6 Tips for a Healthier Road Trip
by the Doctors and Dietitians at the Pritikin Longevity Center + Spa
Planning some adventures soon? Days on the highway? Plan ahead nutritionally, too, recommend the doctors and dietitians at the world-renowned Pritikin Longevity Center + Spa in Miami, Florida.
Fill each day with healthy snacks. “It’s one of the best things you can do to not only keep your health in good shape but your energy levels high throughout your trip,” affirms Dr. Ronald Scheib, cardiologist at Pritikin.
As well, “Don’t buy into what marketers call a ‘healthy’ snack,” warns Kimberly Gomer, MS, RD, and Pritikin nutrition director. “Watch out for things like energy bars and bags of granola. How healthy is something, really, when in just three bites you’ve swallowed 300 calories, not to mention a bunch of salt, sugar, hyperprocessed grains, and fat?
“At the Pritikin Longevity Center,” Gomer continues, “our focus for the last 40 years has been truly healthy food—whole, unprocessed foods that are naturally nutritious and filling and that don’t pack in extra sugars, salt, fat, and calories.” Now certainly, it’s a no-brainer to grab a granola bar or pull into a fast-food joint whenever hunger hits, “but it’s also very easy to eat healthfully while traveling,” encourages Gomer.
Here are 6 simple to-dos for healthy snacking while on the road:
1. Bring a cooler. Just before leaving on your trip, make a run to the supermarket to pick up healthy goodies for your cooler like delicious season-fresh fruit—grapes, nectarines, peaches, and cherries. This is “fast food” at its very best. Other nice choices are pre-washed, ready-to-eat bags or containers of fresh veggies like baby carrots. If your market has a salad bar, load up a big container with fresh, pre-cut veggies and fiber-rich beans. As well, swing by the dairy section for single serving cups of Greek, nonfat, no-sugar-added yogurt.
All the above snacks are naturally high in water, and most are also naturally high in fiber. High-fiber, high-water foods give you stomach-filling satisfaction, but at a very low-calorie cost.
Here’s an example of what we mean: Three big bunches of grapes are about the calorie equivalent of one small energy bar (which, let’s face it, is gone in three bites, so is one bar really enough?). It’s pretty obvious which snack, by its sheer volume, is going to do a better job of curbing our hunger, and often for a lot fewer calories.
2. Make good use of your glove compartment. Stash away a bottle of top-quality balsamic vinegar and one of Dijon mustard. Gomer explains, “If you want to keep from gaining weight on your trip, big green salads are a great choice as a snack or meal starter, but salads aren’t going to do much for your waistline if you’re pouring oily salad dressing on them. Did you know that a tablespoon of olive oil has more than eight times the calories of a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar?”
So keep that bottle of balsamic handy. If you want a little kick, pour some in a glass and swirl in a little Dijon. It’s rich and delish. Another nice combo is red wine vinegar and a little Splenda.
3. Love your potatoes. “The poor maligned potato,” wrote heart disease prevention pioneer Nathan Pritikin, the Pritikin Longevity Center’s founder, 50 years ago. Back then—and still today—many people think potatoes are a no-no food. “Potatoes are actually very good for us, especially for losing weight. That’s because, ounce for ounce, potatoes are one of the most filling and low-calorie foods we can eat,” affirms Dr. Danine Fruge, associate medical director and women’s health director at Pritikin.
Get a hot, tasty baked potato at (of all places) Wendy’s restaurants. Top your potato, not with artery-busters like sour cream and butter, but with healthy, delicious, calorie-light toppings like salsa or nonfat plain Greek yogurt, maybe sassed up with a bit of horseradish.
4. Enjoy a breakfast-style snack any time of day. Here’s another item for your glove compartment: single-serving packets of plain instant oatmeal. (Always read the ingredient list to make sure the only ingredient is oats—no sugar, salt, or anything else added.) “You can get hot water just about anywhere, including mini-markets at gas stations,” notes Gomer. Just pour into a bowl your oatmeal and hot water, slice in a banana, add a packet of Splenda if you want it sweeter, and you’ve got a filling, amazingly healthy snack 24/7. Oats are rich in soluble fiber, which actively lowers LDL (bad) cholesterol levels.
What’s more, cooked cereals are a much better choice than dried cereals for staying slim. Per bite, cold cereals pack in about four times the calories of cooked cereals such as oatmeal, barley, and farina.
Another option is Starbucks, where any time of day you can get steel-cut oatmeal and an unsweetened vanilla latte made with soy milk (soy milk is another LDL cholesterol reducer). If you’re watching your weight, skip the packets of calorie-dense nuts and dried fruits and instead slice in a banana.
5. Go to sandwich shops that let you build your own sandwich. Subway restaurants, for example, are very accommodating.
Here’s what we teach our Pritikin guests: Ask that your Subway bread be scooped out (it’s a great way to dramatically cut your salt and refined carb intake). Then have the shell toasted, and ask that it be loaded with just about every veggie available—lettuce, tomatoes, banana peppers, jalapeno peppers, spinach, onions, and cucumbers.
Leave off the salt-drenched olives and artery-damaging cheese and, if you’re watching your weight, the calorie-dense avocados. Add a little turkey breast, if you’d like. For spreads, stay away from the calorie-packed mayos and oils. Instead, ask for mustard, vinegar, and sprinklings of black pepper and oregano.
You’ve just created a sandwich full of excellent nutrition and flavor, and so big you can barely close it, but for less than one-third the calories of many other Subway sandwiches.
6. Treat yourself for a job well done. Before leaving home, order a basket of fresh fruit that will be waiting for you in your hotel room after your road trip. “Who doesn’t like a basket of fresh fruit?” says Gomer.
Plus, read on for healthy snack ideas for your next road trip!