How to Eat Healthy While Traveling by Car

9 Tips to Take on the Road for Holiday Travel or Anytime.

If you’re going to be traveling this holiday season, you very well may have decided to go by car in order to have more control over your surroundings and situation. If that’s the case, continuing to maintain healthy eating habits while you travel will help you to feel your best and ensure that if you are exposed to any viruses, your body is in a good place to tackle them head on. As someone who has done this both successfully and learned the hard way why it is so important, I’m sharing my top 9 tips for how to eat healthy while traveling by car for holiday travel or anytime. 

Photo of car with cooler sitting beside it as example of how to eat healthy while traveling
Photo by Harrison Haines from Pexels

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Keep eating as normally as possible while on the road

Continuing to eat healthy while traveling is quite simply less of a shock to your system than loading up on convenience store and fast food if that’s not something that you’re used to. While I’m usually fairly good about this, I did the opposite recently and was not in a good place by the return trip home. I did not plan ahead and thought that I would be able to find plenty to eat along the way. There was plenty to eat, but it was not healthy, and my digestive system suffered. 

Take a cooler

A large cooler is a healthy traveler’s best friend. I’ve taken food for an entire week before while living out of a hotel room and been just fine. It allows you to take plenty of food for the road as well as if you need to buy and store items when you arrive at your destination. Pre-made salads, hummus, beans, cut up chicken and vegetables are suddenly an option just by having a good cooler. It also lets you store sandwich meat, which isn’t necessarily the healthiest choice but is better than much of the fast food that you might get. 

Use ice packs, not bags of ice

It took me a while to figure this one out, but ice packs are much easier, cleaner and less expensive than packing your cooler full of ice. The brand that I highly recommend is Cooler Shock (affiliate link). I have 4 of their 10 x 10 mid-size freeze packs, and they really do stay cold for the advertised 24 – 48 hours. 

Stay in a hotel with microwave and mini-fridge

If you’re staying in a hotel, make sure when you’re making your reservation that it has a microwave and mini-fridge. If you do this, eating healthy while traveling is easy. That’s especially true in 2020, when most hotels that might usually serve hot breakfast options are having to serve items that can easily be packed to go instead. If you need some ideas on how to best make use of your microwave and mini-fridge, be sure to check out The Fun Sized Life’s 30 Healthy Meals to Make in a Hotel Room While You Travel

Take lots of snacks

Whether you usually snack or not, you can count on doing it more than normal while traveling. That’s why it’s important to have plenty of healthy options on hand for everyone that’s traveling with you. Not only is this healthier for you overall, it’s also much cheaper than buying snacks at a convenience store. My general rule of thumb is to take twice as many snacks than I feel like I would normally need because as I mentioned, we simply snack more when traveling, especially by car. 

Take refillable water bottles

Toting around cases of plastic water bottles may seem like the easiest option when traveling, but it’s not good for our health and it’s certainly not good for the environment. Taking two large refillable water bottles per person is a much better way to do it. These can be filled up at the beginning of the day and stored in the cooler. They can then be refilled as needed at restaurants or convenience stores. While I love Klean Kanteen’s Classic Stainless Steel 40-ounce Water Bottle (affiliate link), I can also recommend Takeya’s Insulated Stainless Steel Water Bottle(affiliate link). My son has one of these, and it literally still has ice in it the next day. 

Plan stops for meals

If you’re going to stop for a meal or go through a drive-thru, plan ahead enough that you can gauge where you’re going to be at the approximate time that you’ll want to stop. That way, you can look ahead to see what types of restaurants are available that serve healthy or healthier options. You can even place a “to go” order that will be ready when you arrive as opposed to having to settle on whatever is available at the exit where you happen to stop. 

Take griddle

If you have a griddle, your ability to eat healthy while traveling just expanded greatly. While you don’t want to cook anything that will give off a lot of smoke in a hotel room, scrambled eggs, protein pancakes, whole wheat toast and healthy hash browns are all potential meals. If you have a car outlet adapter, you can even pull off at a park or rest area, plug in and make your meal there as well. 

Stay in a hotel with a kitchenette

If you’re in a hotel with a kitchenette, the sky is the limit when it comes to eating healthy while traveling. While I would limit fixing major meals to when you are not on a rushed timeline, making simple meals can be a time and money saver in addition to a way to eat healthy. My recommendation is to buy the food you’ll need ahead of time and store anything perishable in your cooler so that you can simply pull it out when you arrive at your hotel. After a long day of traveling, the last thing that you’ll want to do is to stop at a grocery store and then fix your food. 

Bottom Line on Eating Healthy While Traveling

The goal of eating healthy while traveling is not to be too strict with yourself. If you can only do it part of the time, that’s certainly better than not doing it at all. The goal is that you’re able to feel your best and enjoy the experience. 

If you have any other tips for eating healthy while traveling, feel free to add them in the comments, so that we can all learn from each other. 

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