Open thread: Healthy road-tripping

Most of you are already on your way out of town for the weekend. I love to drive in general, but I especially enjoy it if I’m going on a trip. Sometimes when I’m driving to work I want to just keep driving until I run out of gas to see where I’d end up.

What kind of snacks do you eat? Where do you like to stop for food?

I have driven all over this country and the best places to stop for good food are off the beaten track. One time a few years ago I was driving through rural [Midwestern state] and I saw a sign for apples or tomatoes and I followed a small road to a large farm. There was a greenhouse to one side with tons of fresh fruit and preserves and I just started loading up. Behind a makeshift counter and cash register stood a young Amish/Mennonite girl looking like she wanted to be anywhere but the hot greenhouse with bees buzzing all over. She was bored and barely cracked a smile. Poor thing wanted to get out of there, which is understandable, but seemed funny to me considering what riches surrounded her.

What I bought that day was delicious and I had to go a little farther to get it. Instead of driving on a freeway or a tollway and taking an exit with options like the golden arches, I chose a smaller, scenic highway with access to local “flavor.” Journeys are metaphors for many things in life including food: Sometimes you have to go out of your way for quality.

By the way, check out this experiential blog and his photos: I’m Just Walkin’
Talk about the ultimate road trip!

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31 thoughts on “Open thread: Healthy road-tripping

  1. I agree! We just got back from Europe. Our quick healthy lunch solution was to visit a grocery store. Some bread, cheese, organic meats, yogurt and fruit was less expensive than a meal out and certainly a better choice than even many of the off-the-beaten track take-aways.

  2. Funny thing; I wrote next week's Food Revolution Fridays post today on this very same topic. We road trip for 3 weeks through 8 States in the summer, going at least 8000+ kms. We were eating lunches and dinners at restaurants, but after checking out the nutritional info we changed our mind.

    This summer we're taking Food Revolution on the road with us as we attempt to eat healthy on vacation. Should be interesting!

  3. When I have traveled in Europe, I have stopped at local open-air markets to purchase fresh fruits, vegetables, cheeses, etc. I have also stopped in local grocery stores and purchased bread, meats, etc. When traveling here in the States, for a short trip, I pack as much as I can, and to supplement, will search for roadside stands, and farmers' markets. If I decide to stop at a fast food chain, it is usually a sub sandwich shop or something similar where I can load a sandwich with vegetables or convert the sandwich to a salad.

  4. I like to make trail mix to keep in my car for those times I am stuck there famished even on short trips around town. It is healthier and cheaper than any snacks I would find at a convenience store. I can use which ever dried fruit, seeds, and nuts I choose. I stay away from chocolate or yogurt chips in the trail mix since those would likely melt while in the car. And I always have my bottle of water.

  5. I try to have fruit, nuts, and something homemade for road trips. A cooler is key! Being vegetarian, I am always a little over prepared. I want to make sure I have protein on hand because most restaurants down here don't have the best vegetarian options.

  6. I love this post, it is a great segue to a summer blog, Mrs Q, you are very smart! Hm, we went to a lot of horse shows growing up, I wasn't into horses but it was very fun to see different parts of Virginia, Kentucky, and North and South Carolina. We mostly stopped at truck stops and pancake houses or bbq joints, so the food was always really good! Now as far as my family goes, we try and load up on sandwiches, apples, and bottles of water when we travel, but when we do stop, I hate to say it, it's a slim jim and a sprite. It's just part of the tradition. We are very healthy eaters all year round so it's a guilty pleasure! They are even allowed to have a (eww) Twinkie. They never had one until last year, the oldest being 8, youngest 5. So, there is fun in traveling. I pack for myself trail mix, fruit, water, etc. We rarely do fast food, we try great local places if on the offering. 🙂 Great, great post! 🙂

  7. We may be from similar parts of the world. Last weekend I passed several Amish people along the road in thier black horse carts. I love to pick up their fruit and homemade pies whenever possible. We didn't have time to stray from the beaten path, so stopped in Whole Foods and picked up fresh fruit, granola, and healthy snacks to go. We always travel with our own healthy snacks because my kids won't eat fast food and McDonald's is the only restaurant along the two turnpikes that we must travel regularly to get to relatives house.

  8. We just came home from a roadtrip. Banana's are a favorite item of mine. I also like a home made trail mix with nuts, berries and just a little dark chocolate. I also took a filtered water bottle with me. I was able to refill it at water fountains and felt safe drinking water I wouldn't usually drink while being glad I wasn't adding more plastic bottles to our landfills.

  9. I bring cheese sticks, edemame, crackers, dried and fresh fruits, baby carrots, locally made salami sticks… I try to balance things even if we're eating on the run.

