When our family recently took a 7,000 mile road trip across the United States, one of our biggest challenges was trying to eat a healthy, well balanced, low calorie diet while out on the road. Finding whole grains and fresh produce in large cities was easy but almost impossible in many of the rural diners we visited where nearly everything was fried and then served up on white bread.
Since part of the fun of driving along old two-lane highways is sampling local cuisine, we figured out how to eat reasonably healthy while still occasionally indulging ourselves. Here are a few tips that worked for us.
Say no to soft drinks
Our family hardly ever drinks soft drinks as a rule which is why it was pretty easy for us to just ask for ice water and unsweetened iced tea with our meals. These zero calorie beverages kept us hydrated and help prevent overeating too.
Say no to fries
Almost every restaurant we ate at served french fries on the side. While this was OK for my husband (who was conducting a cross-country fry sauce experiment), my teen and I didn’t want the calories and often choose low calorie sides instead. Most diners and restaurants will substitute fresh fruit, broiled veggies, side salad, or cottage cheese for just a dollar more.
For local diners and roadhouses that offer regionally famous desserts we simply had to try, we often ordered just one dessert and divided it between the three of us. This was an easy way to let us sample these treats without adding 600 calories (or more) to our day.
Modified diner sandwiches
We ate a lot of diner sandwiches on our road trip and got in the habit of automatically looking for ways to boost the nutrition here while scaling back the calories. Some of our strategies we used included ordering sandwiches with lean meats (such as turkey), asking for wheat bread (which surprisingly was tough to find), ordering without cheese, asking for condiments on the side, or asking for extra vegetables. For high calorie sandwiches such as grilled catfish or burgers, we’d throw away the top, scrape off two-thirds of the toppings and eat it “open faced.”
While diners seemed to be good about portion control, it was at roadhouses and mid-priced restaurants where serving sizes were huge. My teen and I ended up splitting a lot of dinners which not only saved calories, it saved money too. Most restaurants are totally OK with two people sharing a single meal and will only charge an extra dollar or two if you ask for a second side salad or double veggies.
Made our own healthy eats
We rarely ate at more than one diner or roadhouse a day and for other meals would often make our own healthy low calories dishes to eat out on the road or even in our motel room at night. These simple meals included things like chef salads, fresh fruits and veggies, yogurts, granola, and other healthy eats that were hard to get in a roadhouse.
Healthy eating is hard to do on a cross country road trip, especially when sampling different foods is part of the experience. This easy tips combined with at least an hour of walking a day kept us healthy on our month long road trip while also keeping our weight down too.
More by this contributor:
Keeping your family fit on a road trip vacation
How to pack a car trunk for a month long road trip
How to start a travel diary with your children