There is no rule that says a road trip must include your answering the question “Would you like fries with that?” Yet when we travel by car, we stop at fast-food restaurants as though they were mandated highway tolls.
We go to them for the convenience, of course. But you pay for it — at your waistline and in your wallet.
A little planning can save you calories, cash and time by making rest stops healthier and more efficient. Fuel up with these road-trip foods and arrive at your destination feeling lighter and a whole lot less greasy.
Grab a Snack
Made from chickpeas, hummus is high in protein and fiber, and low in carbohydrates — so it satisfies hunger for a long time. Use it as a dip for baby carrots, red bell-pepper slices, broccoli florets, cucumber or celery. Make mini-sandwiches by spreading it on whole-grain crackers. Single-serving hummus cups are ideal for road trips.
Roasted Spicy Chickpeas
Chickpeas can also give you a delicious, crunchy way to pass the time in the car with a hint of snappy spice, plus fiber and protein. Roast them the night before your trip. Preheat an oven to 400 degrees. Meanwhile, rinse and drain 4 cups of canned chickpeas and then dump them in a bowl. Mix in 3 tablespoons of olive oil, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, 1 tablespoon of brown sugar, 3 teaspoons of ground cumin, half a teaspoon of ground cinnamon, 2 teaspoons of garam masala, 1/4 teaspoon of ground black pepper and a pinch each of cayenne pepper and salt. Spread evenly on a baking sheet and roast for 30 minutes, stirring halfway through.
Apples and Peanut (or Almond) Butter
Instead of potato chips, crunch on an apple. Add a squeeze of peanut or almond butter from a single-serving packet with each bite. Just be sure to use a nut butter that contains no added sugars. Another crunchy option: pretzel sticks and nut butter.
The night before your trip, boil a dozen eggs. Hard-boiled eggs are a great way to get some quick low-calorie protein to keep hunger at bay. To make your plain-Jane egg more interesting, give it a splash of hot sauce at each bite.
Have a Sandwich
Instead of heading to a fast-food joint, pull over at a rest stop and have a sandwich you made at home. A family of four will save at least $25 (and probably more) by avoiding the restaurant. Here are some simple options to try:
Avoid the added sugars found in many peanut butter spreads — and virtually all jellies and jams — by upgrading to almond butter and fresh blueberry sandwiches. Spread the almond butter on a slice of whole-grain bread, pepper with fresh blueberries and top with the second slice. You can also smash the blueberries with a fork in a bowl and spread the fruit.
Rotisserie Chicken Wraps
Instead of going to the trouble of cooking a chicken the day before your trip, buy a rotisserie chicken at the grocery store. Pick the meat off, dice it into chunks and mix it with a little mayonnaise, diced celery and quartered red grapes. Store the chicken salad in a container in a cooler; spoon it into soft tortillas and roll up when it’s time to eat.
Cobb Salad Pitas
In a large bowl, mix the following ingredients: 4 large romaine lettuce leaves torn into bite-sized pieces, half a cup of shredded carrots, a quarter cup of crumbled bacon, half a cup of cool shredded chicken, a quarter cup of diced tomato, 2 tablespoons of bleu cheese crumbles, 1 chopped hard-boiled egg and balsamic vinaigrette to taste. Spoon into pita bread pouches and add a slice of ripe avocado to each sandwich before serving.
Apple and Cheddar Finger Sandwiches
Spread whole-grain mustard on slices of whole-grain bread. Add slices of sharp cheddar cheese and honeycrisp (or your favorite) apples, and top with the second bread slice. Cut into triangles if you want to get fancy. You’re on vacation, after all.
If You Must …
If you’re hankering for a hamburger and can’t fight the urge, avoid the cheesy double- or triple-patty options on the menu. Look for the smaller sandwiches, which often contain half the calories and three or four times less fat and salt.
What to Drink?
A long car ride shouldn’t be an invitation to drink soda. There’s strong evidence indicating that sugary beverages contribute to the risk of diabetes and heart trouble.
Studies show that people who consume just one to two cans of soda or juice a day have a 26 percent greater risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and a 20 percent higher risk of heart attack compared to people who rarely drink sugary beverages.
Stick to water, unsweetened iced tea or unsweetened iced coffee. Miss your bubbles? Then try a sugar- and calorie-free flavored sparkling water. If you need a touch of caffeine for the drive, some brands of bottled water now come mixed with caffeine.
Jeff Csatari’s latest book is The 14-Day No Sugar Diet.