  10. I am preparing for a cross country trek starting next week. The cooler will be stocked with sliced meats and cheeses, pasta salads, sliced fruit and yogurt, snack veggies and dip and my newest addiction-roasted chick peas! We will also have roasted nuts and chocolates for treats-and lots of bottles of water so that we and the doggie and can drink our fill 🙂

  11. I don't road trip often but cycle A LOT and need to bring snacks as I am sometimes on a trail for 6-8 hours at a time. Apples, frozen oranges, bananas, frozen berries, water! Propel or Gatorade packets if I need a little boost. Cheese. A chunk of fresh bread. Yummy. One of my favorite parts of riding is the food!

  12. We're not traveling this holiday (dealing with flood damage instead). However I did quickly pack some snacks to take to the zoo today. A container of raisins and cereal for my 2-1/2 year old and a container of raisins and peanuts for my husband and me. Bottles of water for everyone!

    Not very exciting but it's all I've got today!

  13. We drive too many hours through Michigan and Ohio for our annual "visit the grandparents tour", and we've learned that the driver at least must avoid high-fat meals –my husband loves double-cheeseburgers, but all that fat will put you right to sleep after you eat it. Not good for driving. Luckily, my daughter and husband both love sub sandwiches, and when we stop for food on the road nowadays it's usually a Subway or Jimmy Johns. Not as healthy as home, but not as bad as McDonalds 🙂

  14. Usual summer snacks for excursions to zoo, festivals and grandparents:
    whole grain crackers (low sodium preferred)
    string cheese/co-jack cheese sticks
    blueberries (frozen if we're going to be outside in the hot)
    grapes (likewise frozen if hot)
    frozen yogurt tubes (very easy to eat in the car when on long trips)
    dried blueberries (Trader Joe's has great freeze-dried blueberries)
    and, for a sugary snack, Corn Pops or Honey Nut Cheerios, my 1 1/2 and 4 year olds can't get enough of them
    Lots of water packed with ice

  15. Love the idea ofa a bottle with a water filter!
    Thanks Lin! I have been carring an insulated cup out of a "good" plastic and using a steel straw since I saw this video

    As for travel food. A small cooler is a great thing to have! Carrots, crackers with a cream cheese based spread, pretzels & apples are what we usually take.

    When I was a child I can remember the old plaid round cooler and Mom and Dad stopping at fruit stands and little grocery stores. I can remember fruit and balogna and crackers for lunch in the car. The balogna was not good for us, but we didn't know that then. I do know it cost a lot less than a sit down meal and there were not a lot of fast food places back then. We probably had juice or a coke too. Back then coke wasn't made with HFCS either. It tasted a little different depending from which bottling plant it was made at. Ah. those were the days…circa 1963

  16. My go-to snack is always peanut butter on crackers and an apple. It doesn't need to be kept cool and packs so easy. But after reading these comments, I think I should start making my own trail mix.

  17. Pemmican, the ultimate storage and survival health food. Just meat and fat, accept no white man's additions.

    Fat (and protein) equals energy, it's carbs put you to sleep — the last two Thanksgivings have proven that to my satisfaction, when I'm the only one who can still move under my own power!

  18. Our challenges for eating on the road are:

    -a border that doesn't allow us to bring fruit/veggies/dairy/meat across
    -unfamiliar brands/stores in the USA
    -1 lactose intolerant teenager
    -1 diabetic (type 2) Hubs
    -1 sensitive to tree nuts (me)

    We have decided to visit stores once we get across the border and stock up on things but over a 3 week period could be interesting. Some of our hotels don't have fridges, either.

  19. When we were traveling from CA to TX, we loaded up at produce stands along the way to supplement our cooler full of snacks. I won't lie, we stopped at a few greasy spoons, but we kept relatively healthy.

    When we drove back from TX to CA 9 months later, I kept some home made baby food on ice for the LO and we kept to the same habit, produce stands, a greasy spoon and lots of sub shops.

  20. we travel with a 4-day cooler (does NOT keep ice 4 days in 90+ degree heat .. not if you open it now and then, anyway 🙂 and our fave car snacks are grapes and apples. kept on top of the ice (in which we pack lunch meats & drinks), they get ice cold and are very refreshing and tasty. they don't rot or get soft in a hot car, either. (and even if your car has a.c., it'll get very hot in various parking lots while you're out having fun.)

    our favorite homemade treat from home to bring on a road trip is monster cookies – frozen hard then put in freezer bags in the icy cooler. with peanut butter, oats, and chocolate chips, they are practically a meal and the perfect post-hike snack.

  21. After talks with our district basically ended in a "we don't believe it will be popular" I took the plunge and started a petition to bring Healthier school lunches to Tacoma Public Schools. Mrs Q: thanks for the inspiration and motivation!

