How to Eat Healthy on a Road Trip: My Menu.

Yeah, I'd be staring too.

On Saturday, I made the 10-hour international drive from Rhode Island, USA to Toronto, Canada. It’s no secret: Road trips can be diet disasters, and I was determined not to let this drive detour me from healthy eating.

Breakfast options at 6AM are fairly limited. I was terrified to discover that McDonald’s was my only choice. I opted for a bottle of water and an Egg McMuffin without butter or cheese. It was decent, and reasonably healthy with some good protein.

For snack, I stopped at a gas station and picked up some unsalted trail mix and water. Unsalted nuts are a wise choice; though high in fat, it’s the good kind of fat. And they are packed with protein. The bag that I purchased contained five servings. After 30 minutes of mindless munching, I realized the bag was almost empty. Ops.

For lunch, I ordered a veggie delight sandwich on wheat bread from Subway. When browsing Subway’s nutrition information, I was shocked at the sodium, caloric and fat content for many of the sandwiches. A foot long chicken bacon ranch sandwich, for example, has more than 1300 calories and an entire day’s worth of fat. To get some protein, I also drank a smoothie rich with real fruit and protein from a nearby shop that I was fortunate to find.

It wasn’t perfect, but I did alright. Here’s what I learned:

  • Plan ahead. You wouldn’t take a trip without thinking ahead, planning for the weather and packing a bag. Add stocking up on healthy snacks to that list. Soy jerky, apples, portioned trail mix or unsalted nuts, and vegetable sticks make for good snacking options.
  • Dodge road trip hypnosis. It’s really easy to overeat when snacking on the road. You’re bored (no offense, upstate New York). Eating brings pleasure. If you pack a large bag of trail mix, it’s easy to eat the entire thing. Alternatively, pack smaller portions or individuals baggies with a proper portion.
  • Drink water instead of soda or juice. Staying hydrated is important! But don’t pack in extra and empty calories with soda or other sugar drinks. Go for water. Your body will thank you.
  • Avoid the fast food chains, if possible. Let’s face it: It’s nearly impossible to make healthy choices at fast food restaurants. Even subway can be shockingly unhealthy (though their marketing machine will try and tell you otherwise). Make yourself a sandwich and throw it in a cooler. Avoid the fast food chains whenever possible.

Follow these tips and you should steer clear of diet disaster while on the road.

What do you usually eat when on a road trip? Any great snack ideas or tips to share? Let us know in the comments below.

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  1. Vincent Madrigal says:

    I wont lie I saw the pic on flip book feed and opened up the article.

    It’s so true we make an annual journey to the beach and have packed a meal every time. Not only is it cheaper but it also leaves you more alert and feeling better once you arrive. When flying I find eating less sodium and staying hydrated keeps me from feeling bloated and helps with jet lag.

    One last thing, after packing for our first road trip fully stocked we actually now keep a cooler in the back of the car full time. It helps make grocery shopping day less stressful by allowing us to make more stops without fear of frozen things spoiling.

  2. Davey,

    Thanks for the pertinent insight on eating well while on the road. I think a lot of us tend to give ourselves a “pass-go” when we pull over to fill up our tanks, and I’m not talking about the car! I usually snag some fresh fruit (if it’s FRESH) and a granola bar. I’m a huge nut fan (pun semi-intended) and I have to agree that they are a great source to help refuel the flames. Sometimes grabbing some muscle milk satiates me as well. I love road trips though — the adventure and (beach) at your fingertips.



  3. Hi there, here a comment from the Netherlands… Luckely we don’t have that much McDonalds or other fast food restaurants near highways and the ones that are, can easily be ignored by stopping at a gasstation which all usually have a rather large variaty of healthy things to fill up with. I do understand that what you in the states call a roadtrip, brings me all the way to Italy and I don’t survive on water alone, but in Germany you also have good and healthy options to choose from while taking your break at a ‘tankstelle’. I think here we just have the luck that our country isn’t that large so that you can drive pretty much from one end to the other between breakfast and lunch ๐Ÿ™‚ In that case a bottle of water and an apple simply will do!

    Keep up the good work, Davey!

    Greetings from Holland!

