May was one busy month. My wife and I both had business-related travel that sent her to New York for a weekend and me to Dallas for two days. As a family we visited friends in Omaha for three days and enjoyed Memorial Day Weekend in Branson, MO. With this much travel, I’m tempted to create miles per Dave Gorman inspired graphic but that reference might be too British for this blog (if that does makes sense, leave a comment at the end of this post and perhaps I’ll send you a gift).
Often when leaving the comfort zone we create in our home towns, people wonder how to make sure you find kosher food at your destination. This never worries me as I have long-held the belief that any city in this country can offer you a fine selection of fruit and veggies. My concern is how to find healthy options to keep you full while out and about all day. Although my wife and I spent much of our Australian honeymoon dining on Vegemite and carrot sticks, variety is key when planning a menu. Now that I have started to read Wheat Belly I am more aware of making sure I have healthy lunch options at home, or away.
Not only should these tips keep you from mid-vacation hunger-induced stressed, but a little planning can save you a penny or two when you are on the road. Here are some of my travel tips for the healthy foodie.
1. Small appliances are big winners
When my wife and I travelled the great ocean road in 2011, we packed a George Forman Grill and a Rice Cooker and we ate like royalty, picking up fresh ingredients each day. You can find these on sale from as little as $15 each and make sure your rice cooker doubles as a veggie steamer so you can cook rice, veggies or even fish at the same time. These appliances are small enough to fit on a dresser in a hotel room, but be sure to set a towel under the grill to catch any juices that run off.
2. Stuffed Grape Leaves
Seriously, stuffed grape leaves are the best travel companion. Eat them cold on the road or heat them up for a delicious treat. A can will usually house fifteen grape leaves and because these are filled with rice they are super filling too. Don’t discard the liquid either — the mix of olive oil and lemon juice that preserves the grape leaves makes a great salad dressing when you’re on the go. You can also pour it over cooked rice or quinoa for a little flavor.
3. Wrap it
Sure, you are thinking of making sandwiches for lunch. It’s easy to throw some peanut butter on some whole wheat bread and call it a meal, but why not a wrap. When you leave for the day, throw some lettuce or chard leaves in the cooler along with a can of tuna, black-eyed peas or black beans. Avocado makes an awesome mayo replacement and these Tuna Chard Wraps from Healthful Pursuit use coconut cream instead of mayo. For the vegans reading this, fill your wrap with a grain like quinoa, rice or millet, some fresh red pepper, avocado and a touch of balsamic vinegar.
4. Grill up those veggies
I always make sure I have a disposable grill in the trunk of the car when travelling. As the day draws to a close there’s always the opportunity enjoy dinner outdoors by pulling to the side of the road and grilling. Find a scenic view, beach or park and (as long as local bylaws permit) light up the grill. Be careful, you don’t want to start a fire so stay clear of heavily wooded areas or lots of dried leaves. With a little foresight you can keep grilling veggies like zucchini and red pepper in a freezer bag during the day so you don’t even have to worry about finding a store. Don’t forget to pack the matches too!
5. Eat Breakfast and Snack Wisely
Grabbing a coffee in the car so you hit the road before the traffic is not always a wise choice, if you get hungry and cranky, it’s harder to make a healthy food choice. On our way back from Branson last week I was able to grab an apple instead of a bag of chips at the gas station so that was win-win but that doesn’t happen everywhere. With breakfast in mind, my wife had prepped homemade granola before we left so breakfast was always an option. If you are staying at a place with a kitchenette then bring a tiny skillet with you and pick up some cage-free eggs while you’re on the road. Another wise tip from my wife — don’t leave the snacks on the front seat of the car — if they are in the back, you’ll have them when you need them but they are not teasing you when everyone’s fallen asleep and you’re driving for hours at a time.
6. Quinoa Salad
You can make quinoa ahead of time or set it in your rice cooker while you’re on the road. Quinoa is such a versatile grain, and it’s not a carb either so you’ll have energy, not lethargy, when you’re done with lunch. My wife made a quinoa salad while we were in Branson that is similar to this recipe (and photo) from Veggie and the Beast. that you can make pretty much
7. Pack the essentials
I keep a cheap can opener and a corkscrew in my luggage so I don’t have to bring our good corkscrew on vacation. I don’t unpack them. They live there with a spare cell charger, notepad and pen. Although not food related I find that a cheap in-car charger for your cell/iPad/whatever can be a lifesaver, especially if you’re dependent on your cell for GPS or research on the road. This handy little adaptor will let you charge your cell, laptop or even power up that rice cooker from the comfort of your car. A cooler bag and ice packs go a long way when you travel, and I always prefer a soft cooler bag so you can pack it into those tight corners of the trunk.
8. Plan the menu
If you are in the habit of menu planning at the start of each week or month, this won’t sound like a crazy idea at all but for the many people who have the open-the-fridge-and-see approach to dinner this might take a little thought. If you have a rough idea of how your trip is going to work you can think about which meals or snacks need to be car-friendly and nutritious and when you will have time to cook something fresh and healthy. It doesn’t hurt to start your menu plan with the meal immediately before you leave so if you’re driving through the night, make sure lunch that day is covered so you’re not travelling on an empty stomach and planning your menu before you go will also let you shop before you leave so you avoid inflated prices at gas stations or remote stores. Finally, keep your menu plan on your favorite cross-device platform so you have it wherever you are. Google Drive is popular but I find Evernote to be the most valuable app I use.
There you have it… eight insights for a healthier road trip or vacation. If there’s one thing you could add to this list, what would it be? Let me know in the comments below or pin the image above to share.