    If any of you reading this live in the South Puget Sound, stop by and sign the petition:

  22. I make a habit of getting off the main drag. I love exploring what the world really looks like behind all the highway signs. Since my father passed my mother and I have explored all over when we have traveled. I keep a journal just to make notes of where I have eaten. I never eat in chains just as a rule. One of the best things about being a lunch lady is long summer to travel the back roads and eat in the real diners and dives of the world.

  23. Hi, I just heard your interview on KCRW's Good Food & had to check out your blog. What a bold step to eat those lunches! I'm a vegetarian who is trying more & more vegan options every day. I'll be looking forward to checking in on your blog from time to time to see what's on the menu! Best of luck in your endeavor 🙂

  24. My parents almost never stopped at a cafe or diner along the way. We brought a picnic lunch or stopped at a grocery and bought provisions. Mom always had a grocery bag or box full of reusable plates, utensils, and such, along with a sharp knife for cutting fruits, vegetables and cheese. We usually had a cooler for the condiments as well. Only when I was grown did I learn that most families stopped at eateries along the way.

    We always took the back roads, never failed to stop at local farmer's fruit stands. One of my favorites was a trip we took once every year or so across desert country. Along the way, 45 minutes from the nearest town, was a watermelon stand. Parked cars and trucks along the highway signaled we were getting close, people talking eagerly as they trekked through the barrow ditch to the farmer's yard and refreshment.

    The farmer lived in the small house that stood in front of his watermelon patch. Rows of long tables, flanked with benches packed with hot, thirsty families and burly truck drivers, filled his otherwise naked front yard.

    Dad bought watermelon by the slice, and on those hot trips (no air conditioning!), he bought one for each of us and two for himself. Nothing tasted so good. Cold, slobbery-wet, and sweet. I could have eaten a whole watermelon and never needed a restroom break on those 100+ degree days.

    Thanks for spurring a delightful memory.

  25. For longer car trips we usually pack a cooler with sandwiches, fruit, and sliced veggies. We always have water bottles in the car and sometimes I will pack 100% juice boxes in the cooler as well. We try to find some place with a playground to stop and have a picnic lunch with time for kids to play. Many interstate rest stops now have playgrounds but we've also stopped at state and city parks and school playgrounds. In the summer, we sometimes pack swim suits and towels and stop at a public swimming beach along our route. When they were younger the kids would eat, swim, and then sleep several hours in the car (ours have never been car-nappers so swimming induced sleep was a godsend!).

    Longer car trips take a lot out of everyone so I do usually include a few unhealthy treats they don't ordinarily eat (they like chips and M&M's) but they have to behave in the car & I ration them out over the drive! LOL! My husband likes to make trail mix for those longer drives.

    Otherwise, our favorite fast food stop on trips is Wendy's because we can get salad, baked potato, and chili. We have recently been staying at Holiday Inn Express; they have some nice healthy breakfast options.

  26. When we travel by car or air we pack our Laptop Lunches ( with fresh fruits, vegetables, and the food that would otherwise spoil if left at home in the refrigerator (usually sandwiches, leftovers and hard-boiled eggs!) When we stop to eat at a restaurant, we pack the leftovers in the empty Laptop Lunches so we have food for later. It's easy to balance them on your lap, and they're great for picnics too. (Disclaimer: we're two moms who created the Laptop Lunches product line to help families pack nutritious, earth-friendly on-the-go meals.)

  27. This is a bit off topic, but I'm reminded of a trip we took in South Africa (are you ready for the World Cup??). Driving through wine country, we'd see vineyard workers selling grapes on the side of the road. Yes, they were probably illegal, but I imagine these workers were paid quite little. They wanted to sell us about 5# of grapes but we grabbed two handfuls and offered about 1/2 of what they were asking. They looked at us as if we were crazy, but sold us the grapes and oh my! They were delicious. The best road food I've had…

  28. Just got back to MN from a road trip to visit family in NE with my 8 month old daughter, 8 year old god-son and 12 year old god-daughter. We packed our cooler with turkey, ham, cheese & PB for sammies and yogurt, fruit snacks, granola bars, trail mix, peaches, apples, bananas, pineapple, brocolli & cauliflower for snacks. A big pack of bottled water of course but we did bring our used bottles home to recycle. I think the variety of options helped keep the kids from pining for all of the fast food we passed on the way. It was so nice to take our time and have our meals at the rest stops.

  29. Just got back to MN from a road trip to visit family in NE with my 8 month old daughter, 8 year old god-son and 12 year old god-daughter. We packed our cooler with turkey, ham, cheese & PB for sammies and yogurt, fruit snacks, granola bars, trail mix, peaches, apples, bananas, pineapple, brocolli & cauliflower for snacks. A big pack of bottled water of course but we did bring our used bottles home to recycle. I think the variety of options helped keep the kids from pining for all of the fast food we passed on the way. It was so nice to take our time and have our meals at the rest stops.

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