeds and oats with lasting energy in a convenient package that doesn’t need to be refrigerated or heated up. 88 Acres Seed Butters make perfect, road-trip-ready seed butter sandwiches when combined with your favorite bread and jam. For extra fiber, use whole fruits like banana, apple, and strawberry slices instead of jelly.
Road-tripping is a summer adventure that many of us find ourselves taking on whether traveling somewhere new or well-loved. While it can be all too easy to neglect taking care of our bodies while sitting for hours behind the wheel, simple strategies and preparation can keep all body systems running as well as your station wagon engine. Stay hydrated, snack wisely and switch drivers. Make time for movement breaks and remember your sunscreen!
Contributed by Hannah Meier, 88 Acres Nutritionist and a registered dietitian and food advocate based in Boston, Massachusetts. She completed her combined Bachelor’s in Dietetics and Psychology at the University of Wisconsin - Madison in 2014 and moved to Massachusetts shortly after to complete her dietetic internship at Massachusetts General Hospital. After completing her Master’s in Nutrition Communication and Behavior Change at Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, she joined 88 Acres full-time. She believes nutrition can and should be accessible, easy, fun, and flexible. An avid runner and budding yogi, she practices living life in balance, using food as fuel and helping others find a happy relationship with food and exercise. Her favorite 88 Acres product is a schmear of Pumpkin Seed Butter spread on a slice of sprouted grain toast, topped with pomegranate seeds.