I just came back from a fairly sunny and fairly warm week in Florida (the weather wasn’t always superb, but it was certainly better than here!). Instead of flying down and staying at a hotel, we drove down and rented a house on a resort.
Now, if you are trying to maintain clean and nutritious eating while you are away, renting a house is a no-brainer. Far cheaper than a hotel, we had all the amenities of a resort, with the convenience of a home. Having our own fully-loaded kitchen (it was huge too!) meant that we only ate at a restaurant ONCE the whole time. We made quick, simple meals out of fresh ingredients, and the cost savings, as well as the guarantee that we wouldn’t be getting a bad stomach after a meal were totally worth it. Now, I know many people don’t equate ‘vacation’ with ‘cooking’, but it really hardly takes any time to make a simple salad and balsamic organic chicken tenders!
So the challenging part of maintaining healthy eating wasn’t when we got to Florida, it was while we were driving to and from it. If you want to keep up your healthy diet while you are on vacation, (and this especially applies to those with allergies or sensitivities) planning ahead and bringing your own food is a MUST!
Before I go on road trips, I head over to the health food stores to stock up on snacks that are travel friendly. Bars, raw nuts, seeds, and crackers are easy to pack and don’t need to stay cold. Stores like Whole Foods and Nature’s Emporium have so many healthier options for snack foods. I highly recommend you do your shopping for packaged foods at grocers like these, as you will find a large selection of items that don’t contain preservatives, artificial flavours and colours, or refined flours and sugars.
If you have a cooler, you can also bring some chopped up vegetables and hummus as well to snack on. Vegetables are fine to bring across the border, however, fruits are NOT! Once you cross the border, you can stop off at a grocery store (or maybe even a farmer’s market!) and pick up whatever fruits you desire.
As for meals while on the road, this is definitely more of a challenge to prepare for, especially if you don’t have a cooler to bring with you. If you are on a multi-day road trip like we were, packing meals for both days can be an issue. We were lucky and got a motel room for our overnight stop with a refrigerator in the room, so I was able to save my left over quinoa and zucchini pilaf, as well as my roasted organic chicken for the drive the next day. Unfortunately, you can’t really know ahead of time what your are going to get from these motels, so be prepared to have to eat at a restaurant after the first day.
If you have a cooler, you can pretty much pack just about any meal you desire. Some examples are:
- Sprouted bread sandwiches made with grilled vegetables, tempeh, or organic, nitrate-free turkey or chicken
- A whole grain pilaf made with quinoa, rice, millet, buckwheat, or teff
- Grilled vegetables like zucchini, peppers, and eggplant
- A mixed-greens salad with any veggies you desire for topping. Add 2 tablespoons of shelled hempseed to boost the protein and healthy fat content. Pack a simple dressing of olive oil, lemon juice, and dijon mustard in a small, separate container so the delicate greens don’t get soggy
- A pasta salad made with whole grain or sprouted grain pasta, veggies, olives, and an avocado, lemon, and olive oil dressing
- Fresh smoothies or juices made right before you head out on your road trip. These are perfect for breakfast on the go, or a mid-morning snack
If you have a thermos, soups stews, and chilli are perfect for having for lunch on the road, as they will still be warm if you pack them up in the morning.
As for drinks, I really don’t recommend anything other than water on the road. You aren’t going to be very active on that long car ride, so we don’t want to overdo-it with the calories. Everyone in the car should have their own re-usable bottle that they can fill up at pit-stops with larger jugs of water that you can buy at the grocery store. Buying larger bottles that passengers can fill up their own with dramatically cuts down on waste.
A special note to those with special diets like gluten intolerance: You better prepare to bring a lot of your favourites with you, because you may not find them in the U.S.A. We are very fortunate to have such a wonderful selection of healthful, gluten-free products like breads and crackers here in the Greater Toronto Area. I have found that even at Whole Foods down there in Florida, I could not find many of the products that I purchase here (thought you may find some new and interesting ones!)
Now, if you are on a multi-day road trip and you don’t have the luxury of refrigeration at your motel stop-over, there are still options. The best option is to find the nearest grocer or farmer’s market to pick up some fresh veggies and fruits. Grocery stores often have pre-made salads. Be careful about salad dressings, especially in the States. High fructose corn syrup is a common ingredient in most packaged foods there and it can spike blood sugar and leave you feeling hungrier. Buy, or bring some oil and vinegar from home.
If you want a hot meal, most grocery stores have those as well, and that food will generally be of much better quality than at a restaurant. If you are lucky enough to find a Whole Foods along your journey, you are really in for a treat. They have delicious, nutritious prepared foods all day long, and ALL ingredients are labelled so you know exactly what you are getting!
Road trips should be fun! Seeing new places along your journey can be the most exciting part of your entire vacation. With some thought and preparation, food doesn’t have to become a source of stress on what is supposed to be a relaxing time! Don’t let a road trip ‘trip’ up your diet!