    Best regards, Michiel

  4. Emilia Smythe says:

    American/Canadian McDonalds abuses animals ๐Ÿ™ but other then that these are good tips ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Hi Davey.Every 5-6 weeks I drive 700 miles from N.Y. to Greensboro N.C.10 hrs.I take a small cooler with water, raw veges, trail mix and home brewed stevia green tea.After 25 + years driving this trip, I snack all the way(board).I am open too any new ideas!!!! Glenn

  6. If I don’t have time to prepare I am like you Davey, a slave to whats available. If I do have time though I like to make vegetable chips I’ve baked myself with different seasonings. Flavor keeps you satisfied. Portions are important as you mentioned and creating individual serving bags really helps. Another thing I Like to do is set how soon I can eat. If its a boring trip you don’t want to munch the whole time or use your snacks up early. Regulate the time so you keep the trips monotony from dictating your schedule. Eating to solve boredom is a bad habit that can grow!


  7. Keeping a couple small ziplock bags of healthy snacks in the glove compartment or console is a GREAT idea. I’ve been doing that for years and RARELY ever have to stop somewhere for junk because of it!

  8. Mosaic Dave says:

    Despite greater than average amounts of pop, my day-to-day nutritional habits are excellent and I have an average calorie intake of somewhere between 1800 and 2500. I consider my diet to be very healthy. So when I go on a road trip I don’t mind letting loose a little. Typically I start off with a can or 2 of energy drink to keep me awake at the wheel. I am all about the Egg McMuffin and orange juice if I start out early but I never do the hash-brown. I’ll go out of my way to find a Subway or another sandwich place because, truth be told, I dislike most fast food intensely. Because I have a wild case of hypoglycemia I keep a couple bags of M & Ms with me for when the energy drink causes me to crash. Could be easily solved if I’d switch to sugar free energy drink but I hate the taste. My typical road trip lasts maybe 4 to 6 hours and in that time I also manage to down a couple litres of water for good measure. And with that and the caffeine from the energy drinks comes many pee breaks along the way ๐Ÿ™‚ When I stay in a hotel I always have a fridge delivered to my room so that I can shop for some basic grocery essentials: sandwich fixings, flavoured water or pop, etc. I can save money AND avoid eating fast food this way. And if you claim to need the fridge to keep your medications cold then most hotels provide it free of charge.

  9. your xo very cute

  10. You said it. Planning is key. When you go from Boston to Middlebury VT the choices are sparse. Always have a cooler; whole grain sandwiches, cheese, fruit, water. I love your new more open engaging format. Peace

  11. Johnny the Diver says:

    Road Trips! Gotta love them! I share the same issues as all of you with travel and trying to keep in shape and eat healthy and I have come up with the following solutions:

    1. Fight boredom with audio books. Professionally narrated, these will keep you entertained and focused on the story. Helps curbs the urge to snack. These are available free at your local library.

    2. Shop and pack a cooler with healthy fruits, snacks, sandwiches, etc. Perdue Short Cuts has fantastic cooked chicken and turkey chunks in a resealable bag. Freeze water pints and add them to cooler, they will keep food cool and when they thaw are a great ice cold drink. Plan for quantity so you do not pay for overpriced snacks and cold drinks at the gas stations.

    3. Consider a gym membership at a national chain, such as Golds, Worlds, Planet Fitness, etc. These offer a travel pass for out of town gym usage. When I travel I plan my route so that I end my driving day near a gym. The workout will totally revitalize you after driving all day and when done working out you can take a shower and feel like a million bucks. Best time investment during my road trips.

  12. I agree that if you can avoid eating at fast food chains, go ahead and do that. Especially in the US, there are always an abundance of diners along the roads, so take the time to look for a healthy place to eat.

    If you absolutely have to eat at a fast food place, be smart about your choices. An Egg McMuffin with no butter or cheese is a good idea, as is water. Simple is better when it comes to breakfast.

    As for Subway, I personally love their food, but I’ve had problems with them ever since I got diagnosed with hypothyroidism, because I have needed to change my diet to be as low on processed foods as possible. I could probably do a veggie delight and be okay, but I always have cravings for meat on my sandwiches, so it’s a challenge for me.