Orlando Health dietician Lisa Cooper shares her best tips for making smart choices and choosing healthier options on the go.
For most families, summertime translates to primetime for family vacations — some of which include road trips.
One might associate road trips with frequent fast-food stops — or stops for sugary and salty snacks in general — but eating on the go doesn’t have to mean eating unhealthy.
Lisa Cooper, a dietitian at the Center for Health Improvement , located at Orlando Health’s Horizon West medical pavilion, said the key to snacking smartly on the road is to plan ahead.
“That would be my No. 1 tip,” Cooper said. “Think about where you need to stop. Are you going to eat on the road, in the car, at a rest stop? What will that look like for your family? If you have little kids you may want to (stop) more often.
“I recommend having something packed, like a cooler with snacks and drinks and easy-to-carry meals (such as) peanut butter and jelly or wraps of some sort,” she said. “Or you might want to stop at a restaurant (such as) Panera or Chipotle, where you have a few healthier options.”
Cooper said it’s also possible to order smart at fast-food restaurants. Customers can get a wrap or salad at Chick-fil-A, or grab a sub made with whole-grain bread and vegetables. The main thing to remember: Avoid fried foods and sugary beverages.
“If you think ahead, you’re going to make a better choice,” she said. “As long as it’s not fried foods or heavy in sugar content. Maybe you could even plan to stop at a grocery store and buy pre-made items (such as) subs, salads and hard-boiled eggs. (You can have) things packed and maybe make a picnic out of it using picnic tables at the rest stops.”
If you opt to plan ahead and save some cash by packing your snacks or meals, Cooper suggests packing a cooler with kid-friendly options. Children often will be more apt to eat packed snacks if parents let them help in picking and packing the snacks in small containers.
Snacks and drinks should be packed separately and in insulated coolers filled with ice or frozen gel packs. You also can freeze water bottles and juice boxes to help keep them cold. Use individually packaged items for quick grabs, and be sure to use hand sanitizer before sticking your hands into a cooler full of food.
Additionally, Cooper said, a full cooler will remain colder longer than one that is partially filled.
“You can make your own granola bars or energy balls or mix dry cereal with trail mix,” Cooper said. “Other good ideas are almond-butter packets or peanut-butter packets and you can dip celery or apples into those. Try having little baggies filled with cherry tomatoes, apple slices, blueberries or snap peas. If you’re packing cold it can be Greek yogurt, hummus and string cheese.”
Another important thing to consider when eating on the go is to avoid mindless eating — or eating out of boredom. Not being aware of this can lead to some serious snacking.
“You’re driving and just eating as you do it, so a way to get away from that is the prepackaged items,” Cooper said. “Have things in little baggies so you know you have to stop at the end of the baggie instead of a whole bag of chips. You can use sugar-free gums as a snack or a way to avoid mindless eating.
“You also want sustained energy and want to make sure you get your rest and stay well hydrated, because dehydration can make you feel fatigued,” she said. “If you go more than three to four hours between meals you’ll have low blood sugar and get tired. Fueling yourself is just as important as putting gas in your car.”