On the Road

Fortunately, during the first two years of medical school, we get a spring break. Even though I have two finals and a board exam next week, I decided to take one last spring break trip with my family. We decided to go snow skiing in Colorado, and yes, we drove the entire way. I think it turned out to be about a 20 hour trip, which we spread out over two days. While thinking about what I wanted to blog about this week, I decided that I would challenge myself to eating no fast food along the way. The easy thing to do when you’re on a road trip is stop at some fast food chain off the interstate and stuff yourself with french fries and a hamburger, not the healthiest option, right? So, I decided to change it up by not eating any fast food, the whole way out. My dad and boyfriend also suggested that I find some healthy options that you can pick up at a gas station or fast food place when you need to. So, I’ve thought of a few things that you can take along from home and a few things that you can pick up on the road.

My Challenge I was successful with my challenge, I didn’t eat one fast food item the entire road trip out to Colorado. My family didn’t either, except for one dinner at Applebee’s once we hit the midway point in our trip (I refrained and had a turkey sandwich instead). But, I rubbed off on them a little bit, which is great. For a two day trip, I needed meals for 2 lunches, 1 dinner, and 1 breakfast. For my first lunch, I had my typical lunch that I pack everyday. It consisted of a salad with tuna, a snack pack of goldfish, and an apple for dessert. This was pretty easy to bring along, I had the lettuce leftover from my week of lunches and didn’t want it to go to waste, so I just packed it like I normally pack my lunch. For my first dinner, I had a turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread with mustard only and about 3/4 cup of my quinoa tabouleh (recipe in Miniatures and Repeats post). For breakfast the next day, I couldn’t resist finishing off the last 1/4 of my sister’s waffle from the continental breakfast and then I had some carb-masters yogurt that I brought as well. My lunch on day two was another sandwich, ham this time, with baby carrots to go along. We made it to our destination, Brenckenridege, CO, around 4:00 the second day of our road trip.

My Suggestions for Meals
I was a little surprised at how easy it was for me to stick to my plan. Packing a few things in advance was easy to do and I’m sure much cheaper than getting fast food for the whole family. Having a loaf of bread with sandwich meat or peanut butter and jelly makes having a quick sandwich easy, no matter if you make it at home before you leave or if you take a quick pit stop at a rest area and make them there. A tortilla wrap instead of a sandwich would be a great idea also. Make sure you leave the mayonnaise out though! Salad was a pretty easy option also. All you have to do is pack the salad and dressing in separate plastic tupperware containers and toss it in a cooler. Other things that would be easy to share and toss in a cooler are things like pasta salad, tabulloeh, or anything that makes like a chilled salad. Just make sure you take along a few plastic forks and cups to eat it out of. As for meals that come from a fast food restaurant, I don’t know that there are any healthy options. You can make healthIER options though if you end up having to stop at one. Salads are always a pretty safe option, be careful of the salad dressings though, make sure to ask for low fat. Most places have started doing snack wraps, which I think are pretty good if you ask for grilled chicken. The same goes for sandwiches, get grilled chicken instead of fried chicken or a burger. Most fast food places also have fruit as an option instead of fries; as tempting as the fries are, I say go with the fruit. You can also always get a kid’s meal, which is a more appropriate portion size.

My Suggestions for Snacking
Snacking is a hard thing to avoid when you’re stuck in the car and you’ve brought lots of yummy treats. The key to overcoming this obstacle is bringing things that are healthier. I would suggest taking fruits, vegetables,  nuts, trail mix, and maybe some 100 calorie snack packs. Things like apples, bananas, and oranges are easy to eat on the go and they don’t require a cooler. Vegetables might need a little more thought becuase most require a cooler, but taking a bag of mini carrots or celery wont’ take up a lot of space. Fruits and vegetables are great snacks because they are healthy and usually satisfy your mid afternoon hunger pains. Nuts and trail mix are easy options that you can find in a gas station along the way. Just be sure to avoid nuts with salt and trailmix that has a lot of chocolate or sugary add ins. These two options require a little self control. It’s easy to grab a bag of trailmix or nuts and eat the whole thing pretty quickly, but remember that most containers that are sold in stores contain more than one serving size, so watch out for that. Taking some crackers and peanut butter are also good snack options, but remember to watch how many you eat, 4-5 should be plenty. Just try to avoid buying a huge bag of chips and a couple candy bars, that’s no good. Also, drink water, soft drinks are just another unhealthy addition to your diet, even if they classify themselves as diet. If you aren’t a big fan of water, take some crystal light packs to mix in.

On Vacation
I must say that I think vacations are a time to take a break from real life, including dieting. I don’t think every meal needs to be eaten out or that you should just absolutely loose control, but a few nights out won’t kill you. I think a balance between eating out and cooking (if you have the accommodations to do so) saves money and helps you stay relatively in check while vacationing. Plus, if you make healthy options on the road, you have more room to treat yourself once you make it to your destination. What we’ve tried to do on this vacation is eat breakfast and lunch on our own. We have bagels and cereal to use for breakfast, and sandwich and salad fixins’ for lunch. We also have fruit, veggies, crackers, trail mix, etc. to snack on when we need it (skiing takes a lot of energy you know). For dinner this week, we’ve planned on making spaghetti one night and chicken fajitias another. We attempted baked fish last night, but something went wrong. I don’t know if it’s the altitude or if it was the fish, but we ended up having to order in. I had a greek salad and some bruschetta, in an attempt to keep it healthy.

So, there are my tips for taking a road trip and vacationing, take a break every once and a while, but remember to get back on track when your vacation is over and don’t go too far overboard while you’re away!

One Last Quick Tip– If you’re in a hurry one night and not in the mood to cook, grab a ready to bake potato at the store and pair it with a small side salad. The potatoes are shrink wrapped and take less than ten minutes to make in the microwave. You can find them next to the regular potatoes. Go easy on the butter and cheese, a little should be fine though. Also, eat the skins of your potato, it’s packed with fiber and improves the glycemic index of a normal potato.

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