Have you been daydreaming about getting out on the open road and going on an epic cross-country road trip? As the world begins reopening and travel restrictions ease up, road trips are likely going to be a popular option for many as vaccine rollouts continue.
While road trips allow for stunning scenic views and freedom of mobility, eating healthy while on the road can seem challenging. Fast food pit stops and gas station snacks often seem inevitable, but they don’t have to be. With a little planning and preparation, you can eat nutritious meals and snacks while road tripping.
In this post, I’ll be sharing what I ate in a day while recently driving across the country along with tips for eating healthy on road trips. Whether you’re road tripping for a few hours or a few weeks, use these ideas to stay nourished from point A to point B. Let’s hit the road!
Meal Prep is Your Road Trip BFF
Failing to prepare means preparing to fail, especially when it comes to road trip eating. Before embarking on your trip, be sure to meal prep some nutritious snacks and quick lunch options you can easily eat in the car.
Here’s what I prepped before hopping in the car:
- Green Smoothies: Blend up a big batch of green smoothies filled with spinach, berries, banana, protein powder, etc. and divvy into Mason jars. The frozen ingredients will help keep these cold in a cooler during the early hours of your trip.
- Matcha Lattes: Make a big batch of matcha ahead of time for a caffeine boost on the road. Bring along a HydroFlask to keep your matcha (or coffee) hot for hours.
- Sandwiches: Sandwiches make for perfect road trip meals. I prepped egg salad sandwiches ahead of time, but you could also do chickpea salad, tuna salad, hummus and veggie, etc. Wrap them in foil then stasher bags to contain any messes!
Pro trip prep tip: Shop for non-perishable road trip snacks you can stock your cooler with the night before you leave. My go-tos are trail mix, kale chips, protein bars, popcorn, pretzels and nuts. You’ll be so glad you have healthy snacks within arm’s reach during the long hauls!
When Stopping for Meals, Seek Out Healthy Local Options First
While it can be tempting to rely solely on fast food stops to get you fed between destinations, make an effort to find healthy local eateries instead when you stop in cities/towns along your route. Apps like HappyCow and Yelp allow you to quickly search reviews for healthy, vegan and vegetarian-friendly restaurants wherever you are.
For dinner after a long day of driving, we stopped in Kansas City and found a local joint called Protein House that had nutritious bowls and salads on the menu. I ordered a hearty salad loaded with veggies, chickpeas, quinoa and dressing. Supporting local spots not only helps small businesses but also allows you to get a taste of the regional flavors and foods!
Stock Up on Nutritious Gas Station Snacks
When road trip hunger hits and you won’t pass another town or city for miles, you may inevitably need to make a pit stop at a gas station or rest stop for snacks. While these places are filled mostly with junk food, keep an eye out for healthier snacks you can stock up on for the road including:
- Fresh fruit (bananas, apples, oranges)
- Dried fruit and nuts
- Protein bars
- Trail mix
- Roasted chickpeas
- Beef jerky
- Fruit and nut bars
Opting for snacks like dried fruit and trail mix over candy and chips can make a big difference in how you feel during those long stretches between stops.
Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
Dehydration is all too easy to creep up on during travel days, especially given how drying both driving with the AC and climate control plus flying can be. Be sure to pack a large refillable water bottle and make a point to drink frequently as you drive. I also love sipping on iced coffee, matcha lattes, or tea for a hydrating caffeine boost. Take advantage of filling your water bottle at water fountain rest stops too. Proper hydration will keep your mind sharp and energy levels stable throughout the trip.
Sneak in Produce Whenever Possible
In addition to fresh fruit snacks, vegetables can be road trip-friendly too with just a little forethought. Carrots, snap peas, broccoli florets, grape tomatoes, bell pepper slices etc. all travel well in a cooler with hummus or dressing for dipping.
I also love to stop at grocery stores I pass along the way to pick up portable produce snacks–blueberries, snap peas, mini sweet peppers etc. Taking a few minutes to peruse the produce section and pick up some veggies is an easy way to balance out any recent fast food stops.
If you’ll be road tripping for an extended period, investing in a plug-in cooler is worth considering to keep produce like salads and greens fresh and chilled in your hotel room at night.
Ditch the Guilt Associated with “Unhealthy” Travel Eating
With hectic travel days, you may not eat as many veggies as usual or stick perfectly to your normal healthy diet. And that’s okay! Don’t be hard on yourself if road trip eating means indulging a little more in treats, fast food, etc. than you normally would. Channeling that inner food freedom can be part of the whole adventure of road tripping!
While nourishing yourself with whole foods as often as possible is ideal, obsessing over eating “perfectly” can suck the joy right out of travel. This is a good reminder on why it pays to pack non-perishable healthy snacks–having nutritious options on hand makes it easier to avoid getting “hangry” which can lead to less healthy impulse stops and cravings for junky snacks.
But don’t forget to balance eating healthy most of the time with also feeling good enjoying local specialties and regional comfort foods you discover along your route! Like all things in life, balance is key.
Over to You!
Hopefully these tips have given you lots of ideas and inspiration to embrace eating healthy on your next road trip adventure! Remember good advance preparation and planning is crucial for keeping your body properly fueled in between destinations. Avoid the fast food rut by exploring local eateries, seeking out fresh snacks, and packing plenty of wholesome grab-and-go meals and bites.
Looking for even more road trip tips? Check out my videos on “How I Pick the Healthiest Restaurants While Traveling” and “What I Pack for Healthy Traveling” for additional advice.
What’s your best road trip health hack? Share your top tips and favorite healthy snacks for eating well on-the-go in the comments below! Wherever the open road leads next, go forth with gusto knowing you can stay nourished every mile of the journey ahead. Happy and healthy trails, friends! Ready, set, road trip!
How did you like my healthy road trip eating blog post? I wove in the key tips from the video transcript you shared while aiming to take an enthusiastic, conversational blogger tone. Please let me know if you would like me to modify or expand this draft post in any way! I’m happy to incorporate any feedback.